Jason Spinney, half owner of the pontoon-style floating structure pictured on the screen, speaks to city councilors and Green Lake shorefront property owners on April 19. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY ANNE BERLEANT

Homemade “house float” on Green Lake irks shorefront dwellers



ELLSWORTH — The tension between lakefront residents and recreational users of Green Lake ticked up at an April 19 City Council meeting, in an agenda item sponsored by Councilor Heather Grindle. “It was brought to me by a number of folks,” she said.

Under fire are houseboat-like structures anchored in one spot for days or weeks for recreational use, and that often attract their like, tied side-to-side for a floating party.

“I don’t own anything beyond the high-water mark,” Dedham resident Dale Jellison said. But he also visualized lines drawn from lakefront properties out into the water, with use of that area requiring the property owner’s permission.

Lake towns outside of Ellsworth have already moved on this. Green Lake property owner Andy Hamilton pointed to Wilton, Harrison, Edgecomb and, in particular, Rangeley, where mooring a houseboat in front of a property requires written permission from the property owner and registering the boat with the town.

Currently, statewide bill LD 626 is being considered in Augusta to regulate houseboats and floating structures on lakes, but it could take until 2022 for it to be decided. That is too long for Hamilton.

“We’ll be watching this summer, and we’ll be back,” he said.

But despite the warning, Hamilton said he and his Green Lake neighbors are just looking for some balance with the houseboat crowd. “All we want is an opportunity to have a committee and a conversation.”

Green Lake is not taken over by houseboats every July and August. It is one particular structure that is raising local temperatures, owned by Terry Pinkham and Jason Spinney, both Ellsworth residents.

Pinkham holds a commercial boat operator’s license and is a Master Maine Guide. He and Spinney constructed the “house float” out of redwood, placed it on pontoon boat tubes and anchored it on Green Lake.

“Our families enjoy it, our kids enjoy it,” Pinkham said. “We want to be able to keep using it as we are, respectfully.”

The boat is engine-less and has a self-composting toilet. And, yes, rafting up (tying up with other floats or boats) is a common occurrence, he noted.

But Green Lake property owner Patty Hamilton said things got out of hand at times, and the house float stayed in one location all summer without the beach owner’s permission.

“We need more conversation,” she said, “to come up with a fair agreement that works for everyone.” 

Houseboats are not the only floating structures that could be affected by any local ordinance or state law dealing with mooring privileges. Branch Lake property owner Alison Cowen said she places a big float with a slide in the water for summer fun and camaraderie. “Boats come from all over. Kids love it.” 

Councilors were legal-minded.

“My property line stops at the low water mark,” Councilor Michelle Kaplan said. “Those are the restrictions I live with.”

And while Councilor Gene Lyons offered to moderate the conversation between property owners and recreational users, he said, “My thought is the water belongs to everyone.”

City staff will gather information as a first step, City Manager Glenn Moshier said.

“We’re not claiming ownership beyond the shore,” Andy Hamilton said. “It used to be people could talk about these things.”

Anne Berleant

Anne Berleant

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Anne Berleant covers news and features in Ellsworth, Mariaville, Otis, Amherst, Aurora, Great Pond and Osborn. When not reporting, find her hiking local trails, reading or watching professional tennis. Email her at [email protected]

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