To the editor:
This past Tuesday a group of Westport Harbor residents watched as the town completed bulldozing Beach Avenue. It was devastating to see the trucks cart away load after load after load of sand, soil, and vegetation from this narrow strip of barrier beach.
One of the main reasons the Selectmen give for “opening up” Beach Avenue is to create a town beach that can be accessed by the disabled and seniors. The Westport Shorelines reported that a spokesperson for the town’s Commission on Disability argued that the Beach Avenue waterfront “could be ‘the best beach in town’ for those with disabilities because it is so close to potential parking places.”
The strip of land in question protects people, wildlife, and property from storm damage. It is breeched repeatedly by the ocean. Hurricane Sandy caused the ocean to surge over Beach Avenue last October, which cut off “the Knubble” (the point of rocks at the eastern most end of Beach Avenue) from Acoaxet, creating a temporary island. The dunes were breeched at two other points, flooding properties on the north side of the road.
The reason that the water is so close to the newly gouged out parking area is because that section of beach is eroding at an alarming rate. The 1938 Hurricane simply took most of it, along with the beachfront homes, out to sea. That the road is still called an “avenue” is almost laughable, if the reality wasn’t so dire. Carting off tons of sand, soil, and vegetation to create a large parking area is precisely the opposite of what makes sound environmental sense.
That section of beach is a hauntingly beautiful place to walk, but much of the time it is not a good beach for swimming or even for sitting. A large portion of it is thickly covered in malodorous seaweed. The small section that is not heaped with seaweed is adjacent to the Knubble. No one who knows those waters swims there; the strong currents and hidden rocks are treacherous. Yet, now there is talk of asphalting the road and constructing a 30-foot ramp down to the water for handicap accessibility.
It is important to note that Beach Avenue has long been open to all Westport residents with town beach stickers. There are a dozen parking places at the entrance to Beach Avenue, most of which are almost always unused. It is also important to note that Horseneck State Beach is free to disabled persons and is very well equipped for handicap access.
Westport is a town strapped for cash. We cannot properly maintain our schools or our existing roads. East Beach Road remains unpaved, parts of Route 88 are in need of repair. Our police force is unable to adequately monitor large portions of Westport. Speeding on River Road—the narrow, winding road that leads to Beach Avenue—is a serious issue. There are no speed limit signs or visible yellow middle lines on River Road or Old Harbor Road, the two primary roads in Westport Harbor.
Why is the town spending money on the Beach Avenue “road to nowhere”? How much money has already been spent on this project and why? What are the real reasons for this rushed and wanton destruction of a fragile barrier beach?
I suspect that access for the disabled and seniors has little to do with it.
Constance B. Gee