2015-03-06 / Letters

Surfrider supports beach access for all

To the editor:

The Surfrider Foundation is an environmental nonprofit organization that is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves and beaches through education, research, conservation and activism. Surfrider engages in several programs and campaigns, such as our Beach Access program that promotes the right of lowimpact, free and open public access to the world’s coastal places, for all people. Our Surfrider Foundation Maine Chapter is comprised of volunteers in Maine who enjoy our state’s coast and take action to protect it.

The letter by Glennis Chabot titled, “Don’t deny convenient beach access for all” and printed in last week’s Leader unfortunately did not offer an accurate account of the Scarborough Ordinance Committee meeting of Feb. 17.

What Glennis failed to mention is that the original complaint regarding the parking spaces on Bayview Avenue was about indecent behavior and was presented by a small handful of Higgins Beach area homeowners as a discriminatory attack on specific types of activity and people, such as surfers.

The committee asked for possible solutions to the raised problems to be offered for discussion at the meeting of Feb. 17.

One of the proposed solutions to this perceived problem of indecency was to restrict parking to only allow senior and handicap parking spaces. This was an attempt to restrict access to surfers and other Higgins Beach users deemed indecent by this small subset of property owners, and was not a proposal to enhance access for elders or those with handicap parking plates.

Speaking against further restrictions on parking on Bayview Avenue were multiple area residents, in addition to the Surfrider Foundation, far outnumbering those in favor of increased restrictions on public access. In the audience, in full support of maintaining open access for all and not further restricting parking, were also several aging adults who noted that additional senior parking was not needed.

The only people present who spoke in favor of denying convenient beach access for all were part of the small subset of area property owners – a vast minority of people in attendance at this meeting – who year after year come back to the committee with recycled complaints, calling for removal or restriction of the free parking on Bayview Avenue. That’s the real shame here.

The ocean and the beach belong to everyone; when you buy a home right on the beach, you should do so with the expectation of public beach use in mind.

The Surfrider Foundation looks forward to participating in the informal meeting Councilwoman St. Clair has orchestrated to allow concerned Higgins Beach users to approach with an open mind to really address the issues at play here. We hope property owners and beach users alike will approach in the spirit of collaboration and community.

Melissa Gates, Northeast Regional manager, Surfrider Foundation on behalf of the Surfrider Foundation Maine Chapter

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