STANDISH — A decades-long effort to give Standish residents public beach access on Sebago Lake has crossed the finish line, giving the town a reason to celebrate this weekend.

The Standish Parks and Recreation Committee staff and volunteers are hosting a “Beach Party” open house to mark the grand opening of Rich Memorial Beach on Saturday, May 20, from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the new lakefront facility.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm.” said Standish Director of Parks and Recreation Jen DeRice, who expects at least 200 people at the party.

The celebration – which will include a cookout, ice cream truck, DJ, and games – has been a long time coming, according to Town Manager Gordy Billington, who said an in interview that the town has been going back and forth with the Portland Water District since the 1970s about public beach access on the lake.

“This certainly fulfills the wishes of a great many Standish residents to get dedicated access on Sebago Lake,” Billington said, noting that many citizen volunteers have put “a great amount of effort” into the issue over the years.

Under the new agreement, the town has a 25-year lease on the beach and the land needed to access it. It will pay the water district $100 per year and has an option to renew when the lease is up.

“It took years of solid discussions, but I am so pleased and impressed with the end results,” said Portland Water District Board of Trustees President William Lunt in a written statement. “I thank the town of Standish and the Beach Committee for working closely and collaboratively with the Portland Water District to provide this beautiful beach and recreational facility for the residents of Standish.”

The beach will be open to any Standish resident who buys a $35 admission sticker for their vehicle each year. Non-Standish residents can only visit the beach if they are with a Standish resident who has a sticker. Residents can buy beach stickers at the Town Clerk’s Office or at the party on Saturday (cash and checks only at the party).

The beach will also continue to be accessible by boat for members of the Sebago Boating Club, whose members have anchored in the cove and used the beach for over 30 years. The club previously leased the beach from the water district and will maintain beach access with a sublease from the town. Town officials and boating club leaders both say they collaborated well during the planning process and expect that to continue moving forward.

Before the town added a new road in the last year, the beach had only been accessible by boat.

“We’re glad we’re still part of it. We’ve been a club for over 30 years, so it’s nice to still have a place to go and enjoy the beach,” said Joel Campbell, the club commodore. “We’re truly grateful.”

DeRice says that a total of 400 people will be allowed at the beach at one time. There is parking for 100 cars, and the Sebago Boating club can have a total of 75 boats in the cove. Campbell said the club was previously allowed 100.

Named in memory of late Standish residents John H. Rich Jr. and Doris L. Rich, the beach is located on the recently built Newbegin Road, which the Standish public works crew completed with help from the Marine Corps of Engineers. Newbegin Road is off Harmons Beach Road, a dead-end street accessed off Route 114.

The new facility includes the parking lot, two permanent restrooms and room for six other portable restrooms, and a wooden walkway that leads down to the stretch of sandy beach.

During a tour of the facility, DeRice emphasized the role that the public works crew, led by Director Roger Mosley, and other town staff have played in the project.

“Roger was here seven days a week, 12 hours a day, that’s no exaggeration, all summer last year,” DeRice said.

Two members of the public works crew, Jim Hulit and Neal Mosley, were on site this week putting some finishing touches on the facility. Their responsibilities throughout the project were wide-ranging – from stump removal to welding – and while both said it was a challenge, they agreed it had also been fun.

“It is nice working up here,” said Hulit.

“It was all just a challenge,” said Neal Mosley with a smile when asked if there was a particular part of the project that most difficult.

DeRice says another challenge will be educating people about the beach rules, including a 24/7 ban on dogs on the beach and the stipulation that babies in diapers cannot go swimming in the lake (though they can be on the beach).

“It’s definitely not popular, but if we want the water to remain clean and the beach to stay open, it’s what we have to do,” said DeRice about the diaper rule. “There’s no way around it, really.”

The town will be responsible for testing the water quality twice a week, and the water district will test once a week. Sebago Lake is the water source for the Greater Portland area, and the water district works with local towns and residents to protect the resource.

Campbell said he hopes that the boating club’s experience at the beach over the last three decades can help inform the beach management process.

“It’s just going to take education,” Campbell said.

Starting on Saturday, May 20, the beach will be open to residents on weekends through June 15, after which it will be open seven days a week through Labor Day. The facility will reopen after ice-in so that it can be used for ice fishing during the winter.

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Jim Hulit, left, of Steep Falls and Neal Mosley of Standish at the new Rich Memorial Beach where they’ve put in work as members of the Standish public works crew.

View from the walkway at the new Standish town beach on Sebago Lake.

View from the walkway at the new Standish town beach on Sebago Lake.

Standish Director of Parks and Recreation Jen DeRice at the new town beach on Sebago Lake.