A view from the boat launch the city will soon be taking ownership of on the north end of Rockland Harbor. Credit: Lauren Abbate / BDN

ROCKLAND, Maine ― As the city has grown into a tourism destination over the last two decades, public access to Rockland Harbor has largely been concentrated in the south end of the city.

But that will soon change.

The city, a statewide land trust, a private landowner and a non-profit organization have entered into an agreement that will allow for public access along the north end of the city’s harbor. The waterfront access agreement will also allow the city to extend an existing public trail along the harbor and preserve one of the city’s few remaining lime kilns. 

“Residents in the north end [of the city] haven’t really had the same kind of public access that people in the south end have,” Rockland Mayor Ed Glaser said. “This is a conscious effort to try to extend public access in the north end.”

On June 28, the city council gave unanimous approval for the city to move forward with the project.

Through the agreement, the Apprenticeshop ― an educational non-profit focused on Maine’s maritime traditions and craftsmanship ― will transfer ownership of its boat launch to the city. The organization will also grant recreational easements to the city, which will allow for physical and visual access to the harbor, including use of the Apprenticeshop’s existing 600-foot pier.

Maine Coast Heritage Trust will be purchasing a piece of property located next to the Apprenticeshop’s main building on U.S. Route 1 from a private landowner as part of the public access project. The land trust is currently fundraising to purchase the land.

For years, the Apprenticeshop has informally allowed people to walk on their pier, “because they’re nice people,” Glaser said. But with a formal property easement, this access will now be secured going forward.

“This project will be a formal welcome to our shorefront campus where the public can learn more about our educational programs or simply enjoy being close to the water. Public access to a boat ramp, pier and beach will now be preserved for future generations,” Isabella Feracci, executive director of the Apprenticeshop, said in a press release.

In the future, the city plans to build an overlook on the 685 Main St. property being purchased by Maine Coast Heritage Trust, which will provide views of the harbor and the lime kiln ― one of the last remaining remnants of the city’s first industry.

With the north end of the harbor having a deep-rooted ― and slightly smelly ― history of being largely industrial, being able to allow for public access among sections of working waterfront is a boon.

“In both the north end and the south end, we have an incredibly strong working waterfront when other towns have lost that. Trying to find that balance so we can maintain that is really at the heart of what we’ve got to do,” Glaser said.