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South Boston Online
South Boston Online
  Wednesday, March 4, 2015
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Beach Commission Public Hearing
By Rick Winterson

     Wednesday evening, August 9, beginning at 5:30 p.m., the Metropolitan Beaches Commission held a public hearing concerning the condition of the beaches that are such an important part of the South Boston scene.  State Sen. Jack Hart and state Rep. Anthony Petrucelli are co-chairs of this Commission.  They are in the process of convening hearings about ten beaches in the Boston Metro area: Lynn, Nahant, Revere, East Boston, Winthrop, South Boston, Dorchester (two sites), Quincy, and Hull.

     Wednesday’s hearing at the McCormack Bathhouse on Carson Beach was one step in a comprehensive survey extending from Lynn to Hull.  It allowed concerned residents and officials to “sound off”, both their concerns and what they liked about the local beaches.  Later in 2006, the Commission will issue a report that describes the condition of the region’s beaches, along with specific recommendations based on the public’s input for improving our beaches.

     Sen. Hart chaired the Wednesday evening hearing.  Between 50 and 100 local residents turned out.  Members of the Metropolitan Beaches Commission who were present included James Rooney of the Boston Foundation, Kip Becker from B.U., Daniel O’Connell from Meredith & Grew, state Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein, and several elected officials from towns bordering the Metro area beaches.  The meeting was facilitated by Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, headed by Bruce Berman; communications are being handled by Coleman Nee of The Strategy Group.

     The first part of the hearing, which was more like an “open public forum”, consisted in listening to input from those in attendance.  A thread that ran through all of the commentary was that insufficient money is being spent on the beaches and accompanying facilities, from Castle Island to the end of Carson Beach.  While the people at the meeting recognized that budget cuts have been a fact of life since 2000, they still voiced a number of complaints related to a lack of funding.

     The attendees were quick to praise the good qualities of South Boston’s beaches.  Chief among these were the much cleaner water, the magnificent views (in all directions), improvements to the bathhouse, and the enjoyment that diverse families and children experience on the local beaches.

     In no particular order, the complaints were about trash disposal, litter from Sullivan’s that is dropped elsewhere, lack of enough lifeguarding, lifeguards being asked to pick up trash, lack of barrels for trash disposal, more ramps from the boardwalk, rundown condition of certain equipment, poor personnel supervision, infrequent grooming of the beaches, untimely “red flag” notices when the water isn’t swimmable, safety issues after dark, and a number of problems with parking.  All complaints were recorded as they were given, so that none would be overlooked. 

     Suggestions were made to charge fees, either for parking or for use of the beach.  Permits for South Boston residents and the installation of parking meters were some variations on the theme of paying for beach usage.  However, under current laws, any revenues realized at beach sites are sent to the state’s General Fund, and are therefore not available to the specific beaches where the money was collected.

     After the public input portion of the hearing, the attendees were split into “breakout groups”.  Bruce Berman facilitated this part of the forum.  The good points and bad points about the local beaches were assembled, with stickers being used to record them on flip charts and poster boards.  The breakout groups provided a balanced critique of the local beach situation – the good points (41) more or less equaled the number of criticisms (52).

     These points will be combined with the inputs from hearings on the other nine beaches, and an overall blueprint will be developed.  This blueprint will contain short-, medium-, and long-term goals for optimizing all of the region’s beaches, along with recommendations for securing the necessary funds to do the job.  In statistical terms, this approach is sometimes called “bootstrapping” or “meta-analysis”.

     The results of all ten hearings and an analysis of the findings are slated to become available by yearend, in the form of a comprehensive report.    

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