Sherman’s Cove is among the most incredible natural assets that the town of Camden enjoys. Look at any tourist’s brochure book from the early part of the 20th century and you will see it featured perhaps more than anything else, rivaled only by the mountains and Penobscot Bay itself.

But how do you get there? It used to be that a public picnic area at the end of Sherman’s Point road was the easiest access, but this is no longer the case (more on that another time). For today, I want to focus on a couple of spots that I only learned about since joining the Select Board and having people tell me about them. They are now clearly marked thanks to new signage put up by the town Parks and Recreation department.

Sign marking Marine Avenue overlook where you can find steps and a kayak rack for dinghy permit holders.

Marine Avenue Overlook:
The first one is Marine Avenue and that is the best bet for most people. Marine Avenue is a dead-end road off High Street (Route 1) heading north out of Camden. The town road is officially 49 feet wide, which offered plenty of real estate for a public overlook, turn around for vehicles, granite steps, a kayak rack and some landscaping. Even from the paved area, without going down to the beach, you can look out at the outer harbor, Curtis Island, and beyond.

Looking down the beach for the Marine Avenue access point toward the Harbor Road access point. Soon to have a private pier in between.

For years, public access was hampered by aggressive abutting property owners who had encroached into the public way with landscaping and filed countless objections with the town and the courts to keep anything from happening that would encourage more use of the property.

Steps at Marine Avenue which were part of the improvement project caught up for many years by challenges from neighbors.

There was even a nasty court battle, and it was hard fought by the town with the encouragement of the Camden Herald editorial board and others.

Please be courteous and drive very slowly as you head down. Complaints from the neighborhood do not help the pursuit of public access here or in other parts of town. Tread lightly and leave no trace.

Harbor Road unimproved public access point. Beginning of trail.

Harbor Road Overlook:
This is another town access point that is known by very few and it must be emphasized that it is unimproved and only for the sure-footed. The public has a right to access the shore from this location but there is a lot to be desired in terms of accommodations and safety. Harbor Road is a dead-end street off High Street; another town-owned right-of-way dating back to its acceptance by the town in 1856. At one point, there was a steamship wharf extending off the end of it which was owned by George Pendleton. For many years it was called Ocean Avenue, but the name was changed to Harbor Road somewhere around 1930.

Photo taken from the Harbor Road access point looking toward Curtis Island.

The paved part dead ends at the outlet of a drainage pipe and the access has been mostly washed out by the stream that seems to grow in size all the time.

Makeshift bridge over drainage gully.

A couple of go-getter residents who live in the area have been kind enough to fashion a rudimentary bridge over the gully leading down to the shore and you will find a couple of Adirondack chairs as well if you are lucky. This is a great access point to use if you don’t want to be bothered, but it is not for everyone. Make sure not to block anyone’s driveway if you go down there and please be courteous by driving slowly and removing anything you bring with you.

It is no surprise that public access to the shore has long been an emotional topic and that many private property owners have gone to considerable lengths to try and prevent the public from enjoying these access points. Some raise legitimate concerns about protecting the natural resource as sanctuary for wildlife. Others, however, to put it quite simply, seem to be looking out only for their own enrichment.

Back in 2004, the Camden Herald editorial board tried to lend its voice to the Marine Avenue discussion and I’m grateful to everyone who did. Here’s an excerpt:

“We urge you to listen to Sid Lindsley on this and press ahead despite the rather strange objections from certain folk who would apparently prefer that the public not be allowed the full use and enjoyment of public places… Come on select board. Don’t lose your nerve. You faced this at Beacon Avenue and Sherman Point, where private landowners effectively seized public land for their own uses. It won’t do.”

Alison McKellar is a Camden resident and Vice-Chair of the Select Board. Her views are her own and do not reflect those of the Select Board or the editorial position of The Camden Herald. We welcome letters and guest columns reflecting other viewpoints via editor@villagesoup.com.

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