Skip to content (press enter)
Protect Beach Access in Scarborough!

12 • 31 • 2022

Protect Beach Access in Scarborough!

Victory! The Maine Chapter worked with our Northeast Regional Manager to oppose unfair rate hikes in beach parking lot fees.


The Scarborough Town Council (Council) met on December 15, 2021, at 7pm, to hear from the public on the amended recommendations on beach parking fees proposed by the Community Services and Recreation Board (Board), pursuant to Order 21-096.

While deliberations did strongly indicate that a raise in beach lot fees will be entertained again after the completion of the Master Plan, the Council voted NO on the amended proposal! 

We'll keep a lookout for when this issue comes back around, and hope that YOU will give us a shout in the meantime to engage!! 


We urge folks who care about public beach access and equity for all people to register to speak respectfully ahead of the Council's deliberation on the amended recommendations on 12/15/21, to help inform their decision-making on the amended Board proposal. 

Let the Council know how and when you use the parking lots and metered spaces, your experiences with parking fees, and how the proposed rate increases would impact you. Share your personal connection and story, as well as your thoughts on the proposals and ways they could be further modified to best protect equity and public access, while concurrently still promoting the interests of the Town!

Register to attend the Zoom meeting here (FMI)!

Find the new proposal in the Council agenda, here.

Process Note: The discussion of this “old business” during the meeting on 12/15/21 centers around enabling the Council to:

  • Hear the newly amended proposal from their Board;
  • Hear from the public about the amendments; and to,
  • Discuss all they've heard and decide what to do next.

The Council is being ASKED on 12/15/21 to approve the “first reading” on the proposed amendments and schedule a formal public hearing during their next Council meeting on Wednesday, January 5, 2022.

However, the Council has the latitude to take any number of actions, including (but not limited to) making motions to further amend the proposal before passing the first reading or tabling again pursuant to needing more info or time.

This is where WE come in, and why YOUR voice is so super important! 

WE have the opportunity to help shape this proposal further to best ensure that changes made will not negatively or disproportionately impact financially challenged people, favoring instead beach access only for those who can afford it.

Highlights of the New Proposal + Our Position:

Amended Proposal Table from the Board:

1. Board: “Keeping our fees inline is very important to manage the stress on our facilities. If fees get too high, users
go somewhere else or if they get too low, then we get overwhelmed with beach goers causing pressure
on our local neighborhoods and our staff.”

  • Surfrider Maine: As there has been no evidence presented to substantiate the concern raised, we urge you to prioritize maintaining equity of access for all people over an unprovoked and unnecessary move to standardize parking fees with other beachfront towns.
  • Base decisions about beach access and the promulgation of new rules on science, being sure to collect and analyze relevant data, such as understanding impacted beachgoers and potential ripple effects to area businesses and culture from limiting beach access, as part of its due diligence.
  • If advancing to a cashless system is a goal to be advanced at a future date, proactively solicit input from potentially impacted beachgoers, residents, and non-residents alike, to help inform this change. Once a system is selected, establish and communicate an alternative payment system for beachgoers who do not have the means or tools to use a cashless system. This acknowledges that not every person has a bank account, smartphone, or skills to use a cashless system, thereby increasing equity of access for all people.
  • Meet to develop a plan to address underlying bias in the beach community, including against types of ocean recreation, financial class, nationality, race, gender, orientation, or origin of residence, which if left unchecked can build tensions, fester, and impede upon a safe and fun beach experience for all people.

2. Board: The purpose of this proposal is “to bring fees in line with surrounding communities, improve daily operations and reduce handling of cash.”

  • Surfrider Maine: We urge the Council not to advance changes to beach access based on a perceived issue of inconsistency with other surrounding communities—especially an issue that is not backed by data, including data demonstrating who would be impacted and in what way due to these changes.
  • Work with interested parties, including local students, community members, and our Chapter, to conduct a study over the 2022 season to gather information about who uses beach lots in the reduced rate hours and for what primary purpose; set tracking measures to determine what percentage of those beachgoers exploit the generous reduced rates by ignoring the honor system and/or remaining more than an hour beyond the reduced rate hours. Erecting clearly worded signage alerting beachgoers to the need to pay the full day rate if they intend to stay beyond the reduced rate hours would be a helpful tool and would set the right tone for the study, with a primary purpose of helping ensure people understand expectations and rules, and to collect hard data about lot usage.

