AUGUSTA (AP) – Concerns about aquatic plants and rising levels of boat traffic are being cited as reasons why Mainers are finding it increasingly difficult to find access to many of the state’s lakes.

Mainers looking to launch their boats are finding gates across access roads. Fees are being charged to get past gates in some spots, and some landowners are less willing to let boaters carry their canoes across their properties.

“One of the biggest complaints I hear from people is that out-of-staters are buying up the land and you can’t go there anymore,” registered Maine guide Steve Chaisson of Farmingdale said.

Maine has about 400 public access boat launches, mostly on land owned by the state or a municipality and is readily available to recreational boaters. Some of those sites are limited to carry-in boats.

Long-standing state law says residents have the right to access any of the state’s roughly 2,600 lakes or ponds that are 10 acres or larger, even those within property that’s privately owned.

A mission of the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is to provide access to inland and coastal waters, spokesman Mark Latti said. But providing public access is becoming an increasing challenge, especially in southern and central Maine, as waterfront properties rise in value and local landowners oppose public access, Latti said.

Boat launch efforts are also hampered by limited money and a slow land-acquisition procedure, said George Powell, director of boating facilities for the state Bureau of Parks and Lands.

Opposition to public access comes from lakeside landowners who are worried that visiting boats will bring in invasive aquatic plants. The problem cropped up in central Maine with a variable leaf milfoil outbreak at the Route 27 boat launch on Messalonskee Lake in Belgrade.

Latti said some landowners simply want to restrict the amount of boat traffic on lakes and ponds.

Christeen Mudgett, who recently used a Department of Conservation boat ramp to take a late-summer afternoon canoe ride with her two children on Echo Lake in Mount Vernon, said she wishes every one of Maine’s lakes and ponds had an access point with a portable toilet and ample parking space.

Mudgett said she goes canoeing with her children to enjoy the peace and serenity of the experience, and getting into a confrontation with an angry homeowner is not compatible with that idea.

“Some people are not mean,” Mudgett said, “but they give you that ‘why-are-you-here-kind of look.”‘


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