The Portland Water District’s board of trustees last week unanimously approved a management plan and two lease agreements that collectively impose a cap of 400 people and 75 boats on the sandbar beach located on the western shore of Sebago Lake.

After several decades of on-again, off-again negotiations, the recently struck agreement between the town and water district, which owns much of the land in the southern end of Sebago Lake, means Standish residents will finally have public swimming access to the lake as soon as next summer.

At a Sept. 21 meeting, the trustees voted 10-0 to approve the agreement and the two leases, accomplishing the final step needed before project construction can begin, according to Standish Councilor Steve Nesbitt, the chairman of the town’s beach committee. Construction would entail building a connector road from nearby Harmon’s Beach Road, a parking lot and a bridge to the sandbar, which is separated from the mainland.

“That was the last approval that we needed, so now it’s just a matter of getting the construction done, and getting it opened up so people can put their feet in the water,” Nesbitt said.

The beach will be for Standish residents only and will be located on the western shore of Sebago Lake, on a sandbar near Harmon’s Beach Road used by boaters for decades. The sandbar lies just outside the district’s 2-mile limit, which prohibits bodily contact near the district’s intake pipes that pump water from Lower Bay into a water treatment facility on Route 237 for distribution to Greater Portland.

The Standish Town Council approved the beach agreement and leases on Aug. 11. With the final approvals now in place, the town of Standish will lease the beach from the water district for 25 years at a rate of $100 per year, with an option to renew the agreement for another 25 years.

Since the sandbar will still be used by boaters, the shoreline will be divided between a cordoned-off swimming area and an area for 75 boats affiliated with the Sebago Boating Club. A maximum of 200 members from the boating club will be allowed on the beach at any one time, while 400 people in total will be allowed on the beach at any time. All beach users will be required to obtain a season sticker, either through the town or the boating club, depending on their preferred means of entry to the sandbar beach. The draft agreements do not yet specify entry prices.

According to Bill Lunt, a longtime member of the district’s board of trustees and the liaison between the town and the district, the trustees felt Standish residents should have access to a public beach.

“Standish did not have a public beach and this is a piece of property that we owned that we felt was a good spot for them to use. And they did, too,” Lunt said. “The ball is in the court of the town of Standish obviously to get (construction) done because it’s at their expense. We’ve given them the go-ahead to go and do it.”

Under the arrangement, Standish, the water district and the boating club will have a three-way lease in which the town pays $100 a year to lease the beach, which the boating club maintains. Standish boaters are allowed to use the beach for free, while non-Standish residents pay $100 fee to join the club, which allows them access to the beach. Representatives from the boating club could not be reached for comment.

The town of Standish will be responsible for E. coli bacteria testing every Saturday and Sunday around noon at three different locations. If any of the tests are higher than the EPA-recommended safe swimming level of 235 coliform forming units per 100 milliliters, the town will immediately close the beach and re-test the water.

The town is set to enlist the Pentagon’s Innovative Readiness Training labor assistance program in beach infrastructure construction efforts, including a boardwalk through wetlands connecting the beach and a parking lot, to be built on the mainland. According to Town Manager Gordon Billington, the 6th Engineer Support Battalion, a Marine Corps National Guard unit out of Portland, Ore., will provide labor such as heavy equipment operators, project managers and truck drivers to build an access road, parking lot, restroom facility and boardwalk beginning next summer.

Billington said he hopes to have the beach open to the public by August 2016.

Boaters from the Sebago Boating Club use the sandbar beach in Standish this summer. Next August, if construction of an access bridge is completed as scheduled, residents from Standish may be dipping their toes into Sebago Lake on a town-owned beach.File photo


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