As they consider the best way to resolve differences over the use of the intertidal area of Acadia National Park, park officials are taking a judicious approach. By holding off on efforts to prohibit commercial clammers and worm diggers from making their livelihoods on the flats in the Schoodic area and elsewhere, the park is showing proper deference to long-established use patterns as it re-examines what the appropriate policy should be.
Digging clams and worms is tough, back-breaking work, often in adverse weather conditions. The hours are far from regular. To push ahead with a total ban without additional consideration would create a broad bureaucratic entanglement over the traditions of a segment of the Down East population that lives and works subject to wind and tide.
On the area’s rock-bound coast, the number of flats available to diggers is finite. Removing large areas from the mix would result only in intensifying activity elsewhere, increasing pressure on the remaining flats.
Maine law stretching back to the Colonial period has long allowed public access to the intertidal area for “fishing, fowling and navigation.” For the first 100 years of its existence, Acadia saw no threat from local residents toiling away below the high-tide mark. Abruptly deciding to assert a federal prerogative this summer, with little to no advance notice, came off ham-fisted and overly authoritarian. Unlike most other national parks, Acadia is intricately intertwined with the surrounding communities. All must work together and be willing to compromise when it comes to protecting the resources and cultures of both.
In taking another look, the park is embracing a wise approach toward resolving use conflicts via conversation rather than citations to court.