OXFORD — Voters will have an opportunity next month to decide whether the town beach should be open to everyone.
A Special Town Meeting has been called for September 20, beginning at 6 p.m. at the selectmen’s meeting room in the Town Office to ask voters whether they will agree to open Pismo Beach and the boat launch for public use, with non-residents paying a usage fee that will be set by the Board of Selectmen.
Until that process is complete, Town Manager Butch Asselin said nonresidents will not be asked to leave the beach, but they may be asked if they are residents.
“This will give us a sense as to who is using the facilities. Voters will decide at the Special Town Meeting on whether or not to make the change permanently,” he explained.
The town beach and its adjacent boat ramp on the 4,426-acre Thompson Lake, which borders Oxford, Poland and Otisfield, was created in 1975 on land donated by the Anderson-Staples American Legion Post. It was funded and maintained by the town’s Recreation Department, the Oxford Baseball Softball Association and volunteers.
Asselin believes the beach has been available to residents and taxpayers only since 1975.
Under the proposed beach regulations that were discussed by the Board of Selectmen and others at a July 19 selectmen’s meeting, the beach would be open to the general public. Non-residents could purchase a $25 seasonal pass or a $5 day pass.
Additionally, a few passes would be provided to the Hampton Inn and Oxford Casino Hotel to allow their guests to use the beach. Summer camps could access the beach as well as baseball players using the Pismo Beach ball fields, but only during tournaments and games.
Additionally, the following rules would be imposed:
- Attendants would collect the fees.
- Attendants could issue free resident passes.
- The beach would be open from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. The gate would be fixed and opened and closed at these times.
- The attendants should enforce that children under 10 be accompanied by an adult.
- No tobacco products would be allowed on any of the Pismo Facility areas, including smoking in personal cars.
- Attendants would not need to check the residency of the paddle boaters/jet skis that enter the area. They would be asked not to tie up at the docks and to store the paddle boats/boards on the lawn.
- No fishing allowed at the dock/beach.
- No pets on any of the Pismo facility areas. (The only exception would be service dogs. No therapy pets).
- Oxford Police Department would have the authority to revoke beach privileges.
In July of 2017, the Board of Selectmen, on a 3-2 vote, said only guests of taxpayers and residents would be allowed at Pismo Beach starting in 2018 and only if the resident or taxpayer was present.
The beach regulations were approved on July 20, 2017 following a proposal by then Recreation Director Connie Staples. They superseded the then existing regulations that allowed guests of property owners on the beach with a consent slip obtained from the Town Office. Guests at the Oxford Casino Hotel and Hampton Inn were also provided passes if they wished to access the beach.
Although the consent slips were honored through the 2017 summer season, in 2018 selectmen said all residents or taxpayers would have to be present with their guests and no consent slips would be issued.
“The taxpayer has to be present – it’s simple,” said then Selectboard Chairman Scott Owens last year when a lengthy conversation ensued about specific cases.
Beach goers earlier this week had various opinions about opening their beach to the general public. While most agreed that they prefer to have the town beach to themselves, many said they would have no objections to having it open to all.
A camp renter on Thompson Lake said she saw both positive and negative aspects of the plan. The additional revenue would help supplement the Recreation Department’s budget, she said.
Access to town beaches has been an ongoing issue for towns for years. Some, like Bridgton and Harrison have opened up their beaches to nonresidents simply because it has been easier to do so. Others, such as Poland, have set up a fee system, $50 (seasonal) and $5 day pass.
Pennessewassee Lake in off Route 117 Norway is open to the public at large for no fee. Range State Park in Poland and Sebago Lake State Park in Casco are also open to residents and non-residents alike on a fee basis.