December 10, 2018
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Town must decide whether to reroute scenic walkway after homeowner’s new fence blocked path

Deb Cram | The York Weekly
Deb Cram | The York Weekly
The Cliff Walk path in York Harbor.

YORK, Maine — The selectmen have some decisions to make with regard to the Cliff Walk as they look to the future of the popular pathway.

Key among them, do they want to see the walk continue beyond the oceanfront home of Milt Peterson, who has put a fence up on his property to prevent pedestrian access?

That was a question posed by Robert Gordon, chair of the Cliff Walk Committee, who presented selectmen with an update of progress to date, and the committee’s assessment of possible future actions.

The committee has devoted some time to thinking about the Cliff Walk at and beyond the Peterson’s property. According to Gordon, it is “physically possible” to build a walk on the rocks in front of the Petersons, from an engineering point of view. If that bypass could be constructed, it is possible to reach the rest of the walk “without intrusion on private property.”

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Town Manager Steve Burns said that a previous walkway in that location was destroyed by the Storm in 1978 and never rebuilt. But the committee nonetheless recommended that selectmen consider a study of the costs and issues involved.

Gordon said there is a sewer easement from the Peterson fence to the Norwood Farm area that “is pretty heavily used” by pedestrians who don’t want to turn around and use the easement to walk up to York Street and back to Harbor Beach. “This appears to be a customary and traditional usage” of that easement, perhaps dating back to the 19th century or earlier.

“The question is whether or not to make arrangements to make that a regular egress. The feeling of the committee is that you might want to take that one on,” he told the board.

“The Petersons think they own that easement,” said Selectman Mike Estes. “That (customary usage issue) may be disputed.”

He said at some point, there was a document in which the Petersons agreed to let the easement be used as a walkway in exchange for prohibiting pedestrian passage across their property.

The Peterson issue was one of several raised by the committee. Another key point had to do with the committee’s effort to obtain easements from Cliff Walk property owners. The logic was that an easement would assure public access to the walk in the future.

[Private property owner cut Cliff Walk out of plans for York Harbor land]

Gordon said committee members met with all property owners between Harbor Beach and the Peterson property. One agreed to an easement, one easement is pending; all others declined.

“The owners felt happy with the way things are now, and see no need to go through an easement,” he said. Because of that, “since no owner along the part of the walk in active use has challenged access or the town’s maintenance work, the need to obtain additional easements may not be a priority at this time.”

That maintenance work has been key, said Gordon. Two years ago, the Parks and Recreation Department took over that job, “which has worked out really well,” he said. He said storms last winter and spring covered the path with debris, which was immediately removed by staff. There was some severe damage to the path, and federal emergency management funds have just been released for repair work.

He said another real success has been the addition of a Cliff Walk Ranger, who has been hired the last two summers. Under the direction of Parks and Rec’s Robin Kerr, the rangers “have established good working relations with owners and where appropriate have coordinated maintenance work with them. This has eliminated previous complaints about excessive intrusion on owners’ properties.”

Selectmen thanked the committee for the report, and agreed the questions they raised needed to be addressed at a future board meeting.

 


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