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Sandy Beach Subcommittee outlines safety, other concerns

by | Dec 7, 2023 | Featured: News, News

During its meeting Wednesday, the Parks & Recreation Sandy Beach Subcommittee discussed needs at Lake Maspenock and filled in new Parks & Rec Director Jon Lewitus about ongoing issues such as lack of oversight at the gate, equipment needing repairs, signage and safety concerns after hours.

Member Laura Hanson, the Parks & Recreation Commission’s liaison to the subcommittee, relayed input and observations from her son, who has worked as a beach lifeguard for three years.

Hanson said several items are in poor condition like rescue tables, guard chairs, floats, first aid packs and umbrellas. In addition, lifeguards were told not to use hammocks during their breaks, so they brought in beach chairs, which were stolen, she said.

About replacing these things, Lewitus replied, “Consider it done.”

Hanson also talked about a need for an electrician and plumber to go in the bathhouse because it has safety problems like dripping water and exposed wires as well as a lack of warm shower water and faucets that do not run continuously.

“It’s really sketchy,” was Hanson’s description of the bathhouse.

Member Sabine St. Pierre noted the electrical problems are ongoing and include lights remaining on when they should not.

Emergency button location a problem

Hanson noted the emergency button is located next to the shower button and is habitually pressed by mistake. Emergency personnel are tired of responding to the calls, members said.

Lewitus said the deputy fire chief is going to do a walk-through to identify potential locations, possibly closer to the water, for the emergency button.

“I am glad they are on that. That’s awesome,” Hanson said.

Hanson also spoke about the possibility of adding a fountain given that the showers are strictly overheads. Foot showers and a fountain are options, Lewitus said.

Past gate practices described

Another concern that prompted discussion was the lack of oversight of money and passes at the entrance and people sneaking in without paying and staying after hours.

“There’s absolutely no record keeping,” St. Pierre said, explaining that in the past, residents used to receive a chip and there was a log book tracking information.

The book was discarded when passes were instituted, she said, and now they do not know how many people who did not buy passes got in.

Lewitus said he would like to see the town move to a cashless system like many other communities have adopted. Residents can obtain passes online. He said the gate guards could pull up information on iPads at the entrance. Older people who may not want to go online could be referred to customer service, he said.

“It’s best practice at lakefronts to go completely cashless,” he said, adding the town can get a hotspot for the iPads to work.

St. Pierre said the gate guards are young and do not want to necessarily call out people sneaking in the exit side. Despite the presence of signs on the exit side with arrows pointing to the entrance, these indicators are ignored, she said.

She talked about the possibility of an electronic gate system like a parking garage but said a grant application submitted for that purpose was unsuccessful.

Lewitus asked the goal of such a system and whether it was more a safety matter or regulating non-residents getting in without passes.

St. Pierre noted a lot of non-residents are coming in after 5 p.m. and “setting up shop” with grills and jet skis, but law enforcement is not ticketing people, and they cannot do anything with people out on the water.

Hanson said it is a situation like “crying wolf” because of all the false alarms and town personnel being called for non-emergencies and growing tired of responding.

“We have had two drownings there after 5 p.m., and it is just not acceptable,” Hanson said.

Member William Burke echoed concerns about the difficulty of trying to mitigate the number of walk-ins.

The director said his focus would be on getting more supervision and training provided for staff.

“They deal with cranky residents who want things to be regulated more,” Hanson said of the kids working at the entrance. “Any support they can get is great.”

Parking lot, signage, other issues discussed

Subcommittee members also spoke about myriad other issues, including the location of buoys to discourage people from skirting between lanes.

Lewitus noted there is a re-mapping going on that will be taken to the Parks & Recreation Commission for review.

Hanson said there is an issue with the parking lot “falling apart,” but no one wants to take responsibility to pay for repairs. School buses use it for a turnaround, the town has purview over the road and Parks & Rec uses it, she said.

Members also talked about needing better indication of the ledge location, doing away with single gender bathroom signs to cut down on lines, goose droppings and an outstanding boat ramp project.

Of the geese, Lewitus said, “The goose problem is very real no matter where you are. There is no way to get rid of it, but it must be managed.”

The director said the Conservation Commission gave the permit to secure the ramp project, and the next step is for him to apply online with the Mass Waterways Program.

The subcommittee will bring signage requests before the full Parks & Recreation Commission in January for consideration, keeping in mind to have them done in languages other than English as well.

The next meeting for the group is Jan. 17 at 5:30 p.m.

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