Session 11: Protecting and Enhancing Access to the Coast for Commercial Harvesters and the Public

Please reach out to individual speakers if you are interested in viewing PowerPoint presentations from this session. Due to limited staffing, we are unable to post the presentations to the website.

Afternoon Session – 1:30PM-4:00PM
Arnold Room, First Floor, North Wing

Session Co-chairs
Emily Farr, Manomet
Jeremy Gabrielson, Maine Coast Heritage Trust

“Working waterfront” conjures images of wharves, piers, and other infrastructure to support marine-dependent industries. While critically important, what is left out are the footpaths and other less visible ways that most harvesters of intertidal marine resources access the coast. Wild clams are the second most valuable fishery in Maine, and most harvesters use a mix of public and private property, often relying on informal arrangements with landowners. Gentrification, changing property ownership, increases in short-term rental properties, limited public landings, and coastal flooding and sea level rise have led to an increasing loss of access for intertidal harvesters in recent years. This has cascading effects for coastal communities, leading to overcrowding and competition for parking at public access sites, and increased use of loud airboats. It also increases risk for harvesters who need to travel by boat in dangerous conditions or face injuries from hauling gear and shellfish longer distances.

Creative approaches are needed to protect and enhance access to intertidal spaces for commercial and public uses alike. Panelists from municipal shellfish programs, local and regional non-profits, and collaborative networks focused on enhancing coastal access will share examples of local, regional, and statewide efforts to address these challenges.

Session Schedule

1:30PM – 1:55PM

Understanding Use, Change, and Management Needs at Maine’s Public Waterfront Facilities

Melissa Britsch (1), Ben Cotton (2) (student), Kathleen Leyden (1), Caroline Noblet (2), Kathleen Bell (2), Vanessa Levesque (3), Walter Lange (4)

  1. Maine Coastal Program and Maine Department of Marine Resources
  2. University of Maine School of Economics
  3. University of Southern Maine Department of Environmental Science and Policy
  4. University of Maine

Maine Coastal Program and the University of Maine are working on a project to understand the status of public waterfronts across the Maine coast and how site managers are responding to common challenges. We are sending surveys to site managers in coastal towns with public boating facilities to learn about 1) trends in use, especially for commercial harvesters and aquaculturists; 2) needs for managing and maintaining sites in the face of increased use, larger storms, and sea level rise; and 3) accessibility and ease of use at these sites. In this session, we will describe our current progress and share preliminary results. We will also discuss related state efforts to understand needs and improve coastal public access, including the State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan update and agency efforts to expand access opportunities in areas with high demand or substantial gaps in access.  

Recreational activity has increased substantially in recent years, leading to reports of overcrowding at public boating facilities. Likewise, as demand for coastal properties has increased, commercial fishermen and aquaculturists are losing their ability to access the water from private properties and are increasingly relying on public boating facilities for access, creating the potential for further overcrowding and conflict between recreational and commercial users. This study will help Maine Coastal Program and other state agencies understand coast-wide changes in use and needs to improve public boating access in the future.

2:00PM – 2:25PM

How Communities Can Collaborate to Preserve Coastal Access and Help Working Waterfronts Thrive

Jessica Gribbon Joyce (1), Monique Coombs (2)

  1. Tidal Bay Consulting
  2. Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association

Coastal gentrification in Maine has increased pressure on the working waterfront at a faster pace than many towns can keep up with, adapt to, and plan for. In order to preserve the working waterfront and the culture and marine industries it supports, towns need to know what they have for working waterfront sites and infrastructure in their community.

The Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association (MCFA) worked with Tidal Bay Consulting to analyze the existing landscape of how municipalities have incorporated working waterfront into their comprehensive plans and coastal ordinances. We then developed a process and standard data collection template for communities to inventory their working waterfront.

By completing this inventory, towns can collect data on working waterfront infrastructure and the local economic impact of fisheries and aquaculture using an accessible, step-by-step approach. The report helps communities understand their current working waterfronts, and provides the tools to monitor, preserve, and invest in working waterfront for future generations.

Recently, the MCFA has also embarked on a larger project to coordinate a community cohort that would bring together 6-8 communities for an opportunity to learn more about how they have implemented solutions to preserve and enhance their working waterfronts. MCFA will also provide technical assistance to the communities, including support to complete an inventory.

In this presentation, we will review the inventory template, and facilitate a discussion around how towns, consultants, and municipal committee members can utilize these tools to better incorporate working waterfront into comprehensive plans, harbor management plans, and climate adaptation plans.

2:30PM – 3:00PM

Afternoon Break – Auditorium

3:00PM – 3:25PM

Mapping Access to the Intertidal in Casco Bay

Emily Farr, Marissa McMahan


The wild clam fishery is the second most valuable fishery in the state of Maine, and is an important part of Maine’s coastal communities. However, shellfish harvesters are facing an increasing loss of access to intertidal mudflats where they make a living. This trend is driven largely by changing coastal property ownership and gentrification, which accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, and is part of a broader trend of dwindling working waterfront access. Before identifying strategies to protect and improve access, we first need to understand where harvesters are currently accessing the coast, where access has been lost, and where it is a priority to acquire in the future. To do this, Manomet partnered with six towns in Casco Bay–Brunswick, Harpswell, Arrowsic, Georgetown, Phippsburg, and Yarmouth–to collaboratively inventory their intertidal access points. We found that across these towns, 65% of all access points were across private property, and the majority of these were informal agreements with landowners, underscoring the precarious nature of access to the coast. The vast majority (78%) of all identified access points were walk-in sites, often foot paths to the shore, followed by boat ramps, wharves, or marinas. While this work was focused on Casco Bay, towns across the coast of Maine are facing similar challenges. We will share several examples of actions that towns have taken to protect or enhance access, including outreach to landowners and collaboration with land trusts, which may inform other municipal or statewide efforts to ensure access to the coast into the future.

3:30PM – 3:55PM

The role of Land Trusts in Protecting Coastal Access

Bob DeForrest, Maine Coast Heritage Trust

The tools of land conservation can play a significant role in the protection of coastal access. Over the years, Maine Coast Heritage Trust has completed dozens of projects to address coastal access through direct acquisition of land for coastal access, management to support harvester access, and by working with town and nonprofit partners to secure access to land for coastal access. The work often involves partnerships with state government, municipal shellfish committees and/or other land trusts. Bob DeForrest, Project Manager with Maine Coast Heritage Trust, will offer examples of recent projects that highlight the opportunity and complexities of using land conservation to protect coastal access.

About the session chairs

Emily Farr is the Senior Fisheries Program Manager at Manomet, where she focuses on building resilience in fishing communities and ecosystems in the Gulf of Maine. Her work is grounded in partnership with coastal communities and spans multiple fisheries and aquaculture sectors, including efforts to improve coastal access for the wild shellfish fishery. She has an interdisciplinary background in fisheries management, coastal governance, climate science, and facilitation. Prior to Manomet, Emily spent several years working for the NOAA Fisheries Office of Habitat Conservation.

Jeremy Gabrielson is the Senior Conservation and Community Planner with Maien Coast Heritage Trust. His interest in supporting coastal access began the early 2000s when we a fellowship with the Island Institute brought Jeremy to the down east community of Machias. He subsequently worked as a regional planner with the Washington County Council of Governments. Jeremy has worked at MCHT since 2014 on projects that support coastal resilience, coastal access, and conservation of natural places. Jeremy serves on the Beginning with Habitat Steering Committee, and the Coastal and Marine Working Group of the Maine Climate Council.