To the Editor:
The Oak Bluffs Citizens’ Beach Steering Committee was formed this year to address the problems of our beaches, some of which were highlighted in a Letter to the Editor last week by Barbara Peckham (Sept. 10, “Shameful beaches decried”).
Oak Bluffs is fortunate to have beautiful beaches for our residents and for the visitors, many of whom come here primarily for the beaches. The beaches are an important human resource as well as a necessary economic resource for Oak Bluffs, as evidenced by the recent Oak Bluffs business district survey.
The Conservation Commission, which is charged by law with protecting water resources, has exercised sole jurisdiction over the beaches, and has been acting unilaterally; we believe that the Parks Commission should be advocating for the human and socioeconomic values of the beaches.
Last winter, material that was dredged from under the new bridge to Vineyard Haven was placed on Town Beach (AKA Pay Beach and the Inkwell). The quality of that material was disgusting: It packed as hard as pavement; it was almost black, and had a foul smell; it contained foreign objects (rusted metal and welding rods); and it had small quantities of toxic chemicals. It had no business being placed on a family beach.
Following a display of public outrage, the board of selectmen decided that the dredged material would be removed from the beach, and the Highway Department removed most of it. The remainder should be removed.
The main goals of the Citizens’ Beach Committee are that: No dredge material should be placed on the beaches if it is of poorer quality than what is already there; lesser material, such as that which will come from dredging under the little bridge at the beginning of State Beach, can be used if it is cleaned of rocks by a Barber Surf Rake, a piece of equipment which is used by all beach communities on Cape Cod to keep their beaches nice; dredge material from a harbor may not be used on the beaches; plans for replenishing beaches should be publicized in advance so that there is ample time for public input; access to the beaches should be improved, and include handicap access and designated handicap parking. (There are many people with a variety of disabilities who are currently unable to use the beaches.) Bathroom facilities should be available somewhere near the beach; signage with beach rules should be posted at each point of access.
It is time for Oak Bluffs to value and enhance its beaches, which make our town special, through actions more than words. The Citizens’ Beach Committee welcomes input from everyone who cares about our beaches.
Brian Hughes, Renee Nolan, Lisa Rohn, Jacqueline Hunt, Muriel O’Rourke, Richard Seelig, Caroline Hunter, Barbara Peckham
Oak Bluffs Citizens’ Beach Steering Committee