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Letter: Sand removal the last thing fragile beach needs

By   /   September 2, 2013  /   4 Comments

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

Westport

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Sakonnet & Westport Editor

4 Comments

  1. GuildFamily says:

    Yesterday a Motorcycle crashed and it was the first death I can remember due to a motor vehicle… I don’t know if the select people have blood on their hands but I do know ever since this has become a issue we now have graffiti and now a death…

    It should also be pointed out that locals have access to a well maintained beach all but 2 months out of the year. We all know the best months are June, September and with climate changes the beat months are extended into may and October.

    The issues have nothing to do with “them vs Us” issues but again it’s being positioned as such and is beginning to take on that color.

    I’m saddened on our communication as a people and hope we can find a better way. Again one death and Graffitti. What’s next???

  2. westportknows says:

    Constance and Guild Family.
    It is your constant calls to the Endangered Species program and politicians that has the Town hauling the sand away. The endangered species program had issued a permit allowing the clearing the Beach Ave and the sand can be put back on the beach. Now the Endangered Species program has received hundreds of phone calls and political pressure to stop the clearing the road. They have asked the Town not to place sand on the Beach until they approve a spot, although it wasn’t an issue for years. The Town is hauling it away as it is legal to remove any debris form the roadway.
    Last year after the hurricane many of the harbor roads were not passable and covered in sand, where was the outcry when the Highway Department cleared the roads of what then could be a new dune?
    Where was the outcry when the Elephant rock Beach Club applied and was approved to remove part of dune for additional parking, and yes it was mapped in the piping plover habitat?
    There was never an issue about clearing the road in the past that was brought to this level, now that it is not just road clearing, but the opening of the beach, you are furious and pulling out the big guns to stop the progress.
    You talk about safety and painting stripes on the road and the schools, police, fire, but lets be honest, those are red herrings. This is all about the opening of the beach to the public. It is shameful what you are doing in the name of the piping plover, schools, or anything else you can come up with. I visited the Land Trust property and Town property on a nice day and there were plenty of people enjoying it as well as foot paths through the dunes. I was actually questioned by a local resident about what I was doing and they would have my truck towed if I didn’t leave. Are you really so selfish that you and your families will use the property, but will not allow other tax payers to use it?

    • GuildFamily says:

      What’s the rush?? We have 9 months until anyone will use the beach. We are just saying slow down – so we can do it correctly.

      Again, my position is let the chips fall but let’s do it fairly, appropriately and in a manner that is respectful to all.

      You are using a non huddle offense and thats not fair.

  3. GuildFamily says:

    Dear Westportkmows. Print names of locals acting like this Bc It doesn’t sound right. If true they should be confronted. . This is not a them verse us — people have always had access and should. Again, it’s the method to the madness that is alarming. please print your name as well Bc we have to work together — being cloaked and rolling grenades is non productive will just continue to muddy this thing up.

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