Build paths and walkovers

Paths: Dunes can lose their protective cover of vegetation along foot paths where people access the beach.  Over time, these paths can act as conduits for floodwaters, wave runup, and overwash.

A path that curves or zig-zags near the seaward edge of the dune can slow erosion and flooding in the back dune. The main turn of the path should occur near the crest of the dune. Path rerouting will likely require a permit-by-rule from the Maine DEP since it impacts dune vegetation.

Dune walkovers: To protect dunes from foot-traffic that can contribute to erosion, elevated walkways or bridges can be constructed perpendicular to the natural sand dune. Temporary structures may be in place for up to 7 months of the year.

Both temporary and permanent walkovers would likely require full permitting from the Maine DEP under the Coastal Sand Dune Rules.

In Maine, no specific guidance is provided by the DEP for construction of walkovers in terms of elevation, slat spacing, or design; dune walkovers are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Maine DEP suggests contacting their southern Maine regional office to set up a pre-application conference if such a structure is proposed. Usually, walkovers are elevated off the surface of the dune about three feet, with sufficient spacing between individual slats so that dune grass can receive needed sunlight. Most are constructed with handrails and steps, or if used for public access, ADA-compatible ramps. Typically, they must be less than 10 feet wide for public use, and less than 4 feet wide for private use.

Several guides for construction guidance are available from other states, including Florida and Texas, and the FEMA Coastal Construction ManualVolume III, Appendix I.


Follow the steps below to gain the environmental and regulatory information needed for decision making. The steps are listed in general order although some steps may be conducted concurrently.

1) Contact local, state and/or federal regulatory officials. Begin by working with your local code enforcement office to determine if your property is in a FEMA-mapped flood zone and if so, what building requirements apply. 

2) Obtain an environmental assessment from a certified engineer or other qualified professional with expertise in coastal geology. In most cases local, state, and/or federal regulators can help direct you to the best professional discipline to assist with your specific project. Sometimes it is helpful to have the consultant completing the environmental assessment and the construction contractor present at regulatory consultation meetings.

3) Evaluate your risk. Check your insurance coverage to make sure you have adequate liability coverage related to loss due to shoreline erosion, as well as flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program.

4) If paths or walkovers are considered within 75 feet of Highest Annual Tide (HAT) or within a mapped sand dune system, develop  a site stabilization plan. The plan does not need to be prepared by a professional in all cases; however, a good, clear plan can improve the efficiency and timeliness of any permitting that may be required. Good plans also will be beneficial to the construction contractor and can help avoid costly mistakes during the construction process.

5) Be Neighborly. If the plan involves work at or near a property boundary, consider sharing the plan with the abutter(s) to make sure they fully understand the work to be performed and the potential impact to their property. This consultation is a courtesy at this stage, and not a regulatory mandate; however, obtaining “buy in” from abutter(s) can potentially avoid neighbor disputes that may lead to costly permitting and/or construction delays.

6) Need a local permit? Share plans with local code enforcement in order to determine what, if any, town ordinances may need to be followed when moving structures. Local shoreland zoning requirements will determine the acceptable location(s) for structures.

7) Need a state permit? If the plan involves alterations within 75 feet of highest annual tide (HAT), within or adjacent to another protected natural resource as defined by the Maine Natural Resources Protection Act such as a sand dune, or within a development permitted by the Site Location of Development Act, a state permit will likely be required. When possible, plan to meet standards of a permit-by-rule to simplify the state regulatory review process; otherwise an individual permit may be required. Alterations to a development or a lot within a development permitted under the Site Location of Development Act may require the revision or amendment of the development’s permit.

8) Need a federal permit? If the plan involves work below the highest annual tide (HAT) and/or in a freshwater wetland or habitat for endangered or threatened species, a federal permit(s) under the Federal Clean Water Act and Rivers and Harbors Act may be required. Share the plan with all applicable federal authorities in order to determine what permits may be necessary.

9) Hire qualified contractors who are experienced with the best practices associated with construction in or adjacent to natural resources.