BRUNSWICK, Maine — Recreational users of Simpson’s Point may confront fishermen and clammers head-on next week, when Brunswick’s Marine Resources Committee is expected to discuss reopening the boat launch.
The Rev. Frank Strasburger, who lives adjacent to the Middle Bay landing, said he and others will oppose town efforts to reopen Simpson’s Point, because it would clash with the area’s recreational use.
Strasburger said he is mobilizing supporters of the landing’s recreational use to attend the Marine Resources Committee meeting.
He said he fears an off-season opening of Simpson’s Point Landing could lead to eventual year-round use by owners of motorized boats.
But Marine Resource Officer Dan Devereaux said that scenario is highly unlikely.
“I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that,” Devereaux said. “I see the usage down there and I see what that access point has brought now that people are doing recreational stuff. Simpson’s Point has become a coastal destination point for a lot of people.”
Simpson’s Point was closed to motorized boats in 2008 as one of the conditions from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for opening the larger Mere Point boat launch, almost 6 miles away.
The Simpson’s Point boat launch has since been used by swimmers, kayakers, canoers, sunbathers and others for recreation.
The restriction came after state and local officials determined boats were having a negative effect on eelgrass, a marine plant considered integral to the habitat.
But a recent study by MER Assessment Corp. suggests motorized boats might have not been causing the eelgrass decline.
“Similarly, the general thinning and decline of the eelgrass at Simpson’s Point since 2008 is unrelated to boat activity in the area since the Simpson’s Point landing has been blocked to motorized vessels since 2008,” according to the study.
Devereaux said the study is what prompted the Marine Resources Committee to consider reopening the boat launch.
He said the committee is also concerned about reducing safety issues for boats launching from Mere Point to reach upper Middle Bay, an area that would be easier to access via Simpson’s Point.
So far, he said, there have been no accidents or capsizings as a result of boats leaving Mere Point for upper Middle Bay, but he and other committee members fear there could be an incident during winter months, when open waters are much more dangerous to cross.
Devereaux said that’s why the committee might consider an off-season opening of Simpson’s Point for motorized boats.
But the committee would have far from the final say. It would have to make a recommendation to the Town Council, which in turn would have to make a formal request to the DEP. The DEP then would have to consider the merits of a reopening, Devereaux said.
Even if a committee recommendation happens next week, it would take a while for the process to be completed, he said.
Strasburger said the issue raises questions about representation of recreational interests in town, because under the town charter, the Marine Resources Committee is charged with working on only shellfish-related activity.
Devereaux said he understands Strasburger’s position.
“In part that’s true, but I think overall, a committee working for the town is charged with what’s best for the overall town,” he said.
Strasburger said he expects a large turnout of recreation supporters at next week’s meeting.
“It’s the only free access people have to the ocean [in Brunswick],” he said. “If you ever come down on a hot day, you will see hundreds of people, so this has become very much more than just a neighborhood issue.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Rocio Carrera and Brian Repetto of Harpswell Road were enjoying Simpson’s Point with their children, Quin and Keaton.
The couple said they don’t know Strasburger and haven’t heard from him, but they are concerned about letting motorized boats use Simpson’s Point again.
“It’s one of the reasons we stayed in Brunswick,” Carrera said. “We come here at least three times a week.”
If they had to reach a compromise, Carrera and Repetto said, they would be open to letting boats come in during the off season, but it would still not be an ideal situation.
“It’s such a quiet place,” Carrera said.