The Metropolitan Beaches Commission (MBC) released its report this week and identified beach management, maintenance and programming as continuing challenges for Winthrop Beach and other beaches in the area. The report also recommended a $3.5 million increase in state funding for area beaches.
The report, “Waves of Change” included a study of Winthrop and 14 other public beaches in Nahant, Lynn, Revere, East Boston, South Boston, Dorchester, Quincy and Hull owned by the Commonwealth and managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).
The MBC, created in 2006 by the Massachusetts Legislature to take an in-depth look at Winthrop Beach and other public beaches from Nahant to Hull found that while many gains have been made since 2007 some of those gains are starting to retreat due to staffing and funding issues.
The report identifies a number of challenges and opportunities that need to be addressed to move these beaches from good to great. These include staffing levels at the beaches, which increased after 2007, but declined in recent years. The report found, “that the beaches will inevitably reenter a cycle of decline, undermining the progress that has been made and failing to meet public expectations, as was the case before 2007”.
The Commission held ten hearings in Winthrop and the region’s other waterfront neighborhoods and beachfront communities as well as the State House to examine the progress made on these beaches since it released its first report in 2007.
“The investments we have made on these beaches strengthen our communities and the economy, improve people’s lives and demonstrate that government can work,” said Senator Tom McGee of Lynn, who Co-Chairs the Commission.
Much of the Commission’s effort in 2007 and again in 2013 has focused on the basic issues of beach management, maintenance and programming. To address these challenges and take full advantage of new opportunities the MBC will continue independent oversight. It will also take additional funds for capital projects, new equipment and continued investment in improved water quality to meet the growing need of the more than one million people who live within a short drive or ride to the beach.
“Local friends groups and Save the Harbor have helped jump start free events on these beaches, but government has a responsibility to provide direct financial support of these volunteer efforts to make them sustainable,” said David Spillane of Goody Clancy, who helped Save the Harbor manage the hearings and produce the report.
The Commission recommends that DCR’s budget for full-time operations and seasonal staffing be increased by $3.5 million per year, and that the DCR make at least $190,000 per year available in matching grants to beach friends groups in waterfront neighborhoods and beachfront communities to support free events and programs.
“These beaches contribute directly to the competitiveness of our region, making our cities and beachfront communities better places to live and work,” said Bruce Berman of Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, the non-profit who helped lead and manage the inquiry and author the report. “Moreover, the combined economic impact of millions of residents enjoying these beaches also makes them important economic engines for the region’s waterfront neighborhoods and beachfront communities, creating new jobs and economic opportunity.”
Other key challenges and opportunities identified in the report include: water quality and beach flagging, coastal resiliency and sea level rise, water transportation, improved information technology and management systems, parking and public safety, dog management and piping plover nesting areas. The Commission also called for DCR to invest additional funds to support free events and programs that are so important enhancing the public’s enjoyment of the beaches.
“The region’s public beaches, like Constitution Beach in East Boston, are much more than a great place to spend the day,” said Representative Carlo Basile of East Boston, who Co-Chairs the Commission. “They are portals to the environment, remarkable recreational resources with the potential to improve the quality of life for all our residents.”