Amy Sheehan, Lifestyle Properties at Keller Williams Realty
My husband and I moved to Pembroke, Maine on Cobscook Bay in Eastern Washington County to take teaching jobs in the early 90’s. We were young and excited to explore our new coastal area in Maine and spent practically every weekend hiking along the shore, exploring coves, digging clams, and even hunting small game. It was a lot of fun, we did not yet have a mortgage or kids and we, along with our hound dog, had some amazing times together.
At the time we did not give much thought to land ownership and shoreline access. In fact it was quite the contrary. Access was next to unlimited, hardly any land was posted (no trespassing) and it seemed that one had only to park the car, get out and explore. We never gave much thought to who owned the land. It was common to see hunters, clammers, seaweed harvesters, snail pickers coming and going across fields, along tidal creeks, and out onto the many peninsulas that stretch into Cobscook and Passamaquoddy Bays.
We soon started having children, purchased our first home, and then later bought a farm on the shore. We always felt the need to keep our land open and accessible for anyone wanting to get to the shore. Occasionally, folks would knock on the door and ask permission for access, but mostly they just came and went as we did with an understanding that the ocean was not owned by any one person. Eventually, we built our forever home and we now have a beautiful old saltwater farm with fields, woods, and a small cove.
To this day, clammers and ‘rinklers’ (snail pickers) come into our yard, park their trucks and head out on the shore to make a day’s pay. They are thoughtful, careful, and kind and we’re all on a first name basis. Meanwhile during hunting season here in New England, it is very common to look out the window and see deer hunters or waterfowlers chasing deer, geese, or grouse. It’s nothing to hear the ‘pop pop’ of shotguns in the woods or to hear the ‘boom’ of a deer rifle as one of our neighbors fills his tag.
In the past 5 or so years, and especially now with many folks from out of state flooding into our town and county to escape the pandemic’s high risk areas, we are witnessing a drastic change to the access that we, and generations of families here, have always taken for granted. The signs and gates that have gone up during this time are more than noticeable. There must be a way to work together. Education about what constitutes a “working waterfront” is so important. There are so many unknowns, which partially attribute to the strife. The economic impact of the growing inaccessibility to the waterfront is becoming significant.
The general population thinks of the sites, sounds, and smells that go along with fisheries. This may apply to some fisheries, but certainly not all. Commercial fishing is not limited to methods that use boats. For example, lobstering, aquaculture, dragging, trawling, etc. Clamming, “rinkling,” and seaweed harvesting to name a few, are species that have traditionally been collected at low tide by hand, and accessed on foot. These commercial fishermen are seeing a major decrease in areas that they can now easily access, as properties are being purchased, gates are installed, and no trespassing signs are put up. This discourse is not to anyone’s advantage.
As a Maine real estate agent, I have a passion for helping others find their dream home, which around here often includes a beautiful shoreline. I strongly urge you to research the value of sharing your shoreline, and its impact on Maine’s marine economy. We place a lot of value on making it a priority to meet our neighbors. We have so much to learn from each other. We are all humans, trying to make our way in this world. One person’s “job” may be unfamiliar to us so we try to learn about these industries and we attend industry meetings. We have a growing appreciation for our surroundings, our neighbors, and the economics of our community. We welcome everyone moving from out of state, and encourage them to become involved in the community. Allowing others to access the shoreline from your property impacts Mainers so much more than you know. You never know, letting these fishermen, seaweed collectors, clammers, and rinklers on your shoreline could also score you some free seafood, too!
Published in December, 2021