A recent decision regarding beachfront property rights in southern Maine has left the Town of Kennebunkport ”“ and likely many other ocean-front communities ”“ with questions.

Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Ellen Gorman reversed the Superior Court’s decision that the public has a right to use Goose Rocks Beach due to a prescriptive easement.

That had been the law of the land since 1989, when a similar case involving Moody Beach in Wells established the precedent relating to prescriptive easements on beaches in the state.

Goose Rocks Beach has long been accessed by the public ”“ as have many other beaches that are not labeled “public,” and this ruling is contradictory to the established precedent.

Although the use of Goose Rocks Beach will remain open to property owners and visitors alike due to a beach use ordinance crafted by Kennebunkport at the direction of the court, the major concern here is the impact this ruling will have on other beaches.

Gorman’s opinion says that the public is not entitled to a prescriptive easement, and beach-front property owners have the right to ask people on the beach in front of their property to vacate.

Now, the town’s attorneys are asking the court to reconsider, as well as clarify, what impact this decision has on the Moody Beach case.

Brian Willing, one of the town’s attorneys, said Gorman’s ruling, earlier this month, makes it unclear whether the Moody Beach case is now no longer considered the precedent by which similar cases will be judged.

We hope this is not the case.

Although access would be preserved in Kennebunkport, other beach-front property owners may seek similar rulings if this becomes precedent, which could have a major negative impact. The prescriptive easement, allowing access for the public, has made law of actions that have been commonplace for hundreds of years.

Maine’s beaches are an important draw, whether public or private, and make it a summer destination and year-round home for many Mainers and visitors alike. If access to the state’s beaches continues to be restricted, tourism will likely diminish, and the quality of life that residents have come to expect would certainly diminish as well.

If the ruling stands for Kennebunkport’s Goose Rocks Beach, we hope the court will clarify that the ruling only applies to this beach, and the Moody Beach case ruling still stands.


Today’s editorial was written by City Editor Robyn Burnham Rousseau on behalf of the Journal Tribune Editorial Board. Questions? Comments? Contact Managing Editor Kristen Schulze Muszynski by calling 282-1535, ext. 322, or via email at [email protected]