To the Editor,
Our Constitution guarantees everyone the right to the shore to fish, gather seaweed, and enjoy the City’s most precious asset, our beaches. We all need to stand ready to …
To the Editor,
Our Constitution guarantees everyone the right to the shore to fish, gather seaweed, and enjoy the City’s most precious asset, our beaches. We all need to stand ready to protect that right.
Our first level of protection is our Harbor Management Plan’s rights-of-way list. This planning document announces to the world, and to the real estate agents listing shoreline properties, that all buyers will have public access to the beach. You see, here in Rhode Island, all beaches are public. You just have to get to your favorite spot somehow. Not only do new buyers have rights, so do we.
A public workshop is coming up on Tuesday, November 14th, 6:00 p.m., at the City’s new Sawtooth Building. Here the Harbor Management Commission, headed by Jody King, will hear arguments for and against rights-of-way. The naysayers, those who don’t want you walking down their street to the beach, will be there, for sure. That is a good thing. The Commission needs to hear both sides.
If you expect to use your favorite right-of-way to the beach in the future, you need to show up. Expect confusion. Coincidentally, at the very same time and place, the Zoning Board will have a hearing. It is for the new owner of a property on a street to the shore in the Buttonwoods Fire District.
Built on a 2,522-sq.-ft. lot in 1925, this house has a 1,055-sq.-ft. footprint. It is built right up to the property line on the street and the door opens to a neighbor’s side yard. The property sold for $90,000 ten years ago. Now, with a complete restoration in 2015, it went for $582,000. The new owner wants to add to the second story.
So, with the Zoning Board taking up the Community Room, where will we meet with the Harbor Commission? In September, an unexpectedly large group of 40 people showed up. We met in the entry lounge next to the AAA office. One hopes our City officials will figure out something more commodious this time. We can meet in the parking lot if we have to!
This time we will need even more people, speaking both for and against specific rights-of-way. It makes no sense to let the City decide without input from the public. All comers must be heard -- this time not shepherded into the lobby, scavenging for chairs, and straining to hear.
In any case, we need to send a message to City officials that our public access to the beach is just as important as zoning exceptions for buyers from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York, their postage-stamp lots glamorized by a real estate broker’s promise of a private right-of-way to the shore.
Gouldsboro, Maine, way down the coast beyond Bar Harbor, has 55 miles of shoreline and 2,000 residents, 539 families, and an engaged harbor management plan effort to win grant funding to save its shoreline for public access.
The people of Gouldsboro are very concerned. They have six harbors, a Shellfish Committee, and a warden. In its $30,000 federal grant application for shoreline access, the Committee reports:
“The Committee is concerned that a new generation of shoreland owners may not share the community’s traditional norm of working with the shellfish harvesters and others to find ways to make the shore accessible.”
Managing Warwick’s 39 miles of coast with tiny lots all over the place is a challenge too. What do real estate agents pitch? Our Harbor Management Plan must come up with answers.
Let’s support Jody King, our Down East-like harbor leader, as together we build a credible and useful Harbor Management Plan that fairly defines our rights and our rights-of-way. Mike Jarbeau, Save The Bay’s “eyes and ears,” will be there to support us, too. Nothing escapes Mike’s notice. The same can be said of Ed Ladouceur, our neighbor and City Council member, who brings us all together for this workshop. As they say, “Be there -- or beware!”