Editorial: East Beach — Move the flotsam

Posted 2/5/21

Seasonal residents of Westport’s East Beach Road get to park their trailers on a place that common sense, Mother Nature, and rising sea levels suggest is badly suited for structures of any …

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Editorial: East Beach — Move the flotsam

Posted

Seasonal residents of Westport’s East Beach Road get to park their trailers on a place that common sense, Mother Nature, and rising sea levels suggest is badly suited for structures of any sort.

The rewards include stunning views, seaside living at a fraction of the going rate, and the camaraderie of a tight-knit beach community.

The disadvantage is that this is a seasonal pleasure — the agreement has always been that the trailers, and all associated structures and gear, must be moved to higher ground when storms threaten and from November 1 to May.

It’s a reasonable requirement, one agreed to by all who purchase lots there and who apply to the town for trailer permits every year. It’s a pact that most beachside residents honor without complaint.

But, as anyone who drives by can see, a few sign the pledge and then head home in the fall leaving behind fences, decks, clotheslines, sheds and other flotsam and jetsam.

Rather than pressure its members to abide by the rules, the beach association recently asked the town to get rid of its edict that sheds, picnic tables and other “stuff” be removed during the winter. They said the town has no right to come onto lot owners’ property to take things left behind after trailers are towed away for the season.

It’s a request that the town should quickly reject.

These rules weren’t made merely to make life difficult for East Beach dwellers, as has been suggested. They were born from what happens when movable objects are left in harm’s way. Hurricanes and winter gales have demonstrated time and again their ability to pick any of these items up and toss them on the road or, worse, deep into The Let on the barrier beach’s north side.

Once in that fragile marsh, the only options are to leave them where they landed or cause worse damage through some sort of recovery effort — neither is good for a waterway that is being nursed through a difficult recovery.

Safety and town time and effort are also at stake. Storm rescues here are difficult enough without the need to first clear the critical access and escape route of wayward debris. Worse, bits from shattered sheds and fences can transform to nail-studded missiles.

Residents have argued that the rules are uncalled for because this is private property — how they use their lots should be nobody else’s concern.

But towns have always made rules regarding private property for safety, regard for neighbors and more. They tell us what we can build, where, how big, how strong … 

Westport should stick to its guns with this one. East Beach lot owners knew they were buying lots in a most unusual and vulnerable place and they were aware of the rules going in. They are pushing their luck.

2021 by East Bay Newspapers

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Meet our staff
Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.