2013-06-27 / News

Town will wait to plant beach grass until hurricane season ends

Conservationists worried weather may destroy new plantings at Mackerel Cove
By Margo Sullivan

Two beach rose plants, a gift of Jamestown resident Walter Boll, are headed for a spot on the high end of the dune on the eastern end of Mackerel Cove Town Beach. However, other plantings, including beach grasses, will have to wait until the hurricane season ends, the Conservation Commission decided at its June 13 meeting.

The commissioners had wanted to plant grasses this summer to protect the beach from further erosion, but voted to delay the effort. They cited an issue with the Federal Emergency Management Agency money and also some criticism about the proposed summer planting from the town residents.

Chairwoman Maureen Coleman said Town Engineer Mike Gray told her the federal money could only be used to buy beach grasses. Gray had informed her the money could not be used to purchase dune plugs, only dune grasses.

“That’s not true,” Commissioner Patrick Driscoll said. “We could buy plugs at 75 cents apiece.”

Commissioner Anne Kuhn- Hines, who researched the types of plants that could flourish at the beach, said she had found vendors with dune plugs on Cape Cod. However, one business said it only had 600 plants for sale, and the other merchant avoided giving specific numbers. Neither would have the bare-root grasses in stock until fall.

If the federal money could not be used, the commission could consider buying dune plugs with money in its own budget. Kuhn- Hines said the money is supposed to be spent before the end of June.

But, she added, Gray opposed the summer planting.

“His suggestion was not to plant,” she said.

Commissioner Michael Brown said summer planting might be a mistake.

“I’d hate to rush and have a bad fall,” he said.

Also, according to Brown, the news about a possible summer planting had not been well received, basing the opinion on negative comments from residents. If a storm blew out the plantings, he went on to say, the effort would have been wasted and the commissioners would come under fire.

Commissioner Kate Smith agreed with Brown and thought the better course of action might be to wait to plant until the threat of another hurricane was gone.

The only reason to do the summer planting would be to avoid losing the FEMA money, Brown said.

Kuhn-Hines said she would talk to Gray again to verify whether the FEMA money would sunset before the commissioners could vegetate the dune.

Coleman said the commissioners wanted a multispecies plan for Mackerel Cove.

According to Kuhn-Hines, the beach plums, which Boll originally suggested to control erosion, could serve as anchors. Adding five or six other species, such as beach tomatoes and liverworts, would be effective, she said, but all those species had to be planted either in spring or fall.

Boll, who attended the meeting, said the beach roses were an experiment. He wasn’t sure if they would thrive.

“Dig them in deep,” he said. “Spread the roots in mulch and water them twice a week.”

Driscoll noted the town did not alter the parking arrangement at Mackerel Cove, as previously agreed, to eliminate six spaces at the eastern end of the beach.

In other business, the commissioners discussed asking the teen litter patrol from the rec center to help empty recycling bins used for plastic bags. Brown would like the teens to take over the job for the summer, he said.

Earlier, Brown secured three bins and put them at several downtown establishments. However, the storeowners who agreed to allow the bins to be placed at their businesses did not commit to emptying the bins themselves.

Brown has been emptying the bins himself. He also said he opted to remove the bin from Cumberland Farms because customers were throwing trash in it.

Under new business, the commissioners have decided to write a monthly column for the Jamestown Press about upcoming conservation projects. Coleman said she approached Editor Tim Riel who liked the concept and offered a little advice.

“Don’t make it boring,” Coleman reported.

The plan is to rotate authors, with each commissioner taking a turn as the columnist.

Smith said the commissioners should each bring an idea for a column to the next meeting and make a commitment to write a piece on the subject by the deadline.

Brown suggested the first column could be used to update the community about the status of state and local plastic-bag initiatives.

Coleman said some of the columns could be tied to the calendar of events, such as annual conservation cleanup days.

Ideally, the column would become a way to “expand our educational initiative a little,” Coleman said.

Finally, the commissioners discussed stepping up efforts to protect more land in town for conservation.

“The town is really looking to be way more strategic in acquiring land,” Coleman said.

The commissioners could make land acquisition one of their fall projects, she added.

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