Oak Bluffs beach lament

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To The Editor:

It is with great sadness that we share with the Island the news of the demise of the beloved and historic North Bluff Beach, which stretched between the Oak Bluffs Harbor jetty and the Steamship pier.

The town of Oak Bluffs decided upon a plan, which, instead of repairing the concrete wall that has long been in need of attention, called for the placement of metal sheathing (already rusting) to be placed three feet in front of the old wall, four feet higher than the old wall, and with six to eight feet of boulders in front of the sheathing. As a consequence of this, there is no longer a beach there.

Before, access to the beach was easy, by several sets of stairs, or just by climbing down from the wall. Now, access to the sea (no longer a beach) is limited to a large and horrendous (and possibly illegal — see DEP Mass. Wetlands Protection Act 10:27 Resources to be Protected) metal walled ramp to the water, 120 feet long and protruding 14 feet from the old wall into what was the beach. This is entered only from the parking lot of the Island Queen. We have asked for at least one additional set of stairs. Never once in their presentations was the ramp’s encroachment onto the beach described.

As recently as last week, one selectman amazed everyone at a public meeting by stating that there was never a beach there anyway. That would be news to the many people who walked their dogs there mornings and evenings, or to the many, many more who enjoyed swimming and sitting in their beach chairs by the edge of the sea. For generations, parents and grandparents have been bringing their children and grandchildren to this beach, as it is safe and convenient. For many years, this is where swimming lessons took place. Why would our town officials have such disregard for an in-town beach that was loved and used by so many, Islanders and visitors alike?

It seems the town received funding to build a boardwalk. So a large, 12-foot-wide boardwalk is being created along this expanse. As the sheathing is four feet higher than the previous sea wall, the boardwalk will be elevated by four feet as well. There seems to be a connection between funding for the boardwalk and hurried acceptance of this bizarre design for the metal seawall. To create this new boardwalk, the first thing to happen was the removal of all vegetation along this seaside area by huge bulldozers.

Although we are all heavy-hearted as this is unfolding before our eyes, we are hoping that the public might still be able to at least access the water for swimming, even though the present ramp ends in front of six feet of boulders (handicapped accessible?).

It is our hope that in the future, our town government will be more open, transparent, inclusive, and honest when developing plans that will have such a large impact, as this one does.

Injy and Jason Lew, Merces and Horacio Tavares, Maureen and Bill Anderson, Patti and Mark Wallace, Anne and Leslie Debettencourt, Cara Lane and Andy Reed, Maureen Dolan

The North Bluffs Neighborhood Association