BRUNSWICK, Maine — A new study released last month could instigate the reopening of Simpsons Point Boat Launch on Middle Bay, but plans to do so could face opposition from people who use the area for recreation.
On Wednesday the town Marine Resources Committee discussed the possibility of reopening the boat launch after a study by MER Assessment Corp. suggested that doing so wouldn’t have an overall negative effect on the local marine life habitat.
Committee Chairman Mark Latti said the committee will determine what direction to take in a July meeting for which MER president Chris Heinig will be present to field questions about the study.
Since the boat launch closed in 2008, Marine Resource Officer Dan Devereaux said nearby residents and others have enjoyed using the area for more recreational uses, such as swimming, kayaking and beachgoing.
“I know that the committee has been adamant in wanting to reopen the Simpsons Point Boat Launch,” Marine Resource Officer Dan Devereaux said. “Since it’s been closed, it has established many other uses other than just a simple boat launch. … That’s what you’re up against as a committee if you’re going to try to reopen the area.”
Simpsons Point was closed to motorized boats as a stipulation from the state Department of Environmental Protection for opening the larger Mere Point Boat Launch a few miles away. The closure of Simpsons Point was seen as a measure to mitigate the effect motorized vessels may have on the bay area’s eelgrass habitat.
But MER’s study, which monitored local eelgrass habitat in 2012, suggests that the vessels may have not had much of a negative effect.
“Similarly, the general thinning and decline of the eelgrass at Simpsons Point since 2008 is unrelated to boat activity in the area since the Simpsons Point landing has been blocked to motorized vessels since 2008,” the study’s executive summary read.
Instead, the study said, the larger cause of eelgrass decline could be the orange-sheathed tunicate, an invasive marine species, which has been “found attached to, and in some cases encrusting, eelgrass blades.”
Latti said the study’s conclusions suggest a strong argument for reopening Simpsons Point, and would like to explore reopening the boat launch at least for the winter months, when conditions for some boats can be dangerous when leaving from the Mere Point boat launch.
“It’s a long haul and I’d like to see us at least explore for safety purposes getting that open in the winter,” Latti said.
If the Marine Resources Committee wants to reopen Simpsons Point, Latti said, it would have to seek approval from the Town Council to send a request to the DEP. The DEP would have the final say on whether or not to reopen the launch.