GOULDSBORO — Selectmen will hold an informational session next Thursday, March 4, about the Shellfish Committee’s plan to create a footpath on the town’s ¾-acre shorefront parcel on Prospect Harbor’s eastern shore. The path would give clam diggers and the public a means to access the waterfront.
Shellfish Committee Warden Mike Pinkham says an excavator with a chipper would cut a 6-foot-wide trail from Lighthouse Point Road through alders on the narrow, wooded lot. The committee would cover the estimated cost of $400 to $700 from its own funds.
In Gouldsboro, where commercial fishing is the major livelihood, the town acquired the parcel as a result of accrued unpaid taxes. Town officials have held onto the parcel because of increasingly scarce public access to the sea. The proposed track would enable clam diggers to access the tidal flats on foot rather than having to get there by boat. Until this winter, the flats had been closed for at least 40 years. Access would facilitate the Shellfish Committee members’ and diggers’ planned reseeding of the flats there.
“Public access to the shore is diminishing,” Pinkham told selectmen at their Feb. 18 meeting. “When push comes to shove, there’s no access for the diggers.”
“I don’t see any problem,” Selectman Ernie West said of the path at a Feb. 4 meeting. “I think that would be a good thing.”
Selectman Cheryl Robinson said she didn’t oppose the trail but recommended that neighbors be advised.
“I think we owe it to them to hear them out,” she said at the Feb. 18 meeting.
The committee’s plan follows the Shellfish Committee, Schoodic Institute and Regional School Unit 24’s requested rezoning of the same town-owned parcel last summer from limited residential to commercial fisheries and maritime in order to build a small shellfish resilience laboratory on the land. Neighboring residents and landowners objected to the project on the grounds that clearing part of the wooded lot for an access road, the lab and a parking area would expose their properties more to high winds and potential blow-downs. They also opposed an intake pipeline being installed on the flats to source seawater among other issues.
An alternative site for the shellfish lab has since been found in Gouldsboro’s Bunkers Harbor village. On Bunkers Harbor’s eastern shore, longtime lobster dealer and D B Fisheries owner Dana Rice made available part of an unused building that once functioned as Boston-based Bay State Lobster Co.’s clam-buying station decades ago. The Shellfish Committee already has a Maine Department of Environmental Protection permit to run an intake pipe from the wharf-side building into the harbor to draw fresh seawater for two recirculating tanks indoors.
At the Feb. 4 and 18 meetings, the selectmen expressed support for the committee’s proposed path, but after much discussion decided the best way forward was to notify abutting property owners of the plan and hear public comments as part of their March 4 meeting. The public can attend either via Zoom or in person the hearing being held during the selectmen’s meeting that begins at 6 p.m. in the Prospect Harbor Women’s Club Building.