What do fishermen, kayakers, land trusts and real estate agents all have in common? That question brought over 100 people representing diverse coastal access users to the Downeast Forum on Coastal Access in Machias on Jan. 19.
According to Natalie Springuel with Maine Sea Grant, the idea for this forum came out of a similar event held at the Darling Center in Walpole three years ago.
“Several people at the Darling Center event expressed interest in looking specifically at coastal access in eastern Maine. Recent changes in land ownership and use have had important impacts, both on water-dependent industries and recreational and private property users,” she said.
The Downeast Forum was a way for people to share perceptions of coastal access problems.
Participants heard from speakers representing fisheries, recreational tourism, transportation, research and real estate. Tess Ftorek with Cobscook Hikes and Paddles, a recreational tourism company based in Robbinston, summed up her coastal access challenges saying, “Access, simply put, is drying up. We spend a lot of our time in the off-season searching for places to put in.”
Other speakers highlighted conflict over access among different user groups. Ted Hoskins of the Maine Seacoast Mission helped moderate the event. “Conflict,” he told participants, “is unavoidable. But conflict is also manageable.”