Great Pond is the largest body of fresh water in Cape Elizabeth. It has been a favorite spot for outdoor recreation for many, many years. In the latter half of the 19th century, much of the land surrounding the Pond was owned by the Great Pond Mining and Agricultural Company. They mined peat and other minerals. They were granted permission to drain much of the water from the Pond and grew cranberries in the resulting bogs. Late in the 19th century, much of the company’s property was sold and/or transferred to the newly formed Great Pond Gun Club.
With the restoration of water to the Pond, the Club had hoped to create a private hunting and fishing preserve. The citizens of Cape Elizabeth, however, were not amenable to the idea of being excluded from an area historically theirs to enjoy. The Massachusetts General Court had passed a law in 1641 protecting the rights of the public to access any pond “containing more than ten acres of water.” After several years of hearings, arguments and meetings, the Supreme Judicial Court ordered that access to the Pond be kept open as originally intended in the 1641 law.
Though access was mandated, the means and locations have not always been clear-cut. In 1983 The Sprague Corporation granted the Town an easement over “existing trails” from Fenway Road. The easement, however, did not include a metes and bounds description and over time the trail meandered from place to place depending on the vagaries of the seasons. The Cape Elizabeth Land Trust created a trail system from Rte. 77 to the Alewife Brook with signs featuring various natural elements of the area. Read more about it here. The trail system, however, did not always link to the easement.
In 2009, after several years of meetings and negotiations between the Town Conservation Commission and The Sprague Corporation, a new easement has been created. The new easement not only includes an explicit metes and bounds description, but also empowers the Town to build a boat rack and issue permits for its seasonal use, which will protect the vegetation along the existing pathway to the water. The new easement replaces the previous pathway with several “block” easements. This block easement will avoid the previous problems created when the trail location shifted due to bog and marshland conditions.
Here’s a map of the current easement at Great Pond. For information about the new boat storage at Great Pond, follow this link.