3. Board: “At this time we are not proposing a rate increase on any Season Pass types, which should allow our residents to not be financially impacted if they choose to purchase a season pass. As well as keep us in-
line or below with what neighboring coastal communities are charging for non-resident season passes.”

  • Surfrider Maine: Lower the annual non-resident pass from $150 to $80, which is 2x the current resident pass rate. This would help the Council reach its stated goal of increasing annual pass sales and decreasing cash handling, while significantly increasing the equity of access to the beaches in the Town.

4. Board: Amendment includes proposing an increase from $5 to $10 for reduced rate lot usage in early morning and late afternoon hours.

  • Surfrider Maine: Either maintain the current $5 reduced rate parking for early morning and late afternoon lot hours or replace it with free parking to continue to be a leader in public beach access equity for individuals and families of all income levels. $10 is not a reasonable amount to charge people for an hour or two of beach use, and would significantly deter financially challenged individuals and families from enjoying this public resource, creating troubling inequity.

5. Board: Amendment includes proposing an increase from $1/hr to $2/hr for metered parking, which was FREE just a couple years ago. 

  • Surfrider Maine: We urge the Council not to advance this increase for short-term beachfront parking. While $2 per hour may not seem like a big deal to affluent people, for financially challenged people who are avid beach users trying to find respite in the ocean, picking up trash as they walk, enjoying the sound of crashing waves or maybe catching a wave on a board or by body to ride into the shore, this increase adds up and would serve to limit access to Scarborough's beaches, favoring people with more money who can afford to sustain the increased rate. To put that in practical terms: if someone uses these spaces to park 4 x per week for an hour before work, paying $1 to park would cost $212 per year; paying $2 would cost $424. As there has not been any evidence of a need for increased funds for beach maintenance or any other important and data-backed reason to increase this parking rate, we urge the Council to reject it and instead, first learn about who uses these parking spaces and how the rate increase would impact them, before advancing a hike in rates.

What to expect when you join the Council meeting by Zoom:

When the order is called on the agenda, the Chair (newly appointed Councilor Cloutier) will call upon members of the public wishing to speak to raise their (digital) Zoom hand. The Chair will then call upon people to speak.

When it's your turn, you will hear your name called, and will perhaps need to unmute yourself and then be able to address the Council (comments should be 3 minutes or less!).

—>Best practice is to acknowledge the Chair, Vice Chair, and Council, and then introduce yourself (name and town/state of residence), and share your connection to Scarborough beaches briefly ahead of offering your personal experiences, comments, thoughts on the proposals, and recommendations.

  • This might sound something like: Good evening Chair Cloutier, Vice Chair Johnson, and Members of the Council. My name is So-and-So. I live in Portland and regularly frequent Scarborough's beaches and businesses for swimming, surfing, and beachgoing. Access to the ocean significantly impacts my sense of place, well-being, and belonging to our shared metro area. 

—>When you're done speaking, be sure to thank the Council for hearing your thoughts. Keep in mind that the Council may ask you questions when you're done speaking. The Chair will thank you for speaking and dismiss you when they're ready to move on to the next speaker.

Do you have questions or want to take your advocacy a step further? Email us to engage more deeply in our work to protect Maine's ocean, waves, and beaches:




Public beach parking in Scarborough is again on the Town Council agenda, with rate hikes proposed that would create inequity for financially challenged individuals and families, while further entrenching the dangerous, historic 'locals only' perspective that the beach somehow “belongs” to residents of the Town and not to all members of the public, and that the access to beaches should therefore favor locals.

The proposal was tabled on 11/3/21 to be held for further discussion by the council before their December 15, 2021 meeting. See below for the full update and ways YOU can help! Thanks!


1. Send an email to the Scarborough Town Council ASAP and before December 15, 2021, to help protect fair public parking rates for early morning and early evening beach users:!

