2013-04-11 / News

Restoration of Mackerel Cove may not have to be postponed

Dune grass alternatives may move project ahead
By Margo Sullivan

Jamestown has received a grant to build an elevated boardwalk at a right-of-way leading to Hull Cove, Commissioner Michael Brown confirmed at Tuesday’s Conservation Commission meeting.

“And a very vague notification it was,” Commissioner Maureen Coleman added.

Town officials are supposed to attend a State House ceremony at 1 p.m. on April 26 to accept the award. Brown will be unable to attend and has suggested Chris Powell, the former Conservation Commission chairman, might be sent on the town’s behalf. Powell wrote the original grant application, Brown said.

“And then the fun begins,” Brown said, referring to criticism and objections that are already being voiced.

If the town goes ahead, the project will have to be engineered and debated in public, Brown said. He suggested the Conservation Commission could present a forum to explain the concept and hear out the Hull Cove neighbors.

Brown said the grant is not for the entire amount requested, and in any case, the town is not committed to undertaking the boardwalk.

In other business, the barrier beach at Mackerel Cove is back on the Conservation Commission’s agenda.

Coleman said the Town Council recently asked the conservation board for a formal opinion about planting beach plum trees at Mackerel Cove as a way to stop erosion.

The idea about beach plum trees came from Walter Boll, a Jamestown resident. He spoke at a recent council meeting and suggested the beach plum trees could be effective at Mackerel Cove.

Boll said the trees flourish in sand dunes. For example, he has seen the plum trees along Long Island beaches.

He suggested planting them in Jamestown next fall, by October at the latest. A spring planting would be an alternative, but that would have to wait for 2014. Now would be too late, he said.

New Commissioner Anne Kuhn- Hines said the beach plum plants have successfully been planted on Cape Cod beaches, but added, “They really vary in size.”

Some of the trees grow to heights of 12 feet, she said.

Coleman also spoke to a plant expert, who offered additional suggestions, including the beach pea plant, which has a purple flower.

She was not sure if the beach pea could be planted now, but would expect some of the other varieties could be installed at the barrier beach this spring. Therefore, the Conservation Commission’s plan would not have to be postponed for a year until beach grasses became available again.

The Town Council in January directed Town Engineer Mike Gray to follow the conservation board’s plan to bring back the barrier beach, which was devastated by Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 30. The plan called for extending the dune, eliminating six parking spaces at the eastern end of the beach, and planting grasses. The expectation was the grasses would root, protect the dune and allow the beach time to restore itself. The town agreed to buy the plants and was eligible to receive $9,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover the cost of the grass.

However, town officials were unable to make the purchases due to a shortage of dune grass. They recently said they have decided to postpone for a year the effort to restore the barrier beach because the plants are not available.

At a recent council meeting, Town Administrator Bruce Keiser also said the town would postpone eliminating any parking at Mackerel Cove because the grasses are not going to be planted.

Commissioner Patrick Driscoll said the conservation commissioners would want to revisit the decision and discuss the possibility of using other plants on the beach.

Coleman asked Kuhn-Hines and Commissioner Patrick Driscoll to “do a little more research” on the substitute plants. The alternative plants would be part of a shortterm plan for the barrier beach, she said, and would “help get an anchor” while the dune is being reshaped.

Brown said Mackerel Cove is now a “bald beach” and the conservation board should make some recommendations to the town councilors.

“The question is, do we have a substitute [plant]?” asked Brown.

If so, then the town would not need to postpone the plan and could go ahead and eliminate the six parking spaces at the eastern end, he indicated.

Driscoll said he also wants to discuss the fencing at Mackerel Cove.

In other business, April 22 is officially Earth Day, but the conservation commissioners will mark the occasion on Saturday, April 20, as they formalized plans for the annual Earth Day cleanup. Driscoll said the participants will meet at 8:30 a.m. at the rec center, and the actual cleanup will start around 9 a.m.

The commissioners voted to make $300 available to finance the event. Driscoll said the money would go mostly for food.

On the following weekend, he said, the plan is to pick up litter on North Road.

Finally, the commissioners have agreed to award the bid for reprinting the trail guide to Meridian Printing for 61 cents a copy. Commissioners Kate Smith and Ted Smayda obtained four bids for the job.

Smayda said he wanted the commissioners to make a decision about the bid award Tuesday.

“We’re about to go into the busy season,” he said, and predicted the supply of trail guides would be depleted by July.

Smith summed up the project by saying the commissioners had decided basically to reprint the existing guide and to make only one change. Currently, when people open the guides, the map is upside down.

“The only thing we’re going to do is have it flipped, so it opens correctly,” she said.

The guides cost $1 and are sold at various locations, such as the Cumberland Farms.

Brown said he found “a gigantic copy” of the trail Guide in the Town Hall basement and it bears a slogan.

“Did you know we have a slogan?” he said. “Take a walk on the wild side.”

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