Contracting for Access
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Case Studies: Contracting for Access

Maine Island Trail System

The Maine Island Trail System is a 350-mile-long waterway that consists of islands and mainland sites that are available for day visits or overnight camping. The Maine Island Trail Association (MITA) ensures access to these sites through partnerships with the State of Maine, as well as land trusts and generous private property owners; in return, MITA commits to protect and care for the properties in a way that balances recreational access and conservation. Some of the MITA sites are publicly owned or owned by land trusts that would otherwise permit public access. Many of the sites, however, are privately owned and made available to MITA for use of its members in exchange for the organization’s stewardship. MITA does not receive a legally enforceable right to access, but rather relies on the landowner’s good will. MITA in turn makes these private sites available only to its members. In all cases, property owners set the rules and can revoke access at any time. Landowners annually review conditions such as which sites may be accessed, what months members are welcome, and whether fires and pets are allowed. Because MITA members do not become invitees or licensees of the landowner, the landowner is effectively shielded from liability by Maine’s recreational use statute.

Parson's Beach

Landowners permit access to privately owned Parson's Beach, but provide limited parking and no facilities. The landowners retain the right to terminate access at any time. There is no agreement of any kind between the owners of Parson’s beach and the Town of Kennebunk. This is an example of landowners deciding on their own initiative to make their land available for public use. The landowners have the ability to set any terms of use that they choose.

Boothbay Region Land Trust

For many years, access to Scarborough Beach was tenuous. Parking, for which the private landowner charged a fee, was inadequate, and the beach entrance depended on a public right-of-way over private land. In 1999, the parking area and access land came up for sale and were purchased by the state as part of a land deal to acquire 62 acres between the shore and Route 207, including the entirety of Massacre Pond. Support for the purchase came through the Land for Maine’s Future Program and the Trust for Public Land (which purchased the site for subsequent transfer to the state). The property is now owned and managed by the Bureau of Parks and Lands.