HARPSWELL (AP) – A dispute about the location of the Harpswell-Brunswick border on some productive clam flats has been rekindled by a group of residents who want the boundary moved.

The Brunswick Town Council and Harpswell voters in 1998 settled a long-running dispute over where the border was located in upper Middle Bay. The agreement ceded about 200 acres of intertidal clam flats to Brunswick.

But a group led by the chairwoman of the Harpswell Board of Selectmen and two former selectmen now says voters at the 1998 town meeting didn’t have all the facts when they approved the border change. The group calls itself the Carrying Place Assembly, named for an Indian canoe portage it says is the true historical boundary.

In a June 3 letter to the Board of Selectmen, the Carrying Place Assembly wrote that voters “made a hasty and ill-informed decision and an error of historic proportions. In this settlement, Harpswell lost several hundred acres of intertidal area rich with marine life and additional acres.”

Gordon Weil, who helped redraw the border when he was chairman of the Board of Selectmen a decade ago, said calls to revisit the agreement are regrettable and futile because the Legislature won’t look at the issue unless both towns agree.

The 1998 agreement gave hundreds of acres of clam flats to Brunswick, but it also added Crow Island and surrounding flats to Harpswell, he said.

“It’s naive to believe people (at town meeting) were misled,” Weil said.

Former Harpswell Selectman Malcolm Whidden Jr. said he and another assembly member recently used a compass to follow a 1738-39 Massachusetts General Court description of the Brunswick border with Harpswell. What he came up with, he said, would move the Brunswick border about 53 feet from where it is today.

Weil doesn’t dispute the 1738 boundary, but says the Massachusetts State Legislature changed the line in 1758.

The agreement Weil negotiated with then-Brunswick Town Councilor David Gleason was based on the 1758 boundary with one modification: Harpswell would get Crow Island and the surrounding flats.

The agreement was made official with the approval of Harpswell voters, the Brunswick Town Council and the state Legislature.

Before 1998, the state had jurisdiction over the disputed area. That meant clam diggers from many towns dug there, depleting the shellfish beds.

Harpswell eventually voted to end the no-man’s land agreement, forcing the towns to determine who owned which clam flats.

Since the border debate has resurfaced again, wardens have received complaints of Harpswell harvesters illegally digging on Brunswick flats, according to Brunswick Marine Resources Officer Dan Devereaux.

Last year’s clam harvest on the upper Middle Bay flats was 78,000 bushels, giving the an area an economic value of more than $1 million, Devereaux said.

Devereaux said he and his staff will continue to write summonses and seize clams from harvesters digging in the wrong town. Harvesters, he said, need to be patient and let the border debate work itself out “before they start pushing the line.”

The issue will be brought before Harpswell selectmen on July 17. Brunswick Town Manager Donald Gerrish plans to be there, even though he considers the matter resolved.

“Our opinions is (that) this thing has been settled,” he said.



Information from: The Times Record, http://www.timesrecord.com

AP-ES-07-05-08 1215EDT


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