June 23, 2018
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State to pay $100,000 per year to keep access to Cape Elizabeth park

By Will Graff, The Forecaster

CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — The state has signed a five-year, $100,000 per-year lease agreement with the corporation that owns most of Crescent Beach State Park, allowing the popular recreation area to remain open to the public.

Sprague Corp. announced Friday it has signed a lease extension for 100 acres of the 187-acre park. The deal ends months of speculation about the future of the park, which was seen in danger of being closed or its use changed dramatically if an agreement was not reached.

“I think it’s a fair deal for both sides,” Will Harris, Director of the Division of Parks and Lands, said on Friday. “It was a negotiation of a willing buying and a willing seller. We had some bumpy spots along the way, but I think both sides are pleased with result.”

Lease talks between the two parties stalled last summer, putting the public’s future access in jeopardy.

But late last month, the groups developed a tentative compromise that hinged on the removal of language in the supplemental state budget package, requiring legislative approval for the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation to agree to a lease deal.

State lawmakers passed the supplemental budget Feb. 21 and removed the restrictive language.

The agreement has the state paying significantly more than the original 1961 deal, in which Sprague signed a 50-year lease with the state for $1. Since that initial lease expired in 2010, the state has paid $10,000 for one-year extensions.

When lease talks stalled last year, the state indicated that it wanted to buy the land from Sprague, but the company was not interested.

A 2011 town assessment of the entire Crescent Beach property estimated it to be worth about $8 million.

The popular park is one of the largest revenue-generating parks in the state and plays a crucial role in funding the $7 million state park general fund. Pulling that revenue from the state park system could jeopardize all parks in the state, officials said previously.

Seth Sprague, president of Sprague Corp., was not immediately available for comment.

Harris said the new lease will not impact park operations.

“What it’s going to do is guarantee that things don’t change, other than maybe get better, for the next five years,” he said. “We’re looking forward to the sunshine. Let the summer come.”

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