Beach Avenue work a threat to fragile point, some say


The heavy equipment has moved on for the moment, but emotions are still running high after town work last week to plow many truckloads of sand and debris from Beach Avenue.

Town officials said they were simply clearing and opening a public road for pubic use.

"They are doing exactly what they did last year — opening that public road up so that people can access the public shoreline there," said Town Administrator John "Jack" Healey. "Some people don't want anyone else to use the beach there and that's not how it works."

He added that the clearing has nothing to do with a proposal to buy a stretch of shoreline there for a new town beach.

But others say Mr. Healey — and some members of the Board of Selectmen are missing the point — perhaps deliberately.

"They are trying to turn this into an us vs. them situation … talking about 'those people.' I don't understand the real motivation here other than perhaps political opportunism, an attempt to divide people," said Constance Gee of River Road. "Other than just a stick in the eye, it's not clear to some of us what the point of this all is."

Ms. Gee was among those who watched town machinery clear sand, storm debris and vegetation from Beach Avenue to a 40 foot width for several days last week.

"This is a fragile barrier beach and they are going at it with no engineering or environmental impact study," said Woody Woodward of River Road. He estimated that town trucks took away some 2,000 cubic

yards of sand, and "they'll be trucking out thousands of yards every year — forever. At some point the ocean will come right through this beach" which would be disastrous for the Westport River.

"We aren't saying nobody should come down here — far from it," Ms. Gee said. "Our big concern is the environment. This is a barrier beach that needs to be shored up, not trucked away. They are doing exactly the opposite of you would think they should be doing." She added that she suspects that Mass. Department of Environmental Protection, which permitted the work, has not been given a clear picture of what is actually going on.

Of course we are concerned about traffic, litter and trespassing "but truly the main thing that people have been talking about is the integrity of the barrier beach."

Mr. Healey last week said all work has been done with great care and with full approval of state environmental and town conservation officials.

Mr. Woodward also called untrue remarks that the town has cleared this road for many years.

"The town actually blocked the road with boulders long ago," he said —it was inaccessible for 40 years. "They didn't want to waste money trying to keep sand off that road after every storm." The point, he said, was to keep vehicles out. Without a barrier, "people would drive down there and get stuck." Neighbors likely saved several who got stuck there at night in the winter from freezing to death.

Also down at Beach Avenue for a look last Tuesday were representatives of the Westport River Watershed Alliance.

"We just wanted to see for ourselves," said Matt Patrick, WRWA's director.

While the work "doesn't look pretty," it does appear that they are staying well with the road layout … The town is operating within its permit," Mr. Patrick said.

"Our primary concern is the environment … had they been going up into the dunes, that would be another matter but we did not see that."

He added, "It looks ugly and of course we would rather that they didn't touch it at all," but said he understands the desire to maintain public access to the beach.

Mr. Patrick said he is confident that Tara Martin, the town's conservation agent, is doing a "wonderful job ensuring that they are doing the right thing. She has been paying close attention."

As for town efforts to purchase a beach lot there, Mr. Patrick said the WRWA has taken no position. "That is really not within out purview. It is more of a civic matter."

Supporters of the beach acquisition plan say it would provide senior citizens and disabled residents with easier beach access than is available at the town's Cherry & Webb Beach..

But Mr. Underwood said there are several better alternatives for such a beach.

That is "the worst possible beach for such a use," he said. "The road is four feet lower than the dune so they'd either have to raise the road or cut through the dune which would be a disaster." Also, there are boulders there, he said, lots of red seaweed and drop-offs — "not the sort of place I would think a disabled person would choose to go to the beach."



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While the work “doesn’t look pretty,” it does appear that they are staying well with the road layout … The town is operating within its permit,” Mr. Patrick said.

This morning the dunes were Bulldozed at a min of 5 feet beyond scope.

In addition, the boulders were not permitted to be moved and they were.

The town is NOT operating within its permit.

So I view the above statement as being the first of 3 offenses committed today. Operations are not being approached in a responsible way.

Thursday, September 5, 2013 | Report this

The highway department operated for two days before a surveyor finally came down to assess the bounds and found out that the town did indeed cut into conservation land.

Friday, September 6, 2013 | Report this

This road was open when I moved to Westport in 1980. I enjoyed going to the USCG Nubble. I sat on the Nubble on the afternoon of Hurricane Bob in 1991.

The closure was due to the pressure from the Haves to stop the Have Nots, I.E. all the rest of us in town that do not own Waterfront property.

This town provides very little to most of us for access to the ocean.

It is also pitiful that there are no waste containers in town for the public at any of the parks such as at the Head, Etc.

There is no town public parking so as to park and launch a boat for daily or overnite use.

There is also no designated potable water source for us to harness in times of power loss.

Shame on the Town Government for this selfishness.

I now complement the Board of Selectman for this stand for freedom to support the rest of us Taxpayers in town.


Friday, September 6, 2013 | Report this

DEP came down and was satisfied and issued no violations. Interesting, I went down this morning to check it out and I noticed the illegal fence that a neighbor had up is now down, good idea before DEP came down. Wait, that was to help the piping plover I guess.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013 | Report this

The reason DEP didn't issue any violations was because the Conservation Commission had already stopped work on the previous Friday.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 | Report this

Referring to SCHMACO, Beach avenue was indeed "open" for many years, however, it was always a no parking road. The town neglected it for years and closed it with intent to abandon it when it became impassable and cars kept getting stuck in the sand. It was referred to as an "attractive nuisance" and the towns response was to simply close the road. Implying that residents pressured the town into closing it is not accurate. Residents asked the town to come up with a solution to an ongoing problem and boulders at the top of the road was what the town came up with. Speaking for myself and knowing the feelings of my neighbors, I'd just like to address an underlying condescension. It feels like people have formed the opinion that harbor residents are making up issues to try to keep the road closed. That truly is not the case and the Conservation Commission stopping the work I think proves that. Do piping plovers not nest in the dunes? Is it not a barrier beach? A selectman stated that "us people", referring to harbor residents, don't want Westport residents to come down to the area. That is ridiculous and also a very irresponsible thing to say. The fact is, people already come down here and have for years. Whether the road is open, closed, flooded or paved. It really makes no difference. If the road is opened and maintained, nothing changes for the property owners in the harbor. They still have their ocean views and beach front property. It really does not change anything so I don't see what the selectman's argument is for implying they don't want people to come down there. If anything, Westport residents are who they'd want coming down because they respect and appreciate the area just as much as everyone who lives there. Opening the road up to only residents is far from a bad thing for property owners in the harbor because it ensures that only Westport residents will be able to use the area, and there will be regulation in regard to access and parking. All good things. We are all a part of Westport and all pay taxes to the town. Harbor residents actually pay a much higher percentage, however, most are not town residents or voters so their opinions don't seem to matter to elected officials. All the residents in the harbor ever asked for was what the towns plan was after opening the road and for the town to work within their legal guidelines. I hope they do and everyone gets to enjoy the area and that, should we pass each other on the beach, we are able to exchange kind greetings as this has never been a "have" vs "have nots" issue as the towns selectmen will have you believe.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 | Report this

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