RAYMOND – Raymond Beach on Sebago Lake will be closed for the rest of this summer because, lately, some users have been leaving behind a lot more than footprints in the sand, town officials say.
Human waste has joined the debris that public works employees remove daily from the free public beach along Route 302, even though the town maintains portable toilets there, said Town Manager Don Willard.
The amount and variety of waste left at the beach grew over the last decade to include hypodermic needles, used condoms, dog feces, and an array of liquor bottles and beer cans.
Workers filled three 32-gallon trash bags with waste from the beach on Thursday morning, including 15 dirty diapers. And twice this week, workers found a pile of human feces and toilet paper on an open, grassy area next to the beach.
“It’s gone beyond what we expect our public employees to deal with,” Willard said. “We’re done providing a dumping ground for people at Raymond Beach. It’s with great regret that we take this action because I’m a strong advocate for maintaining public access, but people aren’t respecting it.”
The beach was closed on July 7 after town officials found elevated levels of E. coli bacteria in the water. Water quality tests have been satisfactory since the beach reopened July 8, Willard said.
In the weeks ahead, Raymond selectmen are expected to consider a plan to better manage the beach or close it permanently, Willard said. If town officials decide to hire rangers to monitor the beach, users could be charged fees to cover the cost.
The beach will be closed as of 5 a.m. today. Signs saying “No Trespassing — Beach Closed for Health Reasons” will be installed.
Cumberland County sheriff’s deputies will patrol the area and violators will be charged with trespassing, Willard said.
The town doesn’t provide trash cans at the beach. Instead, it maintains a carry-in/carry-out policy that’s posted among the rules for the beach, which has no lifeguard and is closed after dark.
In the past, when the town did have trash cans at the beach, passing motorists left so much waste that town workers couldn’t keep up with it, said Nathan White, public works director.
On hot summer days, White said, as many as 150 people can crowd the 200-foot strip of sand, which provides the only free, public access to Sebago Lake. At other public beaches on the lake, small fees are charged to cover parking, maintenance and staffing costs.
Sebago Lake, Maine’s second-largest lake, supplies drinking water to 11 communities in the Portland Water District.
Few people who use Raymond Beach are Raymond residents, White said. Most come from places like Portland and Lewiston, and they visit the beach day and night. Some have called to complain about unsanitary conditions at the beach.
“It is disgusting,” White agreed. “I try to have my guys clean the beach every morning if they have time, but they’re usually busy and I don’t have money for overtime, so I end up doing it myself.”
White said he picked up the human waste this week because his workers refused to do it. “I wouldn’t want them to do it anyway.”
The beach, known in the past as Jones Beach, was renamed 10 years ago when the town developed an adjacent public boat launch with state funds. The boat launch remains open, White said.
“The boat people, in general, take care of their area,” White said. “I hope the town keeps the beach closed, because it’s been an ongoing problem for years. As long as it’s free access, we’re going to attract people we don’t want down there.”
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services