Letter to the Cape Cod Chronicle. Attached from the Friends of North Beach Facebook page:
I would like to this email to the Board of Selectmen to serve as my written resignation from the Chatham North Beach Advisory Committee effective immediately.
It has become apparent over the last year that although your Board, representing the citizens of our community, has continued it’s public support of the preservation of the existence and use of camps over on North Beach, there are those on the town payroll, and others appointed by your Board, that don’t share your sentiment. My efforts, through the Advisory Committee, to preserve the traditional uses and access to North Beach, North Beach Island, and South Beach have had minimal impact, at best.
The town’s refusal to fund any kind of beach patrol, clarify what regulatory body actually has jurisdiction over what was formally known only as North Beach, or take a stronger stance on South Beach access, makes it apparent to me that there is no sincere interest in managing such a valuable resource.
The recent decision by the Seashore to demolish it’s camps on NBI has confirmed my suspicions of ambivalence. The decision was instigated by a long-term campaign by our Coastal Resources Director, apparently on his own accord with no directive from any of his superiors, to fill Superintendant Price’s head with visions of camps floating down the harbor if he took no action. Mr. Keon, along with our Committee, knew that there was a chance that the Seashore would opt to remove all camps at once when the time came. We did not, however, believe that there was an emergency and Mr. Keon should not have presented such a doomsday scenario. Once the decision was made by Mr. Price, the town had an obligation to correct the poor judgement exercised by it’s employee but instead allowed the misconception of an emergency to continue. On the advice of town council, the Town Manager opted to not make any attempt to counter the claims of an emergency, presumably with the support of the Chair of your Board. The one staff member that did speak out – the Harbormaster – in support of the camps, in the form of a letter to the Seashore Advisory Commission, was chastised by the Town Manager for doing so. Attempting to fight the claim of an emergency without the support of the town would be ineffective so the efforts of the supporters were shifted to address the environmental, cultural, fiscal, and historic concerns. My inquiries to the Town Manager and BOS Chair immediately following the Seashore’s appearance before Conservation Commission were again met with complacency. I was told by them, after consult with Town Counsel, that there was nothing we could do. There was plenty. This is the point where the Town Manager, under guidance from your board, should have clearly and firmly directed staff to come up with ways to stop, or at least delay, this action. Why did the supporters have to discover NEPA, Natural Heritage, and other regulatory and environmental concerns? Clearly we have staff that is much more familiar with these issues. Instead of using their knowledge and expertise in their fields to support the position of your Board and the will of the people, they were cooperating with Seashore officials behind the scenes. Dr. Duncanson’s decision to not have any staff on site during the demolition process to monitor how town land and that of it’s taxpayers is being affected says it all. He is perfectly content with having the fox watch the henhouse and I find that inexcusable. Perhaps Mr. Keon could take a break from his Women’s Club speech tour (where he was during the site visit on Monday) and be the eyes and ears for those that pay his salary.
The concerns and accusations I have mentioned are not baseless and they have not gone unnoticed by others. You may recall a written statement that one of the campowners read at one of your meetings early last fall. It was read by Todd Holland and written by Patrick O’Connell. Mr. Holland was cut off, as I was earlier this week, but was directed to give the statement to the Board – which he did – and was assured it would be followed up on. Mr. O’Connell never heard from your Board or the Town Manager. I would like to know just what is the proper procedure for having grievances regarding town employees heard, especially if there are concerns that the Town Manager will take no action? I find it very disturbing that the Town Manager will say, in a public meeting, that she believes the staff has fulfilled its duty and she “…thinks we carried out the board’s directive” before even investigating some of the concerns that were brought up by me and others. I would hope that your Board is concerned that she is circling the wagons in defense of her staff so early in her tenure.
There is another beach issue that I am getting involved with and I believe warrants your Board’s attention. Alison Adams has been attempting to save her camp from being lost to erosion. There has apparently been some sort of change in policy with our Conservation Agent and Commission. Instead of using whatever they can in their regulatory tool bag to help preserve the camps (which I will remind you has been been the very public goal of your Board and our community as a whole), they instead have done everything they can to block her efforts. What she is attempting to do is no different that was approved a couple years ago for another private property owner on the island and, on a much larger scale, in the first village. Nothing has changed in the regulations they are sworn to uphold yet something has certainly changed in how they are now interpreting them.
My efforts to advocate for continued access and protection of traditional uses of our barrier beach system will continue. A seat, even that of the Chairman, on an advisory board that is not respected and valued by town staff does nothing to enhance those efforts.
Robert N. Long
P.O. Box 453
No. Chatham, MA 02650