Echo Lake access boardwalk OK’d

MOUNT DESERT — Developer Shep Harris received approval from the town’s Planning Board Nov. 30 to build a 150-foot boardwalk, much of it over marshland, to a finger of water at the upper end of Echo Lake.

The board attached a number of conditions to the approval. Some of those conditions had been requested by Echo Lake residents who opposed construction of the boardwalk altogether for what they said were environmental, safety and aesthetic reasons.

Jack Russell, a spokesman for the Echo Lake Owners Association and Echo Lake Road Association, said he appreciated the Planning Board’s serious consideration of their concerns.

“They have taken useful steps to help assure that both construction and subsequent use of the boardwalk minimizes the impact on the wetlands, which was our fundamental objective,” he said.

He characterized the marshland as “unique in Echo Lake in its diverse flora, its mating area for loons and the aesthetic appreciation that many thousands of people take from seeing those wetlands on an annual basis.”

Russell acknowledged that among the reasons he and other lakefront residents objected to the boardwalk was that it would detract from their views.

“I look at that area every day of my life,” he said.

One of the conditions imposed by the Planning Board prohibits canoes and kayaks from being walked or dragged through the marsh to the water. Two other conditions of the permit are that only the owners of lots in Harris’s Echo Lake subdivisions and their guests may use the boardwalk and that any debris in the wetland near the boardwalk must be periodically removed.

The Planning Board also stipulated that no permanent or temporary additions to the boardwalk can be made without the board’s approval.

Jules Opton-Himmel, who designed the boardwalk and represented Harris before the Planning Board, told the Islander that Harris accepts the conditions the board imposed.

The town’s land use zoning ordinance limits the length of the boardwalk to 150 feet. Opponents had said that, at that length, it will only reach very shallow water at the north end of Echo Lake and no water at all when the lake level is low.

Opton-Himmel acknowledged that it is not ideal, but said it “will function and serve its purpose.”

“We’ve done everything we can to minimize the environmental and social impact,” he said. “That’s why there have been so many iterations.”

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection issued a permit for the boardwalk last year after determining that it would have no significant impact on plant or animal life or on “existing scenic, aesthetic, recreational or navigational uses” of Echo Lake.

Harris plans to build the boardwalk across a lot owned by his son, Parker, so that residents of his Lakeside II and Lakeside III subdivisions can take kayaks and canoes to the lake.

Harris created his first Echo Lake development, Lakeside I, nearly 30 years ago. He told the Planning Board last year that he had intended to provide lake access for that and future Echo Lake developments. But because of what he said was an oversight by his attorney at the time, lake access was secured for only the six Lakeside I lots.

Since then, Harris has created the two other Lakeside subdivisions with a total of seven lots.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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