A sign describing privacy restrictions along Moody Beach. Credit: Patty Wight / Maine Public

ME - Attorney pushes back on lawsuit to give public full access to Moody Beach

A motion to restore full access for the public to Moody Beach in Wells is facing pushback from an attorney representing a homeowner.

The argument in that motion centers around the intent of a 1640s law to protect public access to all Maine beaches.

In 1989, a Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruling privatized part of Moody Beach based on that 1647 Colonial law. Now, a group hoping to make the entire beach public again is using that archaic law to try to overturn part of that 1989 ruling.

Right now, a line of seaweed separates the crowded public part of Moody Beach from the sparsely populated private part of the beach.

“That’s what they do to just prove that that’s their property,” beachgoer Diane Fenton-Papia said.

Her sister, who lives in Wells, also weighed in.

“Everybody should be able to sit wherever they want. There aren’t many people utilizing that beautiful beach. And that’s unfortunate,” Betty Fenton-Diggins said.

An attorney for one of the beachfront homeowners on Moody Beach, who didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, is pushing back on arguments to restore the private beach to the public.

Attorney Benjamin Ford took issue with the attorney representing the Moody Beach homeowner, who said this is no big deal and there’s nothing to this.

“To them, it may not seem like that much of a controversy. But for the people that live this case and live with the consequences of those signs, yeah, this case matters a lot,” Ford said.

He argued the same public access protections in the 1640s for fishing, fowling and navigation still apply today.

“In 1640, what they were saying is that the water in the ocean is a critical economic tool to our society, just as it is today,” Ford said.

Beachgoers can walk along the private part of Moody Beach. They’re just not allowed to stay there.

“I think it’s a strong legal argument to say that public use today should be protected just as it was in the 1640s,” Our Maine Beaches spokesperson Mark Robinson said.

“Nobody played Bocce Ball [in the 1600s]. Nobody had umbrellas. They used the beach for what they used it for,” Robinson said.

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