WINTHROP — A spike in complaints about people smoking, drinking, using filthy language and committing other mischief at the town beach has led local officials to consider ways to cut down on reported nuisances, including a possible bike-patrolling officer for the area.

Rules established by the town in 1989 don’t allow a number of those acts at the beach, which consists of a roped-off swimming area in Maranacook Lake and a grassy lawn that is often populated by families during the nicest days of summer.

The regulations include bans on tobacco, marijuana and alcohol use at the beach, and they prohibit bicycles and pets. When lifeguards are present, swimmers aren’t allowed to use flotation devices or climb onto a concrete platform in the middle of swimming area, let alone dive or front-flip off the structure. And the regulations also limit beach use to Winthrop residents and their guests.

But the town has received more complaints about people breaking those rules this summer, police Chief Ryan Frost said.

“It’s a great beach,” Frost said. “But you have little problems that pop up here and there. The feeling is definitely that there’s a lot more going on this year.”

He said he has received a number of complaints about tobacco and alcohol use, foul language and the walking of dogs at the beach. He also has heard of nonresidents using the space.

The subject came up at a recent Town Council meeting, when Councilor Richard Henry said he has received complaints about “unruly behavior at the beach that discourages families from using (it),” according to minutes of the meeting posted on the town website.

At that meeting, the council asked Frost to research how much it would cost to hire a bicycle officer to patrol the beach.

Frost now is considering ways his department can increase scrutiny of the beach without hiring additional officers or increasing the department’s budget. At the same time, he is looking at the costs of hiring an officer who could monitor the downtown area, which includes the beach and nearby Norcross Point.

Should Winthrop ultimately send more officers to patrol the beach, it wouldn’t be the only one that has looked to law enforcement recently to cut back on bad behavior in a swimming area.

At Town Meeting in June, Wayne voters approved spending $6,000 on patrols by the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office, up $2,000 from the amount it spent this year. The reason for the increase, resident Steve McLaughlin said at the time, is that residents of North Wayne had complained about drug dealing, “drunken parties, screaming and whatnot” at a swimming area at a town dam.

“I had a heard a rumor that a grandmother wanted to take her grandchildren to the swimming area and people were swimming naked there, in the daylight,” McLaughlin added.

Whether more people actually are violating Winthrop’s beach rules is unclear.

Frost did not have figures on hand about how many people have filed formal complaints with the police. But he said some of the added attention on the beach may come from social media platforms — tips on Facebook pages, for example — which make it easier for people to voice their concerns and for police to become aware of those concerns.

“We’re getting more information,” Frost said. “That’s what it comes down to.”

The concerns about rules at the beach come on top of additional worries about a gaggle of geese that took up residence earlier this summer at the Winthrop waterfront — leaving their droppings around Norcross Point and raising health concerns among those who visit the area. Town officials have hired a licensed pest service to spray chemicals around the waterfront.

One Winthrop resident who has taken her children to the town beach for almost 10 years and was there on Wednesday afternoon, Leola Woodruff, said she always has enjoyed the beach but has noticed problem behavior over the years, including roughhousing by teenagers and smoking just beyond the boundaries of the beach, leading to secondhand smoke entering the space.

A few Sundays ago, Woodruff said she saw two boys get into a fight that eventually was broken up by adults who happened to be nearby.

But the bad behavior has been limited, she said. A floating dock that used to attract rowdy kids has been removed from the swimming area, she noted, so if anything, she has observed fewer disturbances this year.

Even so, Woodruff said she would support added patrols by Winthrop police and an expansion of the no-smoking area on the town waterfront.

If officers do notice someone breaking the rules when they patrol the beach area, they often issue a warning and the person will stop, Frost said.

But sometimes things escalate. An officer recently responded after a woman let her child use a flotation device in the beach. When a lifeguard warned the woman that such devices are not allowed in the water, Frost said, the woman grew angry and swore at the lifeguard. The police officer happened to be nearby and told the woman to not return, and she was not charged, Frost said.

Some rules are harder for the officers to enforce, Frost added. Officers no longer check to make sure all beachgoers live in Winthrop, as they did many years ago, he said. If the town were to enforce that rule more seriously, he said, it probably would require greater time and effort by police or beach staff — meaning more cost to Winthrop taxpayers.

Frost noted that Readfield, a neighboring town, charges residents to use its beach. Readfield Town Manager Eric Dyer did not immediately return a voice mail message left Wednesday afternoon. According to the town’s website, residents and nonresidents alike can buy permits to use the town beach, but the price is higher for nonresidents, and only a few of them have access to those permits.

A pair of other towns in western Kennebec County are not having problems at their beaches.

Oakland has two public beaches and rules similar to Winthrop’s, but Town Manager Gary Bowman, a former police officer, said the town has received virtually no complaints this summer. That’s a change from previous years, when people were warned or charged for smoking, drinking and walking their dogs at the beaches.

“We’ve had a really good summer at our beaches. We haven’t had any call volume to speak of,” he said.

In Monmouth, Town Manager Curtis Lunt also said he was not aware of any nuisances this summer at the community’s two swimming areas.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.