Citizens seek surf rake for Oak Bluffs beaches

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Large rocks are surfacing in the sand that was excavated in the Little Bridge dredge and transported to Pay Beach. — Photo by Barry Stringfellow

Richard Seelig, de facto chairman of the de facto Oak Bluffs beach committee, presented Oak Bluffs selectmen, at their Tuesday meeting, with a range of evidence to show the dubious quality of the dredge spoils that came from Little Bridge this June, and the continued unsightly state of Pay Beach. A contingent of about 20 concerned citizens also were present. “The larger rocks are coming to the surface,” Mr. Seelig said, showing slides that underscored his point. Mr. Seelig’s slides also showed steep drop-offs where the high tide has chewed away at the spoils, and the subsequent surfacing of large rocks. To further underscore his point, he also presented selectmen with a tray of rock-laden sand and a football-size rock that came from Pay Beach.

“This material is not sand,” he said.

Mr. Seelig also showed a slide of the large drainage pipe at Pay Beach that remains exposed. “I think we can agree that we can do better,” he said, to the audible agreement of the room.

As he has done before, Mr. Seelig implored the board to appropriate funds in the range of $40,000 for a surf rake. He recited a long list of towns that use beach rakes, including Falmouth, Mashpee, Dennis, Chatham, and Bourne, as well as Nantucket. He added that since the town will be largely dependent on dredge spoils until sand mining is approved by the state, a surf rake will more than pay for the investment.

Selectman Walter Vail said a surf rake would be in the town capital plan for the next fiscal year, as it has been in the three prior years. He suggested that in the interim, the highway department could remove the larger rocks.

Mr. Seelig also noted that the Conservation Commision, the overseeing body for the beach, has told him that the rocks help keep the sand in place and mitigate beach erosion.

“We need to do something different with our beaches,” he said. “We need to treat our beaches like they’re important.”