Oak Bluffs receives $ 3.6 million grant for North Bluff restoration

Oak Bluffs officials will receive $3.6 million in state funds to fix the crumbling seawall and walkway on North Bluff. The Oak Bluffs Steamship Authority terminal is in the background. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Oak Bluffs officials received word Monday that the town will receive $3.6 million in state funds to fix the crumbling seawall and walkway on North Bluff, a section of the town beach that parallels Sea view Avenue extension from the Steamship Authority to Oak Bluffs harbor.

The grant came from a $13.5 million fund appropriated for repairs to coastal infrastructure projects across the Commonwealth, according to Rick Sullivan, Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA). The grant for Oak Bluffs was by far the largest sum awarded by the state in this round of funding.Under the guidance of town administrator Robert Whritenour, the town has now been awarded a total of $7.5 million in state and federal funds to restore the decaying North Bluff. This grant is the final piece of funding needed to complete the project, which will include a boardwalk that will improve beach access and make Oak Bluffs a more pleasurable experience for disembarking passengers and pedestrians.

The state Division of Marine Fisheries is also expected to complete a public fishing pier that will connect to the new boardwalk.”We have been very aggressive in searching for outside funding opportunities to benefit the town, and our hard work is paying off,” said Mr. Whritenour in an email to The Times. “Our conservation commission and Liz Durkee have done a tremendous amount of work. Replacing the seawall will be a huge and much-needed improvement to our town to protect the entire North Bluff, and having the pedestrian boardwalk will be a first-class amenity. We’re in final design and we hope to start the project this fiscal year and finish it between this fall and next spring.”

At Tuesday night’s selectmen’s meeting, selectman Gail Barmakian praised the Conservation Commission, in particular Liz Durkee, for the years of work it took to reach this milestone. “The town has been very understanding in the need to take on this project,” said Liz Durkee, in a phone interview with the Times. “It took selectmen support and voter support to get the permitting and engineering work done, which is the invisible part of the process,” she said, noting that the initial engineering studies were funded in part by town meeting funds, that were approved shortly after the Pay Beach seawall collapsed in 2008. “Finding the funding is the big challenge,” she said. “We’ve been really really fortunate to get this project funded. It’s a great success for the town.”