NARRAGANSETT - The Recreation Advisory Board met on Monday evening, discussing a number of topics including the ongoing repairs at Narragansett Town Beach in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Parks and Recreation Director Steve Wright stressed the town is doing everything it can to have the beach and its facilities operational in time for the beach season.
“The buildings, other than the cabanas, will all be in good shape,” said Wright. “We are talking with National Flood Insurance and then FEMA, and will look at what everyone else doesn’t cover. That is where there is a lot of documentation, a lot of pictures, and for everyone that spends time on documentation, [FEMA] will cover those costs as well.”
“Our goal is to get to 130 days from now when our beach is supposed to open up,” he added.
At the Jan. 7 town council meeting, members approved a number of contracts for repair work to various town structures, namely along Narragansett Town Beach, including $39,270 worth in repairs to the North Pavilion. That work will be carried out by Abcore Restoration Company.
Another group of emergency repairs were approved through the consent agenda, totaling $37,831, which will be conducted by various contractors. That work included repairing immediate flood and smoke damage at the newly acquired Middlebridge property, as well as at the North Beach Clubhouse and Stanton Avenue pumping station. Acting Town Manger Dean Hoxsie stated on Jan. 7 that FEMA would reimburse the town up to 75 percent for all repairs that it approves.
On Monday evening, Wright detailed the town’s work rebuilding the dune structures which were nearly wiped away by Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge.
“We are proposing at the next town council meeting to have Sherman Sand and Gravel to put back the sand in the South Pavilion parking lot and use it for the dunes only, not beach replenishment,” said Wright. “To what degree we sift the sand will be determined. It is not contaminated, but we need to make sure we don’t put any of that big stuff, the granite and asphalt back. It is a simple but a lengthy process.”
Wright was cautious, however, to state that the beach itself would be fully restored, and admitted that much more work needs to be done in securing new sand and replenishing the beach.
“We lost 20,000 cubic yards from Sandy, but I can assure you we lost more and, with that horrific rain storm Friday and Monday, we lost a great deal of sand,” said Wright. “In normal conditions, we have always supplemented sand in the southern portion of the beach and do it as late as possible to avoid those late winter storms.”
“This last year, however, we had an early spring storm and lost that sand and now a lot of it is in Narrow River,” he added. “There are a lot of environment issues we are dealing with, so we are facing some serious issues down the road that we need to take care of.”
Recreation Advisory Board members debated its role moving forward regarding recommendations to protect the beach in the future.
“I think we should set a disaster fund for the beach,” said board member Rick Lima. “It tough to get people to realize what other states do, but if this were North Carolina, you’d have a pump out there on the beach immediately. We are in a bit of a different situation here in Rhode Island because there are so many chains and ladders to get through, but I wish we had a fund to put money away 20 years ago.”
“It is something we can recommend to the town council,” he added. “Narragansett is a unique town, but when you shock people into a price tag, they don’t want to hear it. When you talk them into it slowly, they digest it better, and those are things that I look at.”
The board also engaged in a philosophical discussion regarding its overall function in advising the town council about recreational issues, and addressed infrastructure problems that the town has incurred oer the past number of years, namely the pool at the town’s Clarke Road recreation facility. Board member Maria Rocchio expressed her frustration that facilities such as the town pool have not been addressed and are resources that cannot be used by the town’s residents.
“There are a number of structures throughout town that have not had money put into them, and I’d like to focus on that list with the board and share where I am coming from,” said Wright. “My biggest question is the pool and whether the community and town council want to pursue it. Why go thru all the effort to obtain grant money for the pool if that is something the community and the council doesn’t want?”
“I am not against a pool, but if we do it, we need to put a program together to help Steve,” said Lima. “I think this is about putting a program together to say how we get this pool working 365 days. The process is we have to have a master plan for our priorities, so we can’t get frustrated.”
Members agreed that, as they move forward with a new town council, the board must be able to present clear and supportable recommendations to council members in order that future recreational projects or programs are successful.
“For us to do a recommendation and not do any homework, we are putting a lot of work on Parks and Recreation and the town council,” said board member James Pereira. “That is not fair. We are an advisory board, but we need to do the homework.”
Wright stated that he is currently working on a prioritized list of infrastructure projects that he will present to the board when finished. The next board meeting is on Feb. 11 at 5:30 p.m.