Conimicut Point is an inviting place. Sunrise at the point is spectacular, especially at this time of year, when the bay is calm and the moon is full.
But the point has a purpose beyond the summer months or even when it is less than peaceful. One can witness the power of a nor’easter, feel the push of the wind and taste the salt. In the winter, snow drifts rival sand dunes and there are other visitors, from deer, red foxes and rabbits to a wide range of waterfowl. Understandably, the point is a favorite with nature photographers.
We know, too, that the point can be dangerous.
Sixteen-year-old Javon Jimenez, who drowned when swept off the sandbar Sunday, was the latest to be deceived by the sandbar that looks like a safe place to experience the majesty of the bay and to explore our great coastline. And certainly, on a summer Sunday afternoon with many others at the point as well in boats in the surrounding waters, it seems difficult to comprehend such a tragedy could occur.
In fact, Javon’s friend, who was also walking the sandbar, was lucky enough to be pulled from the waters by a kayaker. Javon had no such luck.
How can future tragedies be avoided?
Although signs warn of tidal currents and undertow, they can be easily ignored, particularly on a hot summer afternoon and the lure of the point to cool one’s feet and feel the wind and lapping waves. Protective measures proposed range from the extreme of cutting off the point from the sandbar by blasting a channel, to fencing it off and stepping up surveillance with police or lifeguards.
More practical suggestions include increasing the size and prominence of warning signs, and signs in Spanish, and the installation of lights that would flash when tidal currents run strong.
These are all mechanisms that can serve to warn and prevent people from unwittingly setting out to walk the sandbar. We don’t think these measures will dissuade fishermen or those who have walked the bar for years and are respectful of the danger it poses.
Mandating the bar off limits would only tempt daredevils and it would be impossible for police to enforce.
The answer lies in educating people. More prominent signage, even a listing of those who have lost their lives, with dates and their ages, would make it clear this inviting place can also be deadly. The responsibility also lies with those who frequent the point. Just this year, the point’s “regulars” called 911 when they spotted a canoeist capsized near the lighthouse. The Fire Department responded and brought the boater ashore. But the story went unreported. It wasn’t a big deal.
Regrettably, that wasn’t the outcome this time. Let’s remain vigilant so that this is the last time someone dies.