October 23, 2014
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What’s in your backyard?

On the surface, the city’s proposal to build a shed at Rocky Point to house park maintenance equipment and the outburst from Highland Beach residents seems like a case of “not in my back yard” syndrome.

There were all the classic signs of NIMBYism: The shed could be the start of something much bigger; it could become a place where workmen might hangout on their breaks; it could be a source of noise and light and, worst of all, it could partially block views of Narragansett Bay.

The Highland Beach neighbors had a point: Why did the shed have to be built near their neighborhood when the entrance to Rocky Point is at the southerly end of the park, which is remote and there are no neighbors?

And, rightfully, the irony of the situation didn’t escape the city. It was the city that leveled Rocky Beach cottages and cleared the land, improving the view for Highland Beach. And now that the city has won a grant to purchase equipment to maintain the park, neighbors are complaining about it.

There’s more to this story than a shed, as reported in Tuesday’s Beacon.

Since the city opened the 41 acres of shoreline it has been able to preserve with the help of state and federal funding; people have learned there’s an alternate entrance to the park from Highland Beach, although it is not advertised or promoted. It’s a shorter walk from Highland Beach to popular Rocky Point fishing spots, and to the beach that is one of the park’s jewels.

The problem is that Highland Beach is a tight community of narrow roads, which essentially has been a private enclave for generations of its residents. There is no parking lot and access to the area is limited. As a result, roads sometimes become narrow alleyways with cars parked on both sides. Residents have seen an increase in littering and thefts. They have taken to locking their doors. The neighborhood has changed, although there’s also agreement that Rocky Point is much improved.

Judiciously, the city administration has postponed construction of the shed, pending the outcome of state efforts to acquire the remaining 82 acres of park property. That acquisition could offer alternative locations for buildings as well as different accesses to the park.

Such planning can’t realistically begin until all the park property is preserved for public use.

But the fact that the city administration is looking ahead is good. We can’t imagine a community that wouldn’t welcome a property as beautiful as Rocky Point as a neighbor. But, by the same token, if it can be an even better neighbor, why shouldn’t it be?


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