The Sprague Corp., a family-owned real estate trust, has proposed turning 62 acres of prime ocean-side property in Scarborough into a public beach. It’s a generous offer that should be rewarded with thanks.
Instead, the landowner is mostly hearing complaints from neighbors, who have enjoyed free use of property and don’t want to share. The Scarborough Planning Board should not be swayed, however, and should continue to judge this plan on its merits.
At stake is a parcel on Black Point Road adjacent to Scarborough Beach, one of Maine’s most popular public parks in the summer. It is so popular that cars are often lined up along the road before the beach’s parking area opens, and visitors are turned away when the lots fill up.
The Sprague Corp. has proposed turning land it owns just northeast of the beach into a park open to the public. It would pay to develop parking areas and a boardwalk to the beach. The corporation would charge for parking and staff the operation, covering its costs but certainly not profiting from the operation.
You wouldn’t know that from the criticism the corporation is receiving, however. The beach proposal was derided by one neighbor as “a blatant commercial use on a residential area.” But if the corporation was after a big payday, a large-scale residential development would be far more lucrative and it would not draw the same kind of opposition from the people who live nearby. Instead, the corporation is fulfilling its civic-minded mission to provide public access to the ocean, from which many people who can’t afford to own a beachfont home can benefit.
Maine is a tourism state, but it doesn’t always have enough space at the popular attractions to accommodate everyone. A private landowner stepping up where the cash-strapped state cannot deserves applause, not criticism.