Posted by: coastlinesproject | July 17, 2015

Plum Island; Golden opportunity.

A Golden Opportunity

 

 

 

Newbury and Newburyport have a golden opportunity to step back from trying to solve the day-to-day problems of sewers and seawalls to visualize how they would like Plum Island to look 5, 10, 20 even 50 years from now.

 

The National Wildlife Foundation and the Merrimack Valley Regional Planning Authority and several other environmental groups have received a $2.9 million grant to help towns develop plans to make their communities more resilient.

 

The biggest problem they will have to solve is money. Right now towns like Newbury get 40% of their tax revenue from only 33% of the town’s land and houses built in the fragile dunes that are in the process of washing away.

 

There are several way to replace these tax revenues that are being swept away year-by-year.

 

1–The first thing that the towns can do is to return Plum Island back into the warm welcoming beach community it once was, instead of place for year round residences sporting signs saying things like “Do not park,” “Tow Away Zone” “Private Property, ” and “Keep off the Rocks.”

 

One way to achieve this is for Newbury and Newburyport to provide parking and transportation to the beach. Crane’s Beach, just to the south of Plum Island in Ipswich receives $700,000 a year from parking tolls and Salisbury Beach just to the North of Plum Island in Salisbury provides $250,000 a year to maintain the beach.

 

Overhead to run such parking lots is low. All you have to do is hire a few high school students to collect the parking fees, or have meters that do it automatically.

 

2 – The towns could also charge a small toll to get on the beach. The entrance to Plum Island is already a turnpike; all you would have to do is set up a booth to collect modest tolls the way they did when the bridge was first built and still do on similar islands in Florida.

 

3– Provide shuttles from in-town parking lots and the Newburyport train station. A pilot project to this effect will be started this summer. The increased numbers of people using the beach would provide a multiplier effect as they buy food, beverages, beach equipment and fishing tackle. You could then use some of this revenue to bring back the lifeguards, sanitary facilities and seasonal food concession stands that used to dot the island.

 

4 — Gradually get rid of the groins and seawalls. This would allow the beach to widen by 60 to 100 feet. Now the beach is so narrow beach goers have to clamber over sharp, slippery boulders to walk down on the beach at high tide. And swimming has become treacherous in the intertidal area below the seawall.

 

5 – Have the state gradually buy out threatened homes. There is already a bill in the Massachusetts Senate to provide $20 million dollars to buy out vulnerable homes. The empty lots could then be replanted and made into mini parks and scenic overlooks.

Before erosion really started picking up in 2008 there was a solid barrier of imposing homes on top of the dunes; now there are several places that have spectacular views where the  houses washed away. This has increased the value of the second row of dwellings.

 

If we don’t act proactively to do these things nature is going to do it for us in a very unpleasant manner. I think we have face the fact that none of the hard engineering solutions have worked. As some Plum Island homeowner are starting to say, “I have spent 60 wonderful years in this house but now the ocean wants it back and it is time to move on. “

 

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William Sargent is the author of 20 books on science and the environment. His latest book, Islands in the Storm, is about Plum Island. It is available in local bookstores and through Amazon.com and at www.strawberryhillpress.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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