Our Maine Street's Aroostook Issue 12 : Spring 2012 - Page 60

WATER ACCESS IN AROOSTOOK COUNTY ANOTHER JEWEL IN THE CROWN OF MAINE by Joe Powers Water access in Aroostook County is a true jewel in the Crown of Maine. Much of the access to the lakes, rivers and streams in Aroostook County that has always been made available by traditional access across private property has changed due to changes in land ownership. The Maine Department of Conservation Bureau of Parks & Lands Boating Facility Program and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife has purchased many of these “Traditional Access Sites,” thus protecting access to these waterways for the future. You may be familiar with these sites as they have a big blue sign denoting “Public Access Site.” Some of these sites include the boat launch site at Eagle Lake in the town of Eagle Lake, the site on Portage Lake and the new site on the Saint John River in Madawaska. The funding for the Department of Conservation’s Boating Facilities Program is derived from 1½ percent of the gasoline tax. The Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Program is funded through federal taxes on fishing equipment and distributed through the Sport Fish Restoration Fund. There are different types of access sites and many are able to be accessed with a boat trailer backed into a body of water. Others are considered ‘hand carry’ only, where you launch your car-top boat or canoe or kayak. Many of these sites are operated by the Department of Conservation or Department of IF&W, while others are owned and operated by the town or there is an agreement with a sporting club to operate the facility. For example, the Cross Lake Boat Landing is maintained by Sportsman’s Incorporated on land owned by Irving Woodlands. There are many other “Traditional Access Sites” located to the west of Route 11 that are in the North Maine Woods, and many are considered “Primitive Access” and are intended to protect the fishery resources. Some water bodies may have horsepower restrictions on them, so it is best to check with North Maine Woods office in Ashland to see what type of access is available before heading out to these areas. To provide a little historical background of the Boating Facilities Program and funding sources here in Maine, the following is quoted from the ‘Public Access to Maine Waters Strategic Plan 1995 to 2000’: “The Maine Legislature established the Boating Facilities Program in 1963 within the Bureau of Parks and Recreation to provide public launch sites for recreational boaters. This program provides public launching ramps, parking areas, and access roads for inland and coastal sites. Where sites are intensively used, the bureau provides hard surface launching ramps, floats, and toilets.” Over the years, the Bureau of Parks & Recreation, now the Bureau of Parks & Lands, has worked closely with 60 SPRING 2012 other state agencies, municipalities, corporate landowners, and the public in providing funding and technical assistance for boating facilities. In recognition of the large number of boaters who fish, the bureau has worked especially closely with the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife in providing access to waters with high-quality natural fisheries or stocking programs. In 1986, the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife initiated its own “Aquatic Access Program” to take advantage of expanded funds earmarked for boating access projects from the Wallop-Breaux Amendment to the federal Sport Fish Restoration Act and began acquiring water access sites mo