From left: Amanda Beal, commissioner of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry; Gary Best, Southern Region State Park manager; Rep. Allison Hepler; park manager Sean Vaillancourt; Gov. Janet Mills; Andy Cutko, director of Bureau of Parks and Land; Deborah Stockwell; Matt McGuire, assistant Southern Regional Parks manager; and Sen. Eloise Vitelli. All stand on the new mobility access pathway at Popham Beach. Maria Skillings / The Times Record

Popham Beach State Park unveiled new accessibility upgrades Thursday at an event marked by Gov. Janet Mills, park officials, local representatives and locals.

The park now has a 350-foot, blue pathway made of recycled plastic and polyester that runs down the beach.

“It isn’t just those with accessibility needs but people with baby strollers and coolers,” said Andy Cutko, director of the Bureau of Parks and Lands. “It makes it a lot easier for people.”

The path was installed early this month.

“In just the last few minutes, we saw one individual with walking sticks, another individual in a wheelchair and several people with small children,” Mills said.

As part of Mills’ Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan, she announced in June that $50 million would be dedicated to improving Maine’s state parks.


“I have drawn down on federal monies, American Rescue Plan monies, to provide access to these beaches, starting with Popham Beach,” Mills said. “Just having access for people with mobility challenges is important.”

Rep. Alison Hepler, D-Woolwich, and resident Deborah Stockwell have been working on this project for the past two years.

Stockwell said she started reaching out to her local representatives two years ago to find ways to improve access to the beach for those with disabilities and mobility issues. She said she suffers from chronic Lyme disease, leaving her reliant on walking sticks, and her husband is a disabled veteran. She said this pathway is a game changer for her and her husband and so many others.

“She’s relentless in a good way,” Hepler said of Stockwell. “Until we get public interest, it doesn’t happen.”

Stockwell said not only does the walkway provide easier access for all, but the material stays cool in the hot sun, protecting bare feet from potential burns.

“It quickens emergency personnel access as well,” Hepler added.

“We just want to make sure everybody, whatever age, whatever ability, has access to these beautiful state parks and beaches and monuments that we are so fortunate to have,” Mills said.

Sen. Eloise Vitelli, left, Deborah Stockwell, Gov. Janet Mills and Rep. Allison Hepler at Popham Beach. Maria Skillings / The Times Record

Park manager Sean Vaillancourt, left, with Rep. Allison Hepler and Deborah Stockwell, standing on the new mobility access pathway at Popham Beach. Maria Skillings / The Times Record

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