Ben Steeves who works for a property maintenance company puts up a sign that reads ‘Cliff Walk Closed No Trespassing’ at the start of the trail at Prouts Neck in Scarborough Tuesday, September 20, 2022. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

A Georgia woman visiting Maine spent the morning before her 55th birthday walking a private path along the cliffs of Scarborough that has been used by the public for centuries.

Just before 10:30 a.m. Monday, Romona Gowens of Calhoun, Georgia, fell from a 30-foot cliff after a fence she was leaning on broke, police said. Her injuries were fatal, but police have released few details about the incident and the president of the organization that owns the land said he could not speak about it.

The Prouts Neck Cliff Walk, also referred to locally as Marginal Way, is a 1.1-mile walking path along the ocean. It is privately owned and maintained by the nonprofit Prouts Neck Improvement Association, which represents residents of the exclusive seaside neighborhood.

Albert Barclay, president of the Prouts Neck Association, said Tuesday that he is not able to comment or answer questions about the incident. He said the association is awaiting release of the incident report from the Scarborough Police Department, which he hopes will answer questions surrounding Gowens’ fall.

Contacted late Tuesday night, Scarborough said that the incident remains under investigation and that there have been no new developments.

“It’s a tragic situation and we are really sorry this happened,” Barclay said in a telephone interview Tuesday night.


Barclay said the Cliff Walk Trail was closed to the public on Tuesday. He described the closure as temporary, but was unable to predict how long it would remain in effect.

The Prouts Neck Improvement Association on its website outlines a long list of rules and regulations governing public access to the Cliff Walk. There is also a warning on its website about the trail’s dangers and risks.

Signs at the start of the Cliff Walk Trail at Prouts Neck in Scarborough. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

“The Cliff Walk is not a manicured or flat path. It is a largely natural, narrow trail along the edge of rocky cliffs and the ocean, over sharp rocks, and across pebble beaches. It will be slippery and wet in places. Some sections require climbing up and down over irregular terrain. It can be quite dangerous walking, especially for young children and persons with mobility issues. … Users assume all risks associated with their presence on the Cliff Walk.”

The trail is open during daylight hours only, but can be closed without notice for weather, trail conditions and maintenance. Signs by the trail and notices posted online say that people can use the trail at their own risk.

The trail was closed Tuesday. A Press Herald photographer witnessed a maintenance worker put up a rudimentary sign on a piece of plywood, blocking the path to visitors.

Though the trail is privately owned, its continuous public use for decades gives the public the right to use the path, Scarborough Town Manager Tom Hall said Tuesday. He said the town of Scarborough has no direct involvement with the maintenance or oversight of its use.


In 2019, the Prouts Necks Association installed locking wooden gates at both ends of the path to block public access at night and during bad weather. The sudden presence of the gates raised questions among residents who have long enjoyed public access to the waterfront path and its sweeping views of the Atlantic coast.

Scarborough police said in a statement Monday that they continue to investigate the incident, but do not believe it was suspicious. The department did not respond Tuesday to questions about the incident and the ongoing investigation.

After Gowens fell, her sister and a local fisherman called for help, police said. Emergency responders from the Scarborough Fire Department, EMS and Portland Fire Heavy Rescue 1 responded and began a “lengthy extrication process,” police said.

Gowens was taken to Maine Medical Center, where she died from her injuries.

A family member who answered the phone at Gowens’ home in Calhoun said family members were not ready to speak to a reporter about her. In comments on a Calhoun newspaper’s Facebook page, people who said they knew Gowens described her as a sweet and loving woman who recently became a grandmother.

Gowens had been vacationing in Maine and was staying at the Black Point Inn in Scarborough, which is near the Cliff Walk Trail, The Associated Press reported. There is no parking at the trailhead and in order to reach the trail, hikers must park elsewhere and walk to Checkley Point at the end of Black Point Road.


Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this story

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