You know the story: a “for sale” sign ominously appears on a beloved piece of waterfront that the public has traditionally used for access and recreation.

But here is a new twist on that story.

The current owner was asking – no surprise here – a high price. The land in question had long been taken for granted. Surely it was protected by town rights, state highway rights, public use, you name it. But, a title search and a surveyor’s report confirmed that this might be the time to buy and make all those questions moot.

At the end of December, a network of interested citizens signed a purchase agreement on what is known as the Causeway Beach, well known to all who drive from Little Deer Isle to Deer Isle. At any tide, you are likely to see someone on that small strip of beach, since the Causeway Beach is a great place to enjoy the view and a thermos of coffee, have a bite of lunch, take a walk with your dog or wade with your grandchildren. As the Chamber of Commerce is well aware, this beach is not only the island’s recreation area; it is part of the front door welcome to Deer Isle.

The causeway basin is significant wildlife habitat as clammers and birders alike can testify. Ted Ames of the Stonington Fisheries Alliance says that the tidal basin is used by a variety of fish when flooded by the tide. Below the intertidal zone, its greatest value probably is that of a nursery for the suite of fish and shellfish found in midcoast Maine, including cod, pollock, white hake (within the mantle of scallops), etc. While the area is not necessarily spawning ground for lobsters, the currents in summer bring in floating fish eggs, larval herring, alewives, pollock and the like. The warm shallow waters of the basin teem with life.

Kathleen Billings, chair of the Deer Isle-Stonington Shellfish Committee, reports that a recent clam reseeding at the causeway basin has seen the most outstanding growth and survival rate of any of their plots. The 60-80 island clam diggers are dealing with a $650,000 resource value, with most of that spent within the local economy.

As of Jan. 18, a third of the purchase price had been raised. After January, interest will have to be paid on any balance. St the end of March an indoor beach party is planned to celebrate. There is gratifying response from off-island as well as from both Deer Isle and Stonington individuals and businesses.

People have been most creative, designating their gifts at the $10 level a symbolic footprint, in reach of everyone, or a beach towel at $100, and a beach umbrella for $1,000. Contributions have been made in memoriam and in honor of siblings, parents, folks who used to summer here, whole families, marine-related businesses, even in the name of a boat. A third grade teacher from Steuben called to offer their help since she sees this as a classic Maine issues learning project. Clearly this project is about much more than real estate.

Island Heritage Trust could not purchase the property because it has a policy of not buying land at higher than appraised price, lest it be accused of jacking up land prices in the area. The board of the land trust, however, has agreed to accept title and see that appropriate language assures that the beach remain open to the public for all its currently traditional uses.

Checks can be made to Causeway Beach Project, and sent to PO Box 431, Deer Isle, Maine 04627. Anyone knowing of family foundations whose aims this project might fits can contact Marnie Crowell at for appropriate request text.

Marnie Reed Crowell is a natural history writer and spokesperson for the Causeway Beach Network.