2013-11-21 / Front Page

Town to solicit bids for boardwalk to Hull Cove

Trail off Beavertail Road moves through wetlands
By Margo Sullivan

Jamestown will seek bids to build an elevated boardwalk over the Hull Cove right-of-way, the Town Council decided at Monday’s joint workshop with the Conservation Commission. The town, however, will reserve the right to axe the project.

Council President Kristine Trocki said the Nov. 18 meeting was a workshop, so no votes would be taken. But the Conservation Commission’s recommendations were listed as a possible action item on the regular meeting agenda, allowing for a vote if necessary.

Ultimately, the council voted to go ahead with bidding the job. The funding is coming through an $80,000 grant from the state Department of Environmental Management. Commissioner Michael Brown applied for the grant that was based on an earlier application by former Conservation Chairman Chris Powell.

“You’re saying it’s a project worth doing?” Trocki asked.

The commissioners do support the project, said Conservation Chairwoman Maureen Coleman.

People have questioned why the town would plan such a big project in a “lightly used area,” Coleman said. However, she added, the restoration will be handicap accessible and is preferable to the current situation – “having the residents truck through the mud.” Moreover, the project’s scale was dictated by the state Coastal Resources Management Council.

Originally, Coleman said, the Conservation Commission hoped to use simple methods to improve the deteriorated trail. However, the coastal council would not go along with the original concept and indicated the commissioners had two options: build an elevated boardwalk at least 3 feet above the wetlands, or do nothing.

“The CRMC is extremely clear and rigidly inflexible for good biological reasons,” Coleman said.

The trail runs through freshwater wetlands.

At the time, the commission opted to do nothing because the town did not have the funding.

“We decided not to do anything,” she said. “We left the trail muddy.”

In the meantime, she added, an “unknown party” clear-cut the vegetation on the Hull Cove rightof way. The town was held responsible.

“So we felt compelled to take action,” she said.

At the Town Council’s request, the Conservation Commission held a public workshop about the project on Nov. 12. Three people attended, Coleman reported. For the most part, the commissioners collected information about concerns from abutters. Besides the questions about the size of the project, people asked about project management, liability issues and long-term maintenance.

Trocki asked how soon the commissioners anticipated the construction could begin if the funding proves to be adequate.

Coleman replied construction could probably be underway in the spring.

Meanwhile, Councilor Mary Meagher said the staff could put the project out to bid.

“Then we can make a decision,” she said.

Councilor Blake Dickinson asked about additional requirements for handicap parking and restrooms.

There is one handicap parking spot at the site, several people said.

Recreation Director Bill Piva said the town supplies a portable toilet at the Hull Cove trail. The current portable toilet is not handicap accessible, he said. However, a handicap-accessible unit could be procured, according to Meagher.

Dickinson asked if the grant money could be used to improve a trail in a locale that would serve more people.

Brown said the grant was site specific, and Jamestown would probably lose the money if the commissioners had to rewrite the grant application.

Brown added he has a rough idea about costs because he obtained two quotes for the project. They were not formal bids, he said, but the lower estimate gave an indication the work could probably be done for $80,000 with few embellishments. The higher amount came in around $100,000, he said.

In other business, Councilor Eugene Mihaly said he will add a disclaimer to the Tick Task Force website to indicate the town has not taken a position for or against the use of pesticides.

Mihaly asked Coleman to go over the pesticide concerns that she had summed up in her letter to the councilors.

“We would not like the town to outright recommend them,” she said. All the products are legal, Coleman noted, and people can buy them. However, permethrin is “highly toxic” to fish and there is concern chemicals sprayed on lawns could wind up in the waterways.

The pesticides are also toxic to bees and other “beneficial insects,” Coleman continued. If these chemicals must be used, the commission would recommend “professional installation and application.”

Also, Coleman said, “We’ve never seen a study that actually correlated the use of these products to reduction of disease.”

Mihaly said the University of Rhode Island’s Tick Encounter Resource Center provided the website for the task force.

“The website is a very nice service,” he said.

However, the task force is still exploring all the options and has not taken a position for or against pesticide use. Neither has the council.

Dr. Tom Mather, the director of URI’s Center for Vector-Borne Disease, also appeared before the joint meeting to defend his views on the use of pesticides as an option to combat Lyme disease.

“I can’t disagree with the views of the Conservation Commission in not harming the environment,” he said. However, Mather disagreed with the use of the words “risk” and “hazard.” By his definition, risk means a hazard plus exposure to the hazard. By minimizing exposure, the impact on fish and other insects would be limited, he maintained.

Permethrin does kill deer ticks, Mather said, and spraying lawns and treating clothing with the chemical should be presented as one tool people can use to protect themselves against Lyme disease.

Mather said he is trying to get a clear message that’s fair and represents the actual risk, rather than a message that “scares people from using something that might be beneficial.”

However, Trocki said, she was concerned about the website.

“It’s a great educational tool to have all the research you’ve done, but I am concerned from a legal perspective and from a town perspective in the way some of this wording is out on website,” she said.

She also objected to the section about spraying school grounds, playing fields and campgrounds.

“It’s sort of insinuating the town has made a policy. We have not.” Trocki said. “I’m not sure the town would ever put chemicals on open spaces or playgrounds.”

Mather replied, “I’d also encourage you not to use words based on something that’s going to raise emotions.”

“We all want a fair and balanced approach,” Trocki said.

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