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At Wollaston Beach, focus turns from successes to future growth

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  August 19, 2013 04:59 PM

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When Save the Harbor/Save the Bay spokesman Bruce Berman looks at Quincy’s Wollaston Beach, he sees success, potential, and challenge.

All three have been the focus for the nonprofit advocacy group as well as the state’s Metropolitan Beaches Commission as they tour a number of state-owned beaches in search of future investment.

Nearing the end of the touring schedule, many are hopeful for the future though much is to be done.

“I’m very optimistic…not only do people care, but there is a good chance we can build on our success and move these beaches along,” Berman said.

The confidence stems in part from an Aug. 14 meeting held in Quincy on Wollaston Beach. According to Berman, approximately 60 residents came out, lauding the success previous efforts have had on improving the beaches.

In addition to improved maintenance of the beaches and increased beach activities, residents also appreciate the walking and jogging paths.

Now plans have moved on to the next phase – improving trash and recycling options, creation of a bike path, and an ongoing problem of water quality issues.

“Many of the challenges and things we needed to improve, we have, with one notable exception,” Berman said, noting the issues with water quality. “There is a whole new range of things people want to see more of or would like to see begin, starting with programming.”

Yet even water quality issues, though not entirely solved, have been improved, Berman said.

Wollaston passed 93.2 percent of all beach tests looking at bacteria levels in 2012, an increase from 88.73 percent of tests in 2011.

Despite that success, beach quality problems are seemingly exasperated due to the flagging system, Berman said.

The beach association puts flags up after rain storms in anticipation of high bacteria counts in the water. Because the results are always a day behind the testing, most times beaches are deemed unsafe for two days.

Yet even 90 percent testing success is too low, Berman said.

“If you fail one every 10 tests, you’re closed one out of every 10 days, and that’s too much,” he said.

The issue is slowly but surly being resolved, as Quincy looks to make updates to its storm water system. Improvement is tempered as Quincy has had to make the investment without any state aid.

“They can’t make the investment as fast as we’d all like to see it made. That’s the biggest challenge,” he said.

Meanwhile the biggest opportunity most likely will be Squantum Point Park, which Berman said is prime for some type of commuter, commercial, or recreational ferry investment.

“If you took all three together, you’d have a powerful argument for investment,” Berman said. “And the pier is already there and it’s deep enough for the uses we want now. It’d be a modest investment and great amenity. It would be a great park and great jumping off point for the South Shore.”

At-Large City Councilor Doug Gutro, a member of the Metropolitan Beaches Commission, agreed water transportation was a possibility.

“Everything we have going downtown, whether it’s tourism, commuter boats, whether it’s some commercial angle, I think there is a heightened sense that we need to take a sharper look at advocacy for water transportation,” he said.

Market studies and feasibility studies would solidify that direction if there was interest, Gutro said.

In the meantime, Gutro wanted to see continued management of pedestrian safety along the roadway, noise concerns for abutters, and management of drinking and social issues at the beaches.

“It’s all about behavior, and that’s what policing is about down there,” Gutro said.

After the tours wrap up, Berman and team members will sit down to digest all the data collected from the communities. By early next year the group will issue a draft report about what they have learned, which will be finalized by interested community members.

From there, advocacy work will begin for legislative action, which will not only focus on improving specific beaches, but strengthening the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

“The commission has a proven track record of advocating for investments that the public seems to think made a real difference. That gives us some credibility going in, and that’s what we hope to do again here,” he said.

The Beaches Commission will continue to hold hearings in beachfront communities and waterfront neighborhoods throughout the summer, and will hold a public hearing in Winthrop on September 10.

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