A marine worm digger searches for worms in the mud of Long Cove in Sullivan in this 2009 file photo. Frenchman Bay Conservancy has acquired a shorefront parcel on Long Cove and another on Jones Cove in Gouldsboro to hep preserve harvester access to the shores of Frenchman Bay. Credit: Bridget Brown / BDN

A Hancock County land conservation group has acquired two shorefront properties in the east side of Frenchman Bay to help preserve shore access to harvesters who dig for clams and worms.

The property was donated to Frenchman Bay Conservancy by a couple that owns property on Jones Cove in Gouldsboro in order to permanently protect harvester access to the cove.

The conservancy also recently acquired another property on Long Cove in Sullivan, which it plans to offer to the town of Sullivan when the town holds its annual meeting on June 26.

Shore access for people who dig for clams and marine worms traditionally has been allowed through handshake agreements with private landowners, but often such informal agreements vanish when the properties are sold to new owners — and demand for coastal property in Maine has soared the past couple of years. The loss of such shore access has been a concern to officials and others because it makes it tougher for marine diggers to earn a living.

The loss of shore access is believed to be one reason why Maine’s 2022 statewide softshell clam harvest was the lowest annual haul on record, though climate change also is believed to be a factor. Declining access and climate change also are thought to be responsible for decreasing harvest volumes of bloodworms and sandworms.

The Jones Cove property, located off Route 186, will be designated for use solely by licensed clam diggers.

The Long Cove property, next to the intersection routes 1 and 185, is just over an acre in size and sits directly on the eastern end of the cove. Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Schoodic National Scenic Byway Committee assisted with the transfer of the property to the conservancy.

Two dilapidated, unoccupied buildings on the site will be removed with money from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, which uses funds from the sales of state lottery tickets to support outdoor recreation and natural resource conservation. The conservancy plans to replace the buildings with a gravel parking area off the busy road.

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....