The lease that covers more than half of Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth has been extended for a year while the parties try to work out a longer-term agreement.

Sprague family land accounts for 100 of the 187 acres that make up the popular park. The family first leased the land to the state in 1960 before the agreement was amended six years later to last a total of 50 years. The cost to the state was $1.

The lease would have expired this weekend, but the Sprague Corp. and the state Department of Conservation agreed to the extension last week. Neither side has given any hints about what is prolonging negotiations.

Both parties are working in good faith to keep the property open for public use, said Tom Morrison, director of operations for the department’s Bureau of Parks and Lands.

“There are concepts that have been agreed to. Now it’s a matter of seeing whether we can work out the details that bring those to closure,” he said.

Seth Sprague, the president of the corporation, said he is optimistic even though negotiations have turned out to be complicated.

“I think things are going to work out. People are going to be pleased,” he said.

The Sprague Corp. owns much of the western portion of the park, including the access road, about a quarter of the parking lot and 1,000 feet of ocean frontage.

“We were fortunate to own a substantial piece of property that’s contiguous to that property,” Sprague said. “It seemed that as the (town) grew and the population grew, there was going to be more need for access to the water and to the beaches. We were in a position at the time to make that happen.”

Seth Sprague’s great-grandfather, Phineas Warren Sprague, built the family’s wealth through oil and coal shipping in the early 20th century. The Sprague family owns about 2,000 acres in Cape Elizabeth — about 20 percent of the town’s land mass, according to Town Assessor Matthew Sturgis.

The lease situation at Crescent Beach is fairly unusual, said Will Harris, director of the parks bureau. Another lease agreement is in place Down East — at Cobscook Bay State Park in Edmunds Township, where the state leases land from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, he said.

 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

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