July is upon us.

The late garden writer Jean Hersey once described the month – if you’re lucky! – thus: “July is hollyhocks and hammocks, fireworks and vacations, hot and steamy weather, cool and refreshing swims, beach picnics.”

If you’re lucky – which Mainers, by virtue of geography alone, are. Or, should be.

The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram published a story Thursday about the efforts of Cape Elizabeth residents to restrict parking along the road beside an increasingly popular beach. Cliff House, a small and special beach reached by a staircase, has no designated place for visitors to park; local streets have been filling up with cars in recent summers, and residents say that it’s dangerous.

The town’s ordinance committee has been getting feedback on a proposal to eliminate parking on a stretch of road beside the beach entrance and limit parking within a half-mile radius, “possibly eliminating on-street parking altogether, restricting it to residents only, or only allowing parking on one side of the street.”

One local beachgoer described the proposal as “a pretty baffling exhibition of privilege.” Continuing, he said: “Honestly, this strikes me as nothing other than an attempt to make a public and beloved beach privatized.”

Without taking exaggerated care and exhausting all reasonable options, this beachgoer’s concerns are completely sound.

Road traffic concerns can be allayed in ways that do not prevent people from visiting. What’s being contemplated in Cape Elizabeth would effectively shut members of the public out from a rare slice of the coast that they are permitted to go to; it would throw the baby out with the bathwater; it would go too far.

As the ongoing intertidal access case has shown us, public support for better public access to Maine’s beaches is – surprise, surprise – extremely robust. As neighborhoods up and down the coast seek to turn back the clock and close visitors out, that support will need to strengthen again. It needs to become so strong that it feels like common sense, which it is.

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