update: duh, thanks to andy for pointing out this post was originally entitled “Old Post Road)
Last week the town surveyed Old Shore Road and the stretch of Putnam Avenue/Maple that runs along the Ropes Field. Lots of wooden stakes with pink ribbons popped up and then a gaggle of town officials toured the area on Monday — part of a larger village tour organized by Cotuit’s town council representative, Jessica Rapp-Grassetti, Precinct 7.
I talked to the councilor this morning about the Old Shore Road situation. There’s a few of issues at play so I’ll just relate the highlights:
- Old Shore Road is one of the most important points of access to the waterways and its usage is pretty intense and crowded during the summer season. Parking and congestion and blocking homeowners’ driveways are issues.
- The boat ramp at the foot of the hill was improved a few years back, changing a nearly unusable sand “ramp” into a durable launch ramp that Cotuit long needed but that has attracted more vehicles and trailers. These take up a ton of parking space — at least two ordinary parking spots — and can clog up the traffic leading to one-way standoffs between two cars trying to pass in opposite directions. This is a scenic vista (see the header image on this blog) so there are lots of people who drive down to look at the water, eat their lunch in their car at the seawall, and watch their kids take their sailing lessons at the yacht club.
- The public beach at Ropes — which isn’t in the best of shape — has gone from an official bathing beach in the 1960s complete with bathhouse, water fountain, and lifeguards to a little piece of sand encroached by a mob of dinghies, kayaks, catamarans, paddle boats, and other little watercraft. Still a popular sunbathing spot but swimming isn’t advised. Water quality is iffy (Councilor Grassetti has persuaded the town to resume testing there and at Riley’s Beach, something the town stopped doing for cost reasons and which Three Bays assumed responsibility for last summer) and the bottom is pure black clam muck.
- The beach has been invaded not only by dinghies and little watercraft, but phragmites, the tall rushes that choke things up. A freshwater spring flows here — where the little footbridge stands — and there is a lot of endangered banks that hold saw grass, mussels, etc.. The town has been working with the Civic Association and concerned villagers to clean that up.
- The little strip of public beach is also where the yacht club conducts sailing lessons, the Cotuit Rowing Club launches its shells, and groups of kayakers converge to launch for a paddle around the bays. Getting from the parking lot to the water involves a narrow path. People walk their dogs on the beach out to Handy’s Point. Fishermen use it to get to the stripers. Clammers …..
Take one very popular road serving one of the better boat ramps in town and one of the best points for recreational access to the water and Old Shore Road is under some pressure.
The town made the smart decision three years ago to ask dinghy owners to get all boats off the beach between November 15 and April 15 (which sucks for me as I keep my boat in the water 10 months a year and have to remove my only way out to my boat during the closed off-season months; exemptions are given to commercial interests like shellfishermen and mooring servicers, but Joe Boater like me is out of luck). This identified the derelict hulks and give the grass and mud banks a chance to recover and get some air and sunlight over the winter. That probably won’t solve the problem of where to put them so the town may have to go to a dinghy permit/registration system much as it did with moorings in the late 80s. Too much demand and not enough room means some system has to be in place to put a cap on the proliferation of little boats. Oh for the good old days when my father would throw a wooden skiff on the bank without thinking twice. Those days of unregulated, uncongested use are as long gone as clear water, eel grass and schools of scup.
The town wants any dinghy owners who have built racks or put down wooden pallets to remove them.
Possible traffic solutions include:
- No trailer parking north of the boat ramp to the seawall at Ropes Beach, only up the hill north of the rowing club and west up the hill towards Main Street
- One way traffic from Main Street down to the ramp, and two way traffic from the hill at the top of Putnam down to the parking area in the beach. This would let parents drop their kids off for sailing and turn around exit the same way they came down to the beach.
I’d like to see the road closed to sightseeing before hurricanes when boat owners are rushing to haul their boats out at the ramp. I feel sorry for the people who drive down hoping to see nature’s fury and instead find themselves in the middle of a traffic jam as eight trailers wait their turn to back down the ramp. The police should put up saw horses at each end of Old Shore and only let boat owners in during the short window when the hauling happens.
This is a great spot, literally my backyard, and one of the jewels of Cotuit. Getting the cars, the forest of signs, the clutter and the pressure off with a few rules and changes seems a good thing to me. Heaven forbid someone decides it’s a good idea to widen it and turn it into a trailer parking lot. That I would oppose.
Jessica said the next meeting of the Conservation Commission on the island dredging project is May 15.