The title of this column, “Intertidal,” describes not just the part of a coastal ecosystem that lies between high tide and low, but also a place of intersection between land and water, and between people and natural resources. Where these intersections occur, there is a necessity to work out how each aspect impacts another. Part of taking care of the intertidal includes being thoughtful about how what we do on land affects what happens in and under the water. And, part of it includes how we take care of the people who value and utilize this area in different ways.

Taking care of the human aspect of the intertidal is complex and involves a lot of work to come to agreements that are workable for all parties. In some cases, this has led to contentious legal battles between property owners and those seeking to use the intertidal to access the water or to harvest intertidal species like seaweeds or shellfish. In other cases, there are long-standing workable relationships between parties. Regardless, the solutions are different for each part of the coast and that places a large burden on communities to gather the information needed and the input needed to sort through what works best in their town.

A guidance document recently released by the Casco Bay Regional Shellfish Working Group (CBRSWG), a collaborative of stakeholders, managers and scientists throughout Casco Bay dedicated to healthy intertidal ecosystems and the shellfish resources and people who depend on them, helps to provide a framework for towns to do the work that is necessary to sort through access issues in their area. The urgency to do this type of work has increased due to the impacts of climate change along the coast that directly impact how the intertidal and surrounding areas are shaped and what the harvestable resources are that exist there.

“Preserving Access to the Intertidal: A Guide for Coastal Stakeholders and Municipalities” was created in response to a need expressed by participants in the CBRSWG in the fall of 2021. According to the group’s website, the guide is “intended for municipal staff, shellfish/marine resource committees, coastal landowners, shellfish harvesters, and community members who want to protect and expand access to the intertidal in their communities.” While at first, access might be thought to simply include boat launches and public waterways, it is, in fact, much more complicated. There are many less obvious access points that have long been utilized, or were once utilized, by those working in the intertidal via rights of way or other types of agreements with property owners. The nuances of and longevity of these agreements varies quite a bit and doesn’t often provide much certainty or clarity for those who would like to utilize them.

The recently released guide aims to provide some examples and resources for towns to use when addressing some of these trickier access issues. There are sections on a variety of topics including “community outreach and engagement, loss of access on private and public land, loss of access due to encroaching development, and infrastructure needs specific to commercial fishing or harvesting,” as well as information on funding available to help municipalities do this type of work.

While the guide may appear to be designed primarily for those in charge of managing these resources, it is an incredibly rich document that is helpful for anyone living in a coastal town in improving your understanding of how these intersections between land and water and between different values and types of uses in the intertidal impact the many resources and people who live here. The guide is available on the group’s website ( along with other valuable resources for towns managing their intertidal areas.

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