BOSTON (AP) — A new report is warning that improvements in the quality of beaches in the metropolitan Boston area in recent years are being threatened by budget and staffing cuts to the state agency overseeing them.
A draft report by the Metropolitan Beaches Commission obtained by The Associated Press is calling for the hiring of more full-time and seasonal employees, from beach managers to workers who help clean the sand.
The report also makes a series of recommendations about ways to improve the seaside experience, including instituting trolley shuttle services to some beaches, allowing kayak rentals and enhancing bicycle and pedestrian connections between beaches.
State Sen. Thomas McGee, co-chairman of the commission, said many of the beaches were in rough shape before the commission issued its first recommendations in 2007. He said the state was able to make real progress, and the investments made a difference.
McGee said it’s important not to let those improvements slip away.
“We need to go from beaches that are good to beaches that are great,” he said. “We heard that loud and clear. If they can go to the beaches and really enjoy them, people understand that we are doing the right thing.”
Bruce Berman of the group Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, which worked with the commission, said staffing levels at the Department of Conservation and Recreation have slipped in recent years as the state faced tighter budgets.
“The bad news is that the gains we made are at risk because of the erosion of DCR’s budget during the recession,” Berman said.
The report warns that “chronic underfunding of DCR as a whole challenges its ability to meet its commitments to public and its mission as an agency” and that an extra $7 million to $10 million made be needed in annual operating funds to meet those commitments.
The report also looked at other ways to improve the beach-going experience.
One long-standing bone of contention has been the question of dogs and dog owners who want to take advantage of the beaches. Berman said the public is split between those who think there should be opportunities for dogs on the beaches all the time and those who think dogs and the problem of dog waste should be banned.
He said one possible solution is the adoption of beach dog parks — areas where dogs would be allowed and where there would be pressure on dog owners to clean up after their pets.
The report also suggested offering more commercial concessions like refreshment stands and kayak rentals on the beaches.
Another source of frustration for some beachgoers are the piping plovers that nest on two of the beaches in Revere and Winthrop, forcing officials to cordon off the nesting areas. Berman said instead of using police caution tape, the areas could be identified in a more appealing way to designate the nests.
“That way it won’t look like a crime scene,” he said.
The report also makes specific recommendations for improvements to each of the dozen or so beaches looked at by the commission.
The Massachusetts Legislature formed Metropolitan Beaches Commission in 2006 to take an in-depth look at beaches that the Department of Conservation and Recreation manages in Nahant, Lynn, Revere, Winthrop, East Boston, South Boston, Dorchester, Quincy and Hull.
Berman said the commission will accept public comments through March 1 before releasing a final version of the report.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press