On a late summer afternoon, a boy pilots a small boat toward a deserted beach while another crouches in the bow with an anchor poised and ready. As the boat gently scrapes to a halt, the anchor lands in the wet sand with a dull thud and the two boys splash ashore. Equipped only with peanut butter sandwiches, they set off along the beach looking for tide pools. Behind them, they leave only a few ephemeral footprints--readily erased by the waves. On a bright and clear February morning, a man rides his snowmobile along a well-traveled trail. The scenery flashes past as he drives into the woods and then reemerges into the sunlight—crossing streams, fences, and stone walls. By lunchtime, the man has crossed land belonging to three dozen different people—none of whom he has ever met. On an early fall day, a man and his son hike through the woods to get to a remote lake surrounded by a large tract of privately-owned forest. Around their necks, they carry binoculars for birdwatching. On the opposite side of the lake, a woman and her daughter also approach the lake with a small inflatable kayak and a fishing pole. On Memorial Day weekend, an accountant packs her car in Boston for a trip to Maine. She closes the lid on a trunk filled with slightly musty clothing and then lifts her kayak up on top of her car. That afternoon, she parks at a public ramp and paddles a few miles out to a small privately-owned island where she sets up a tent for the night. The people in each of these vignettes have certain things in common. They are all in Maine, they are all using private land, and they are all strangers to the owners of that land. Despite their commonalities, the law treats these people differently. In many parts of the world, these activities would all be considered normal, wholesome, and, above all, lawful. In Maine, however, some of these people are enjoying their use by right while others are doing so at the landowner's whim. Still others may be trespassers. Yet even the participants themselves may not know for sure which is which.
Peter H. Kenlan,
Maine's Open Lands: Public Use of Private Land, the Right to Roam and the Right to Exclude,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol68/iss1/14