2014-2018: York River Study

In December 2014, Congress passed the York River Wild and Scenic River Study Act, which authorized the York River Study. The York River Study Committee was formed in late 2015. Volunteers for the Study Committee were sought from Eliot, Kittery, South Berwick, and York through a public application process open to all communities’ residents. Town officials appointed committee members from their respective towns. The Study Committee included voting members (individuals appointed by towns) and non-voting members (representatives of public agencies). York River Study Committee members:

Voting Members: Karen Arsenault, Cindy Donnell Thom Kearns, Joan LeBlanc, Mike Masi, and Chuck Ott from York; Stefan Claesson and John “Jack” Murphy from Eliot; Judy Spiller from Kittery; and Jean Demetracopoulos from South Berwick

Non-voting Members: Paul Dest, Wells Reserve; Jamie Fosburgh and Jim MacCartney, National Park Service; Judy Gates and David Gardner, Maine DOT; and Claire Enterline, Maine Coastal Program

York River Study Coordinator (from February 2016 through January 2023): Jennifer Hunter

The Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve served as fiscal agent for the York River Study Committee. Money from the National Park Service Partnership Wild & Scenic Rivers Program (about $200,000 total) was awarded through a 5-year Cooperative Agreement with the Wells Reserve.

The study process was voluntary and locally determined. The bulk of the work for the locally-led York River Study was conducted over three years from late 2015 to late 2018. The Committee’s work in 2016 and 2017 focused on:

  • Compiling and reviewing York River watershed studies and data
  • Identifying and documenting outstanding watershed resources
  • Conducting several new studies to gain additional information on high priority resources
  • Engaging the public and key stakeholders in developing stewardship goals, objectives, and strategies to protect the river

In 2018, the Study Committee developed the Stewardship Plan and presented information to towns and community members about Partnership Wild and Scenic River designation for York River. The York River Watershed Stewardship Plan was the culmination of over 30 months of work by the York River Study Committee to gather information about the York River and its watershed. See the York River Study Committee’s Designation Recommendation and Study Findings Overview

The legislative bodies for all four watershed communities (voters in York and Eliot; town councils in Kittery and South Berwick) supported pursuing river designation and accepted the Stewardship Plan in late 2018.