NORWAY – The Board of Selectmen has agreed to help an 87-year-old swimming club on Lake Pennesseewassee keep its small swimming area roped off.

This summer members of the Sandy Shores Swimming Club, which is for Paris Hill residents only, learned from a newspaper article that legislation enacted last September prohibited roped off swim areas on lakes unless they are government sites or government approved.

Club President Robert De Mont of Paris Hill said all ropes and buoys would have to be pulled off the lake under the new regulation. A $500 per day civil penalty fine can be assessed if a property owner is in violation of the law, according to Maine boating law.

“Our concern of course is the safety aspect to our people,” said De Mont,  who recently asked state Rep. Terry Hayes, D-Buckfield, to help find a way to allow the ropes to stay where they have been since 1923. “We’ve been good stewards of the lake and our people,” he said.

Hayes said Monday that the Sandy Shores Swimming Club was the only organization that has approached her about the regulation, but she researched the law and found the club could be sponsored by a governmental agency. She immediately called Town Manager David Holt,  who said he would bring it to the Board of Selectmen if he could get the blessing of Bruce Cook, president of the Norway Lake Association.

With Cook’s approval, the Board of Selectmen authorized Holt to apply for the permit.

Hayes, who commended Holt and Cook for their assistance, called the swimming club “good citizens” for their desire to abide by the new law.

George Powell, director of the Boating Facilities Division of the Bureau of Parks and Lands, said Monday that he has not seen the request yet, but it appeared the swimming club had taken all the right steps to get a permit.

Powell said the division received 125 applications for permits over the last year and several calls have come from lake shore property owners who historically had roped off areas to swim.

The only notification to Maine residents by their division was to the Maine Campground Association and Maine Youth Recreation Association who are both private industries with lake shore property that might be affected by the regulation, Powell said.

“We got dragged into this kicking and screaming,” said Powell of the Boating Facilities Division jurisdiction over the new regulation because the division marks navigational routes on Maine’s waterways and may ask for removal of obstructions that are too close, such as roped off areas.

“We did not support the legislation,” he said. It was started by a small group of people on Sebago Lake who were concerned about access issues.

Local code enforcement officers and inland marine harbor masters, and not the boating facilities division, have enforcement powers, Powell said.

The swimming club was started by a resident of Paris Hill in 1923 and is operated on an irrevocable trust to allow members, residents of Paris Hill, to retain the property on the north side of Lake Pennesseewassee as a recreational area, De Mont said. The group is nonprofit and not allowed to sell the property, under the terms of the trust agreement.

The club has 41 families as members this summer who come from as far away as California, Michigan and North Carolina, where De Mont lives, to enjoy the six acres of sandy beach, a boathouse and picnic tables in a cove nestled among tall pines.

Its membership has always been limited, with a few associate membership exceptions, entirely to Paris Hill residents. Many are year-round residents,  De Mont said. The club pays $5,000 a year in taxes to Norway and $2,550 for insurance and liability.

“It’s wonderful, said De Mont, who along with his wife have been members for more than 50 years and in recent years have spent the entire summer in Oxford County.

ldixon @sunjournal.com


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