SCARBOROUGH – The waves at Higgins Beach peeled gently into the shallows at low tide Sunday morning as about a dozen members of the newly christened Surfrider Maine Foundation scrambled down onto the sand from Bayview Avenue.

Instead of neoprene, they wore parkas. Instead of boards, they carried bags. Instead of rides, they sought trash.

“Not too much to collect today,” said Doug Lund-Yates of Scarborough, whose burly golden retriever, Aspen, dutifully lugged driftwood out of harm’s way. Seven other dogs assisted in scouring the beach with their owners.

The group — formerly known as the Northern New England chapter of the Surfrider Foundation — sponsors a beach cleanup each winter. Given the recent attention to parking restrictions and beach access at this small seaside community, this year the group chose Higgins.

“We wanted to show that there are other reasons why we’re here,” said Janice Parente, chairwoman of Surfrider Maine and a resident of Scarborough. “We believe in access, but we also believe in stewardship and taking care of the beach.”

Four days earlier, the Scarborough town councilors voted to restrict off-season parking near the beach. They changed a 100-foot section along Bayview’s ocean side to a five-minute drop-off area, and banned parking on all side streets, regardless of season.

That decision still stings for Parente and her fellow surfers.

“As much as we use the beach for surfing, as much as we park along the roadway,” she said, “we do water quality testing down here. We take care of the beach in a lot of ways. And it’s being portrayed as, I hate to say, more of a ‘disrespectful … the beach user isn’t helping to take care of the beach’ kind of thing. I guess I shouldn’t put it that way, but that’s the way it feels.”

She took a deep breath of the 15-degree air and looked out over the shimmering water. Far out over the horizon, low clouds from an ocean storm hung in the sky.

Light snow dusted the upper reaches of the beach like confectionery sugar on warm gingerbread, with deeper snow on rocks above the high-tide mark providing more of a Marshmallow Fluff feel.

“But this isn’t really about parking,” she said. “There’s an energy at this beach. It’s very special.”

Maureen Burns and her husband, Jim Riechel, are Surfrider members who live on nearby Morning Street. He rides waves, she rides horses. They walk the beach nearly every day with their standard poodles, Roxy and Marcy, both of whom wore fleece vests Sunday because of a recent grooming.

In summer, they find plenty of cigarette butts and plastic bottles. In winter, it’s more marine-related debris such as ropes and lobster traps mangled by the churning sea.

“Lately,” Burns said, “I’ve found a lot of sea glass.”

The cleanup crew even picked over the worn wooden ribs of the Howard W. Middleton, a three-masted schooner loaded with coal that ran aground in August 1897 and remains mired in sand near the mouth of the Spurwink River.

Linda Kiel of South Portland, a boogie boarder who is not part of the foundation but came along at the invitation of a friend, deposited only a single item in her yellow bag, a strand of bait net that had come loose from a lobster trap.

“Throw your cup out the window,” she yelled good-naturedly to a passing motorist sipping on coffee behind closed windows, “so we can pick it up.”

As the group gathered for muffins, bagels and hot chocolate behind the open hatchback of a white Subaru, a pickup truck driven by a Scarborough police officer pulled up. Would they be the first to be ticketed under the new parking law?

Nope. Michael DiClemente of the Scarborough Police Department’s Marine Division had come down to collect any lobster traps that had washed ashore. The traps are all tagged and their owners will be notified, he said, following state regulations.

“You’re not supposed to pick them up off the beach,” he said.

Before departing, Kiel peeled off her outer layers to reveal a bathing suit, then ran into the surf and plunged into the ocean. She emerged quickly, and a friend helped her dry off and bundle up.

“Ooh, that was cold,” she said, shivering. “Ready? I gotta go get a shower.”

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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