Helpful Tips:

  • Address your comments to Chair Cloutier, Vice Chair Johnson, and members of the Scarborough Town Council
  • Offer gratitude for the Council's 11/3/21 tabling and ongoing deliberation of this issue through their December 15, 2021 Council meeting
  • Keep your comments polite, positive, and constructive. There are many good people on the Council who are trying to pass good, fair policy; comments should help support those efforts and offer prescriptive recommendations!
  • Share concern for the inequity of the proposed 100% metered short-term parking rate increase from $1/hr to $2/hr along the Bayview Ave spots at Higgins (which were free just a few short years ago!), and question whether the rate hike is actually needed?
  • Ask that any rate hikes be based on science and hard data, rather than speculation that standardization with other beach towns seems like a good idea—or any other speculative rationales! There should be an actual problem we're trying to solve or an improvement to be made that inspires policy changes - especially ones that further exclude underserved populations of people, like financially challenged individuals and families.
  • Share concern for the parking lot day fee increase from $15 to $20, which from the meeting materials appears to be based on a perceived issue with not having rates that are uniform with other Maine beach lot fees. Only, the proposed rates do not standardize beach lot rates and would only impact rates at Scarborough beaches.
  • Echo the Surfrider Foundation Maine Chapter's concern for the inequity for financially challenged individuals and families that would be created by eliminating the reduced rates for early morning and late afternoon lot hours, with the proposal to replace that currently reduced rate of $5 with the flat rate $20 full day fee. THANK the Council for refusing to advance that proposal on 11/3/21, and agreeing to put more thought and work into this! 
  • Share ideas you have for how the Town could improve its processes to advance toward a cashless payment system, including whether or not you would support the Town reducing its non-resident annual parking pass from $150 to a lesser amount, and how that would impact you (i.e. if you're not a Scarborough resident, would you purchase a non-resident pass if it was less expensive? What would be an affordable rate? Do you already purchase a non-resident pass? What are other obstacles that would prevent you from purchasing a pass or paying the current $5 reduced rate for “off hour” parking?)
  • Share knowledge you have of how the current honor system for lot fee payment during early morning and late afternoon works, and any ideas you have for better ensuring payment (if you agree that is an issue, at all)
  • Consider stressing that Council members making public comments indicating a strong bias against surfers by insinuating without any proof that “those people” who do not honor the honor system are “out of town surfers” is not only hurtful to the beachgoing community and the public, the reputation of the Council, and unfair to surfers, but also incredibly bad form that is unbecoming of elected officials who should have the best interests of all beach users in mind—and not just those who engage in lawful activities that they also enjoy or can relate with. Ask for the Council to respect all beach users equally, and to address potential underlying bias or prejudice against specific types of uses. Gaining better understanding of ocean sports - from beachgoing to kite surfing to surfing and swimming and beyond—and the diverse array of people who engage in them—would be helpful for this and any Council!

2. Email us YOUR stories (or incidents!) about how the parking situation at Scarborough beaches or the proposed rate hikes would impact you.

This includes but is not limited to sharing:

  • what you do at the beaches (surf, swim, walk, sun tan, etc)
  • if you are a resident of Scarborough or not (if not, where is your legal residence?)
  • if you leverage the reduced rates and pay the $5 via the honor system or not (we won't tell on you but would like to procure some actual data to have insight into this issue!)
  • if you would be able to visit Higgins on days when the metered spots are all taken and the reduced rate gone
  • if you would be able to purchase a non-resident pass for the current rate of $150/annually and if not, what annual rate would make that more worthwhile for your use and enjoyment of the public resources
  • how parking fees at beaches impact you
  • any incidents you've had with parking, surfing, or beach access in Scarborough
  • ideas you have for how the Town might address the “problems” they are trying to solve with this proposal, which appear to be:

           -standardizing beach parking fees with other Maine towns in an effort to balance beach visitation by not having too low or too high of a rate

          -to crack down on the perceived issue of non-payment of the reduced rate fee for early morning and late afternoon lot use (currently at $5)

            -to try to advance toward a cashless payment system


• On 11/3/21, the Scarborough Town Council held a public hearing to entertain a proposal that would increase beach parking rates as follows:

          -Replacing the current $5 parking fee for beach lots from 5:30AM to 9AM and from 3PM to 6PM with the daily parking rate, which is proposed for an increase from $15 a day to $20 a day (see the proposal here on page 67 of the meeting packet). That means if you go to Higgins to catch a few waves for an hour or two before work and park in the lot, as requested by the Town, you'd be paying $20!

         -Increasing the metered parking spaces on Bayview Avenue at Higgins from $1 to $2 an hour is also on the table. These are spots that were free just a couple of years ago!

