Though the owner of a private road leading to popular Cedar Beach in Harpswell won a court battle clearing the way for her to restrict public access, she won’t for now, her lawyer said Friday.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday overturned a lower court ruling that said the public had established the right to use Cedar Beach Road, the only land route to popular Cedar Beach on Bailey Island. The ruling Tuesday was the latest turning point in a five-year legal battle over public access to the beach.

But the day after the ruling, Cedar Beach Road owner Betsy Atkins contacted Harpswell town officials to let them know she won’t close the road. Atkins will allow the public to keep walking down the dirt road, unless people abuse the right in some way, said her lawyer, Chris Chandler. The public access to the road is for pedestrians only.

Chandler said Atkins fought the court battle because she wanted to maintain control over a road that she owns.

“She’s not going to do anything to change the status quo, unless there’s some reason to, if people break the rules, leave trash behind, or don’t stay on the public part of the beach,” Chandler said.

Harpswell’s town administrator, Kristi Eiane, said Atkins told her she would review her decision to keep the road open to pedestrians annually, and will consider whether people are following the rules attached to an easement that allowed the public to use the road. The easement was granted the public by Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills in 2014. Cedar Beach had been used by the public for decades until 2011, when the access road was barricaded by former owners Charles and Sally Abrahamson. Residents and the nonprofit group Cedar Beach/Cedar Island Supporters Inc. sued to have access restored, which led to Mills’ ruling.


Atkins, who owns a home near the beach but lives in Florida much of the year, was the road’s owner at the time of the 2014 court ruling.

Some of the easement rules now in place include that only town residents, nonresident taxpayers and their guests can use it. There are also rules about the hours of use, and that leaving trash and making fires on the beach are prohibited. The town is required to have someone monitor the beach regularly to make sure the rules are followed, Eiane said.

“She indicated to us she’d be willing to leave the road open,” Eiane said. “Her decision is likely to be based on how well the rules are followed.”


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