Just after Christmas, shellfish harvester and committee member Mike Cronin took Pauline Angione and Vicki Rea on a driving and walking tour of some of the shore areas that he uses to get down to clam flats. Pauline and Vicki have volunteered to help the Shellfish Committee find out more about places that harvesters use for shore access. Most of the access points that Mike uses are private property, and Mike has gotten permission from owners to cross their land to get to the water. Some of these owners are getting on in years, which threatens the continuation of access arrangements.
The owner of one of these places had just arrived home as Mike, Pauline, and Vicki arrived. His two grown daughters, visiting for the holidays, were still outside unloading the car. Mike introduced himself, Pauline, and Vicki and explained that they were working with the Shellfish Committee to find ways to preserve access into the future. The daughters had heard about Mike and knew that their father was interested in making sure that Mike and other harvesters could get across the property to get to the water. Pauline and Vicki asked about coming back sometime to talk more about how to do that, and the daughters said they felt sure their father would be interested in doing that, and they would tell him about the conversation. So, it might be possible to find a way to preserve access across that particular property.
Formalizing arrangements so that they continue requires time and effort. Pauline and Vicki work from Gouldsboro’s tax maps to find out where the town already owns property on the shore and to identify ownership of places where informal arrangements are already in place. Bob DeForrest and Maine Coast Heritage Trust assist by supplying maps showing locations of conserved lands with public access. Pauline and Vicki have also begun reaching out to state agencies interested in preserving public access to the shore. There is good potential for collaboration with the folks in the state agencies, who seem pleased to be in touch with a local group with on-the-ground knowledge about access points and their use.
This is just the start of work that will continue through 2022. Pauline and Vicki presented what they have learned to date at the January meeting of the Shellfish Committee. They came out of that meeting with another list of access points to explore with the help of other Shellfish Committee members. Watching this work develop, I am impressed by how crucial careful record-keeping about conversations and map research is to sustaining progress and avoiding confusion. I am thankful that we have volunteers capable of taking that on. I also come away with a strong feeling that now is the time to be doing this work.