OXFORD — Voters will have the opportunity next month to decide whether the town beach should be open to everyone.
A special town meeting has been scheduled for Sept. 20, beginning at 6 p.m., at the selectmen’s meeting room in the Town Office. Its purpose: To ask voters if they want to open Pismo Beach and the boat launch to public use, with nonresidents paying a usage fee that would be set by the Board of Selectmen.
Until that process is complete, Town Manager Butch Asselin said nonresidents will not be asked to leave the beach, but they may be asked if they are residents.
“This will give us a sense as to who is using the facilities,” Asselin said. “Voters will decide at the special town meeting on whether or not to make the change permanently.”
The town beach and its adjacent boat ramp on the 4,426-acre Thompson Lake, which borders Oxford, Poland and Otisfield, was created in 1975 on land donated by the Anderson-Staples American Legion Post.
It was funded and maintained by the town’s Recreation Department, the Oxford Baseball Softball Association and volunteers.
Asselin believes the beach has been available to residents and taxpayers since 1975.
Under the proposed beach regulations that were discussed by the Board of Selectmen and others at a July 19 meeting, the beach would be open to the general public. Nonresidents could buy a $25 seasonal pass or a $5 day pass.
Additionally, a few passes would be provided to the Hampton Inn and Oxford Casino Hotel to allow guests to use the beach. Summer camps could use the beach, too. So could baseball players using the Pismo Beach ball fields, but only during tournaments and games.
Additionally, the following rules would be imposed:
- Attendants would collect the fees.
- Attendants could issue free resident passes.
- The beach would be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The gate would be fixed and opened and closed at these times.
- Attendants would enforce that children younger than 10 need be accompanied by an adult.
- No tobacco products would be allowed on any of the Pismo Facility areas, including smoking in automobiles.
- Attendants would not need to check the residency of the paddle boaters or jet skis operators who enter the area. They would be asked to not tie up at the docks and to store their paddle boats or boards on the lawn.
- No fishing allowed from the dock or beach.
- No pets on any of the Pismo facility areas. (The only exception would be service dogs.)
- The Oxford Police Department would have the authority to revoke beach privileges.
In July 2017, the Board of Selectmen voted 3-2 that only guests of taxpayers and residents would be allowed at Pismo Beach beginning in 2018, and only if the resident or taxpayer were present.
The beach regulations were approved July 20, 2017, following a proposal by then Recreation Director Connie Staples. Those regulations superseded existing regulations that allowed guests of property owners on the beach with a consent slip obtained from the Town Office.
Guests at the Oxford Casino Hotel and Hampton Inn were also provided passes if they wished to use the beach.
Although the consent slips were honored through the 2017 summer season, selectmen in 2018 said all residents or taxpayers would have to be present with their guests and no consent slips would be issued.
“The taxpayer has to be present, it’s simple,” Selectboard Chairman Scott Owens said last year.
Those using Pismo Beach last week offered varying opinions on opening it to the general public. While most agreed they would prefer to have Pismo Beach to themselves, some said they had no objection to opening it to all.
A camp renter on Thompson Lake said she saw both positive and negative aspects of the plan. The additional revenue would help the Recreation Department’s budget, she said.
Access to town beaches has been an ongoing issue in many towns. Bridgton and Harrison have opened their beaches to nonresidents simply because it has been easier than restricting access. Others, such as Poland, have set up a fee system, $50 (seasonal) or a $5 day pass.
Pennessewassee Lake off Route 117 Norway is open to the public at no cost.
Pismo Beach in Oxford offered a quiet respite for those seeking relief from the recent heat and humidity.