Coastal Access and Working Waterfronts

Coastal access and working waterfronts have been a major focus for Maine Sea Grant since 2003 when, in response to reported fears of declining access, we hosted our first workshop for 100 participants with the Gulf of Maine Foundation and others. Natalie Springuel and Kristen Grant share leadership of this program and collaborate extensively with the Maine Working Watertfront Coalition, Coastal Enterprises, Inc., Maine Coastal Program, Island Institute, University of Maine Law School’s Center for Law and Innovation, and Maine Department of Revenue Services. New partners include Bernstein Shur Sawyer & Nelson Attorneys and Maine Coast Heritage Trust. Maine Sea Grant has produced many publications on access topics, and we also work with Sea Grant programs around the country on access issues at a national level.

Subsequent workshops in the 2000s identified a strong need for information about legal mechanisms for addressing waterfront access issues, and in response Maine Sea Grant received funding from the National Sea Grant Law Center to conduct research on new and existing legal tools, which was then made available to waterfront users, landowners, and government and public trust entities via The website template has been adapted for use in five other states: Alabama, Hawai'i, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia. Subsequent legal research in 2010, also funded by the National Sea Grant Law Center, has produced an extensive body of work identifying a variety of tax policies that may be directed toward preserving working waterfronts. This information is available via and will also be adapted for application on the web sites in the five states above.


National Coastal Access Initiative

Changes in coastal access in Maine mirror similar challenges faced by many coastal regions. Maine Sea Grant works with other Sea Grant programs and organizations throughout the country on working waterfront and access issues. In September 2010, we hosted the Working Waterways & Waterfronts National Symposium on Water Access in Portland, Maine, where over 200 participants from across the United States came together to share lessons learned and success stories. The event built upon the first symposium in May 2007 in Norfolk, Virginia, where we released the report, Access to the Waterfront: Issues and Solutions Across the Nation (5.6 MB). The report characterizes the scope of changing waterfronts and coastal access issues nationally; inventories the diverse approaches implemented by Sea Grant programs to address the issues; and synthesizes all of the above into a compelling case-regarding the need for funding, policies and programs that address waterfront and access issues. Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) submitted this report as testimony when introducing H.R. 2548, Keep America's Waterfronts Working Act of 2009. For more information, please contact Natalie Springuel.

Forum Series on Coastal Access and Working Waterfronts

Since 2003, the Maine Sea Grant Marine Extension Team (MET) has cooperated with numerous partners, including the Working Waterfront Coalition, Gulf of Maine Foundation, Maine Coastal Program, Island Institute, Maine Seacoast Mission, Coastal Enterprises Inc., SOS-Maine, Surfrider Foundation, Washington County Council of Governments, and others to host coastal access workshops in Downeast, Midcoast, and Southern Maine.

These forums highlighted the value of Maine's diverse waterfront, and identified challenges and solutions for coastal communities and businesses. The central goal has been to share information and experiences, across industry and community stakeholders, about the tools and resources available to shape the future of Maine 's waterfront. MET members helped organize and facilitate workshops in 2006, which drew between 70 and 110 participants from diverse stakeholder groups throughout the coast.

•  Coastal Access in Southern Maine: An Open Discussion Among Regional Stakeholders, University of New England, Biddeford, Maine, June 2, 2006. View materials from this workshop.

•  Downeast Forum on Coastal Access, Carter Conference Center, Machias, Maine, January 19, 2006. View materials from this workshop.

•  Working Waterfront Access: A Forum on Challenges and Solutions, University of Maine Darling Marine Center, Walpole, Maine, December 17, 2003. View materials from this workshop.


Public Shoreline Access in Maine (873 KB) updates the popular Citizen's Guide on Public Public Shoreline Access in MaineShoreline Access and the Moody Beach Case, which the Marine Law Institute and Maine/New Hampshire Sea Grant produced in 1990. The booklet is designed to help individuals and communities understand coastal property law and options for maintaining public access.



MoosabecWe worked with Judy East, Washington County Council of Harpswell's Working WaterfrontsGovernments, to produce an educational brochure about life in a commercial fishing community. Moosabec: The Downeast Fishing Community of Beals and Jonesport (684 KB), is intended to promote understanding among newcomers and existing residents over traditional uses of land and water. This template was used for another brochure, Harpswell's Working Waterfronts (927 KB), developed for a community in the midcoast region of the state. Communities use these brochures to inform the public as well as those engaged in identifying and resolving coastal access issues.


Maine's Working Waterfront Calendar 2011 features photographs by Maine students and the first 12 properties protected by the Working Waterfront Access Pilot Program. The calendars were produced by Maine Sea Grant in partnership with Maine Department of Marine Resources, the Land for Maine’s Future Program and Maine Coastal Program of the Maine State Planning Office, Island Institute, Coastal Enterprises, Inc., and Trekkers, Inc. Calendars are available at no cost by contacting; 207.581.1435.



Resource Materials

Thanks to the dedicated work of many organizations and individuals over the last several years, the importance of coastal access and working waterfronts has achieved great importance to the Maine public. As a result, the people of Maine resoundingly passed two referenda (November 2005) dedicated to protecting working waterfront access through public investment and current use taxation. In addition to signaling an important step forward for Maine coastal residents, this has also helped put Maine on the national map as a leader in addressing coastal access challenges. Other states and regions are looking to Maine for leadership on this issue. And we have resources to share!

In Spring 2006, Sea Grant programs in Mississippi, Alabama, and North Carolina hosted a series of workshops and conferences on the changing nature of working waterfronts in their areas. Maine Sea Grant extension associate Natalie Springuel was invited to share the Maine perspective at these events. In preparation, we worked with the Maine Coastal Program, Coastal Enterprises, Inc. and the Maine Working Waterfront Coalition to prepare an extensive CD of resources, including studies, strategies, publications, and much more. View content of the CD.