CAPE ELIZABETH — The 50-year lease that provides Crescent Beach State Park with 100 acres of private land expired this month, but an agreement to extend the lease for one more year is in place.
Jeanne Curran, director of public information for the Maine Department of Conservation, said the state and Sprague Corp., the owner of the land, are continuing to negotiate.
“We are working together to create a more permanent arrangement that will continue public use,” Curran said.
She said she could not discuss details of the negotiations.
Sprague Corp. President Seth Sprague said his grandfather Phineas Shaw Sprague helped establish Crescent Beach by donating and leasing land to the state in 1960. By 1966, Sprague said the state completed much of the development and Crescent Beach State Park was opened to the public.
Of the park’s 242 acres, 100 acres are owned by the Sprague family and leased to the state for $1.
“It was clear more than a month ago there was too much to do to meet that deadline,” Sprague said. “The negotiations will continue for at least a year.”
The Sprague family owns the western end of the beach, while the state owns the access road from Route 77, control station, concession stand, restrooms and bathhouse.
Sprague said land conservation remains the goal of the corporation and the family.
For the state, public use is also important.
Curran said last year at Crescent Beach park use was up 10.6 percent over 2008, despite a rainy summer. She said about 98,500 people visited the park, and with the 75-year anniversary of Maine State Parks this year, the state is expecting even larger crowds.
Already, she said, there has been a surge in park pass purchases and attendance. In order to accommodate the public, Curran said four other state parks have opened early, nearly three weeks before the scheduled May 1 opening date.
Financially, revenues continue to increase, she said. Last year, Crescent Beach generated almost $138,000 compared to $118,500 in 2008, Curran said.
“We are opening campgrounds earlier than ever,” she said. “We are anticipating a very busy year. It is not just about ‘staycations’ anymore, it’s about more people recognizing how valuable these places are.”
With the one-year extension of the lease between the Sprague Corp. and the state, nothing will change for the general public, Curran said. Like Sprague, she said conservation is a goal.
“We want the public use to continue,” Curran said.
Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or firstname.lastname@example.org