Cape Elizabeth Residents Pay to Block Public Beach Access
For decades, inland residents of Cape Elizabeth have enjoyed the shortcut to Broad Cove through the undeveloped, ambiguously owned "paper street" known as Surfside Avenue. From now on, they will no longer be able to enjoy that access to the water, according to the Press Herald.
In the face of a petition signed by 1,400 Cape residents urging the town to accept ownership of the paper street and turn it into an official public access trail, several Waterfront property owners agreed to pay the town $500,000 to deny the development of the path.
In this case, money trumps signatures. Local resident Jim Morra finds the settlement troubling, according to his interview with the Press Herald. He was strategic in circulating the petition to preserve public access to the seaside trail.
“I’m a strong proponent of the town doing the right thing for the majority of residents,” Morra said. “I think it's bad from the town perspective because it says money speaks and 1,400 signatures don’t. These days if you want to sit on the rocks and read a book, you’re kinda running out of places to do that.”
Because the rights of waterfront property owners can get complicated with the town's assumed ownership of the trail, this settlement brings an end to a decades-old controversy over who was welcome to the ambiguously owned paper street. The general public is bound to be unhappy with the decision, but residents of the Shore Acres neighborhood will now enjoy sole access to the trail.
According to the Press Herald, council chairwoman Jessica Sullivan said some questioned whether the town would be able to develop a shoreline path along the paper street. The money from the settlement has yet to be dedicated to any one area, but she noted that the $500,000 would likely be used to buy and preserve public land elsewhere in town, possibly with better access along the waterfront.