may be good intentions behind expanding parking at Scarborough Beach,
but enough is enough.
— Therecent meeting of the
Scarborough Zoning Board of Appeals, while not final in its decision,
will likely clear the way for a new 370-car parking facility at
Scarborough Beach and open the door to another 130 spaces down the road.
The proposal, nevertheless, has little support from the community; at
the public hearing held on March 31, opposition outnumbered support by
The board received more than 250 emails opposing the decision in the 48
hours prior to the meeting.
But ZBA Chairman Mark Maroon was largely dismissive of the widespread
concerns voiced by the community.
As one attendee remarked, the board's decision was made "before they
walked into the room."
The Sprague Corporation argued that its profit-making plan represents a
"public good" by increasing access to the beach.
Indeed, beach access is an important issue in our state, where more
than 90 percent of the coast is privately owned.
On the other hand, in this case the land will remain privately owned
Casting frustrations associated with beach access issues that exist
elsewhere in our state onto the current situation at Scarborough Beach
is, at least, disingenuous.
Small inconveniences, like having to wait in line for a parking space,
have been inflated into justification for an unpopular project.
The fact of the matter is that ease of public access to Scarborough
Beach is one of the features that has established it as such a popular
Current facilities accommodate more than 400 vehicles at a time -
enough capacity to accommodate at least 1,000 vehicles a day during
Overall though, support for this project is underpinned by one big
illusion: the mispercep-tion that our natural resources are unlimited
Sometimes, despite being taught otherwise, it's easy to forget that we
can't have everything we want, when we want it, all the time.
In some cases, we readily accept this reality. We wait 45 minutes and
longer to get seated at a favorite restaurant; we-choose a different
movie when our preference is sold out; I have a friend who recently
woke up at 3:30 in the morning to get one of the limited parking spaces
available for a Mount Katahdin hike.
We understand and accept that these little anthills are part and parcel
of enjoying the things that make life fruitful.
As a community, we must undertake the same mentality in the tenuous
dance with our environment.
Just as drilling for oil is not going to solve our world's energy needs
in the long run, neither will building more parking lots ever satisfy
the demand for the beach.
We're human, after all: we want more.
Blinded by an illusion of limitlessness, the Scarborough Beach we grew
up with will be relegated to memory.
The alternative to this happily ignorant path is to recognize a reality
of shared, limited resources.
Can we make do without an additional 500 parking spaces?
Yes, we can. Learning to share this beach more effectively means we
might need to choose a different beach or adjust our schedules on a few
particularly beautiful summer days.
But have you ever walked Scarborough Beach at sunset?
The upsides of recognizing and respecting limits on how we use the
beach are immeasurable.
Our children will be able to grow up and enjoy the same beach we
enjoyed as children. Walking the beach won't resemble navigating a busy
And the natural setting that makes Scarborough Beach such a special
place will continue to thrive.
If we are careful, future generations may even be able to enjoy the
population of piping plovers that are struggling to survive precisely
where the new parking lot wouid be erected.
Do the Spragues want to com promise the future of Scarborough Beach? I
don't think so.
But it's all too easy to get caught up in short-term ambitions without
thinking about the "ripple effect" that will have all manner of
unforeseen consequences down the road.
While there's no question thai the Sprague family has been invaluable
to our community over the years, that's no reason to give the
for-profit corporation that bears their name a rubber stamp on an
In the end, what this decision fundamentally boils down to is, "Where
do we draw the line between what we want and what we need?"
Do we want more parking on those busy summer weekends? Of course we do.
But do we need it? No.
Let's draw the line.