While June 22 officially marks the beginning of summer, Maine is often a little bit behind and I tend to think of the 4th of July weekend as the first real weekend of the season. This might be the busiest weekend of the summer for recreation, and where do people flock to in Maine? The water.

It seems pretty simple to find a waterfront spot given how much coastline we have in the Midcoast. But, given a number of factors like those pesky tides that leave certain areas without water twice a day, those craggy rocks that leave getting down to the water to the crabs, and also the amount of coast that is privately owned, finding your way to the water can be challenging.

There are state parks like Popham and Reid that are wonderful and widely known, but those aren’t the most convenient spots for many people and it’s nice to know your options. Take Brunswick, for example – without a big sandy beach like Popham or Reid, where can you go on a hot day?

Well, you could start by going to the Town Hall. Yes, the rack outside the Town Clerk’s office is a dry destination, but there you can pick up the newly published “Guide to Brunswick Rivers and Coastal Waters,” and that will lead you to where you want to go.

The guide, which you can also find at the library and the Visitor Center, was put together by three of the Town’s Commissions: Rivers and Coastal Waters, Recreation, and Conservation. It includes a map of waterfront access points along with a description of each one. Brunswick has 66 miles of coastline, so there is a lot to cover.

As one who has poked around what I thought was nearly every nook and cranny of shoreline in town, I was surprised to find places I didn’t know of like Bay Bridge Landing, which adjoins Merrymeeting Bay and has a short nature trail, and Sawyer Park on Bath Road, which has a boat launch and picnic area. The descriptions of the 11 waterfront public access points include what kinds of activities each location is appropriate for, how to get to there, and information about parking. The map clearly shows the impressive mix of riverside and oceanfront locales within the town boundaries.

The purpose of the guide is to encourage more people to go to these places. But, the problem with more people utilizing the waterfront is the impact that they can have on the plants and animals that live there. To that end, the second focus of the guide is to give people practical ways to take good care of the town’s shores and waters for future generations. This includes obvious things that you can do like picking up after your pets and taking care of your trash.

But, given that most of the citizens of Brunswick spend most of their time not on the waterfront, the guide also includes things you can do farther inland. For example, you might not think that pesticides and herbicides you put on your lawn or garden miles from the coast would find their way into the water, but every time it rains, everything washes right down those storm drains and eventually finds its way into the rivers and bays. The same goes for things like motor oil and medicines that you might flush down the toilet, but cannot be adequately removed by the wastewater treatment system and can be harmful to plants and animals that live in the water.

Did you know that taking care of the coasts also help save our town money? We don’t have to pay to fix clogged sewers, for example, or pay for coastal cleanups, if everyone does their own part. And, the value of tourism to this area is critical, so if the water is clean and the coasts are kept full of wildlife, people will be more likely to come here.

There are educational benefits, too. Many of these access points provide educational opportunities for schools, as well as for the public who can learn about the plants and animals living there through informational posters and signs. For example, you can learn about marine mammals at the Mere Point boat launch and green crabs at Wharton Point just by visiting the kiosks at these sites.

The work of these three Commissions in combining information about access, as well as ways to take care of these special places, is an admirable accomplishment. While it seems like a simple task, this has been a long time in the works and it is wonderful to have the guide ready for the start of summer. So, pick up a copy at the Town Hall, the library, Visitor’s Center, or other businesses in town, and get out and explore.