• The rationale for the rate hikes does not reflect inflation or a need to increase the town budget to care for the beach or amenities. The described intent is to standardize to other Maine beach town lot rates in an effort to reduce the # of beachgoers by increasing parking rates—which translates into disproportionately impacting financially challenged people to favor access for the wealthy and for Town residents. Emphasis added: “If fees get too high, users go somewhere else or if they get too low, then we get overwhelmed with beachgoers causing pressure on our local neighborhoods.” 

• Fortunately, a majority of the councilors were uncomfortable with removing the reduced rate fees and charging the full day’s rate for just a few hours of use. 

• However, Councilor Caterina was adamant about her unsubstantiated speculation that it is out-of-town SURFERS who are parking in the lots before an attendant arrives at 8AM—  and—that “these” folks are not honoring the honor system by paying that five bucks (see the recorded video at 1:10:30). She harkened back to our campaign a few years back to fight a (ridiculous) proposal that sought to ban the changing in and out of wetsuits at, on, or near the beach—asserting that the lower than “standard” parking rates established then were in response to an attempt to urge surfers to use the bathhouse to change, instead of pulling a wetsuit over or off their bathing suits by their cars parked in the metered spots (not realizing that this proposal is akin to asking beachgoers not to erect umbrellas at, on, or near the beach…lol). She then dove directly into asserting that increasing fees is a way to “even out the cost of usage” and to “control” the amount of usage of a resource so that “certain” users do not “overuse” or “damage” and deplete the resource so it becomes “not a good place to be.” She completed this anti-surfer bias by driving her opinion that “I know a lot of the surfers come regularly in the summer” noting that people who park without paying are not paying for their share of beach maintenance – despite the fact that the Town has all the money it needs (and then some) to maintain the facilities using current parking rates—without increasing the rates and further entrenching economic class disparity at our shared beaches—and despite the fact that no evidence was presented to substantiate her claim that people are failing to honor the honor system—or that “these folks” are predominantly surfers who are not Scarborough residents.  

• It was also revealed at this meeting on 11/3/21 that no survey has been conducted to actually determine whether or not beach users parking in the lot before or after the heat of the day and using the reduced rates are residents or not, surfers, dog walkers, swimmers, financially challenged beachgoers trying to afford the privilege to spend time at the public resource, or aliens for that matter. The Town Manager indicated by email that he assumes most of these beach users are residents, while other claims at the hearing indicated the contrary, thereby really establishing that this data about who uses the reduced rate parking and for what primary purpose is unknown. Who is this “everyone” and where is the evidence to demonstrate that “they” are not paying their fair share, already? Is this not an enforcement and process issue to crack down on exploiting the honor system, and if so, why would the Town just advance a hike increase instead of trying to understand and fix the actual “problem” of nonpayment, if it exists—like maybe by talking with the State about how they manage their honor system at places like Popham Beach State Park? 

• A motion was made by Councilor Cloutier to scrap the reduced rate and make early morning and late afternoon parking FREE, charging for the lot from 9am until 5pm! That was unfortunately rejected with rationalizations that don't make much sense to us (i.e. how to enforce the day rate if people are already parked for free by the time the attendant arrives—nonsensical as this condition already exists whereby people pay $5 or according to unsubstantiated speculation - cheat the system by parking for free). Councilor Caterina proposed a motion that would've still done away with the reduced rates, and started charging people the full day rate at 7am; she did not vote in favor of her own motion after the debate.

• There was also a desire expressed to move to a cash-free payment system, which would solve a problem noted in the proposal of managers needing to make change all day for lot attendants. A cashless system also carries with it certain inequities for people who do not have bank accounts or cards but we also acknowledge that safety concerns are at play with cash handling and would not oppose a cashless system, particularly if it came with an alternative option for people who do not have bank debit or credit cards (i.e. like an option to pay with cash or check at the Town Office for a day pass or annual parking pass).

•  The Town Council decided on 11/3/21 to table the matter until their Council meeting on 12/15/21 @7pm, so they can deliberate options, including trying to encourage more “regulars” who frequent the Scarborough beaches to buy season passes, and entertaining the notion of making non-resident season passes a more equitable, feasible option by lowering the current $150/year rate. We are urging all who care about public beach access in Scarborough to send letters to the Council before that 12/15 meeting to help advance good solutions!