The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Public Shoreline Access in Maine

Posted by | September 21, 2016

Cover image for Public Shoreline Access in MaineThroughout much of my professional life, I have been involved in various issues related to coastal conservation and public access. My activities have included:

  • The Practical — acquisition of lands along the coast that provide direct access for residents and visitors, and that protect wildlife habitat
  • The Educational — organizing forums, lectures, and workshops that explore legal and policy issues relating to coastal ownership, use, and access
  • Writing and Publishing — most recently, co-editing the 3-volume Maine Coastal Public Access Guide

So it was only natural that the Wells Reserve (and yours truly) would team up with University of Maine Sea Grant and the Maine Coastal Program to revise and publish Public Shoreline Access in Maine: A Citizen’s Guide to Ocean and Coastal Law.

This concise, full color guide, just released, is a summary and analysis of the laws, policies, and court decisions that have helped define ownership of, and public access to, Maine’s coast.

Download Public Shoreline Access in Maine: A Citizen's Guide to Ocean and Coastal Law (6 MB)

(To request a hard copy, please call 207-646-1555 ext 124.)

Coastal access in Maine is often confusing, as the issue goes back to the mid-17th century (or longer, when considering our English common law roots) when Maine was a budding colony. It has also involved conflicts that were ultimately decided by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Our corner of southern Maine has been a hotbed for this issue, as exemplified by three significant Supreme Court decisions in the past 30 years.

Public Shoreline Access in Maine explains who has rights to the shoreline; private property owner’s rights and privileges; what is meant by “fishing, fowling, and navigation”; and how public and private interests are balanced in upland areas along the shore. It also includes some alternatives to legal methods that can be used to secure public access to Maine's coastline.

Web-based Information

Just like the sandy and cobbled sections of the Maine coast, our laws and policies will change over time. As this occurs, we will update Maine Sea Grant's comprehensive website on coastal access in Maine and the online version of this citizen's guide.

Visit for the latest information.

From Moody to Goose Rocks

I coordinated 4 presentations in 2014 and 1 in 2016 so that people could better understand and appreciate the legal issues surrounding public access and private ownership of coastal lands. Most of these can be viewed below or on YouTube.


I would like to recognize my partners in this project:

  • Kristen Grant, Maine Sea Grant, co-leader
  • John Duff, University of Massachusetts/Boston, principal author
  • Catherine Schmitt and Kathlyn Tenga-Gonzalez, Maine Sea Grant, editor and designer

Funders for the project included the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, the Maine Coastal Program, Maine Sea Grant, and the Wells Reserve.

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