Open space management plan takes shape in Cape Elizabeth

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The Conservation Commission, working as the Town Council-appointed Green Space and Greenbelt Management Plan Committee, is making progress as it documents every parcel of open space in town and the potential uses. 

The committee has been working with Councilor Jessica Sullivan and Town Planner Maureen O’Meara since last April to create a management plan that will identify and organize the town’s open space and its uses. Since nearly 10 percent of Cape’s total acreage is dedicated to open space, the plan will also help identify who is responsible for maintenance of the land.

It is trying to identify user conflicts and permitted uses within each parcel, as well as signage, mapping, easement restrictions, funding and hours of operation. It will present a plan that explains the responsibilities of the Town Council, Conservation Commission, Public Works Department, neighborhood groups and other stakeholders, and will identify the long- and short-term goals of the management plan.

At a meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 22, the group worked to finalize the open space use chart that will be used as a reference for residents and visitors to use when looking for an outdoor activity. While the chart can be used as a quick reference, each parcel will be described in detail online. 

The group listed 18 parcels as high-priority spaces, including more well-known areas like the Gull Crest, Winnick Woods and Cross Hill trails. They also categorized another 29 parcels as secondary, since they are less well known, are smaller or have limited uses due to deed restrictions, size or location. 

Some of the activities identified in the open space use chart include boating, hiking, events, ice skating, trapping, hunting, mountain biking, snowshoeing, swimming, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, and dog and snowmobile use. Facilities listed in the chart include athletic fields, boat storage, parking, playgrounds, picnic area, restrooms and trails.

O’Meara designated some of the lots as preserves, parks and connectors based on their geographic area or limited usage. Some of the parcels of town-owned open space are not accessible, located off private roads or are in wetland areas, she said.

The committee agreed to visit each parcel in the spring to better understand the town-owned open land.

The next Open Space and Greenbelt Management Plan meeting will be on Tuesday, March 8, in the assessing and planning office on the second floor at Town Hall. The panel will continue to work on the draft policies and expects to review the entire draft starting in April.

The plan will go to a public forum in May and the draft management plan will be presented to the Town Council for approval by June 30.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net

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