Parking at Higgins Beach, and the thorny question of whether to limit on-street parking in the off-season, will be on the Scarborough Town Council’s agenda next month.

On-street parking is prohibited from April 1 to Oct. 1 around the beach, a popular summer spot that is a favorite location for surfers year-round. The proposal would make the parking ban year-round, with the exception of 30-minute parking on the ocean side of Bayview Avenue between Pearl and Ashton streets during the off-season.

On-street parking near other beaches in Scarborough is prohibited from May 1 to Sept. 15.

Of the nine recommendations the Higgins Beach Parking Advisory Committee is making to the Town Council, the parking proposal generated the most debate, passing by a 4-3 vote of the committee when other measures passed unanimously or with one member dissenting.

The complaints of Higgins Beach residents range from loud music blaring from parked cars early in the morning to a lack of parking turnover to visitors changing clothes outdoors to public urination.

Residents gave the committee a petition with the names of 253 residents who support a year-round prohibition on on-street parking.

Barbara Belicose, a committee member who supports the measure, said nudity can create an awkward situation — as it did when she came upon a man who lost hold of his towel while changing behind it. She said many beach users don’t want to be subjected to such encounters.

She says that the 30-minute winter limit would provide ample time for visitors to enjoy sitting or strolling at the beach while encouraging parking turnover. She hopes it would funnel longer-term users to a new town lot at Pearl Street and Ocean Avenue. The lot is expected to be ready for next summer, and the concept calls for bathrooms and changing areas.

“Nobody at Higgins Beach wants to limit beach access,” she said. “They just want to put together some structure so it’s not just first-come, first-served — the grandmothers as well as the surfers.”

But where Belicose sees structure, Iver Carlsen sees an erosion of public access to the beach.

“There’s no legitimate reason to do that. There’s no safety hazards. There’s nothing illegal going on,” said Carlsen, a committee member who is also vice chairman of the Northern New England chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.

Carlsen concedes that a towel may occasionally fall while the holder is changing, and that it’s possible someone has urinated on a bush, but he doesn’t believe those are common occurrences.

In the cold of winter, surfers aren’t going to change outdoors, much less urinate in someone’s yard, said Carlsen.

During the off-season, he said, surfers tend to arrive in their wetsuits and jump into their cars to heat up once they’re out of the water. (As for urinating, that happens in the wetsuit while in the water or at home, he said,)

Councilor Judith Roy said she is already getting a lot of input about the proposal from residents.

“I understand where they’re coming from as far as residents having their lives disturbed, but on the other hand, I also understand that they chose to buy a home on a beach with long-standing public access,” said Roy, who served on the advisory committee.

“You want their quality of life to be as good as possible,” she said, “but you also want the quality of life for those who come to the beach.”

The committee also recommended:

Creation of a five-minute drop-off zone on the ocean side of Bayview Avenue.

Prohibiting unloading or stopping outside the drop-off zone.

New signs at the entrance of Ocean Avenue.

Having police volunteers survey beach users and enforce off-season parking rules.

Prohibiting parking on Spurwink Road from Wildwood Lane to Pleasant Hill Road.

Making parking on Acorn Lane consistent with the rest of the area.

Increasing the number of bike racks from Pearl Street to Shipwreck Road.

Allowing the Higgins Beach Inn exclusive use of parking on Greenwood Avenue.

 

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

[email protected]