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Which should Scarborough value more:
Beach parking or the beach itself?

FROM:  Portland Press Herald - Saturday, April 9, 2011
By ADAM BRADLEY - Scarborough Resident

There may be good intentions behind expanding parking at Scarborough Beach, but enough is enough.

SCARBOROUGH 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 7-1.

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 and operated.

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 destination.

Current facilities accommodate more than 400 vehicles at a time - enough capacity to accommodate at least 1,000 vehicles a day during peak season.

Overall though, support for this project is underpinned by one big illusion: the mispercep-tion that our natural resources are unlimited and indestructible.

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 city street.

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 ill-conceived plan.

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.

Special to The Press Herald

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