Maintenance seen as lacking at Dot beaches

Members of the Metropolitan Beaches Commission asked local residents to weigh in on the condition of Dorchester's beaches during a forum at the Savin Hill Yacht Club last Thursday evening. Residents praised improvements to water quality at the beaches in recent years but voiced their dissatisfaction with beach maintenance, which falls primarily under the jurisdiction of the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).

"With the cleanup of the water, now its time to look on the land side, and try to make it the best that it can be," said state Senator Jack Hart, co-chair of the commission. "[The DCR] are having some issues, we know they have had a hard time in the past few years, but the maintenance is unacceptable. We want you to be candid with us about what goes on."

Hart assured attendees that the commission would look not only to long-term, legislative goals, but also attempt to match constituent concerns with immediate action from agencies such as the DCR.

After Savin Hill resident John Moran expressed concern that Jimson Weed was propagating on the shores of the Savin Hill Beach, Karl Pastore of the DCR had a maintenance crew remove 90 percent of the weeds the following day.

"We need to figure out how to properly remove it, because once it clusters it has thousands of seeds," said Pastore.

Moran was also upset by the unhealthy condition of trees recently planted along Savin Hill Boulevard.

"We keep losing trees," said Moran. "A landscaper spent hundreds of thousand of dollars in plantings, and the guys that cut the grass kill everything, including the blooming day lilies. Most of the trees are dead. This isn't nitpicking. You spend $2.5 million and I look between the boardwalk and the shore and it's a wasteland."

Joe Orfant, planner for the DCR's Boston Harbor Beaches Program, acknowledged that the landscaping at Savin Hill had been a "learning experience."

"We had real problems with the planting sub-contractors. I had them replace the trees three times," said Orfant. "I disqualified the planters from bidding on future work. The soil there isn't very good for trees, and with wind desiccation, we were overly optimistic in our tree plantings."

Other audience members asked that the number of trash receptacles along the beach be increased, and that they remain on the beach year-round.

Pastore said that finding the equipment to regularly empty trash barrels was a challenge, but promised to look into a solution.

"This is a real commission that will come up with real recommendations and solutions," Hart assured the crowd.

The commission, established earlier this year by the Massachusetts legislature in response to a steady stream of constituent concerns, is comprised mainly of elected officials from a number of coastal towns and representatives from environmental organizations.

Dorchester is one of three beachfront communities receiving attention within city limits, along with East Boston and South Boston. Hull, Lynn, Nahant, Revere, Quincy and Winthrop are also a part of the study.

A preliminary report will be drafted after visiting beaches in each of the designated communities, said Bruce Berman, communications director for Save the Harbor/Save the Bay. Save the Harbor/Save the Bay is an environmental advocacy group serving as lead project consultant to the commission. The substance of that draft will be discussed at a public forum, hopefully sometime in October.

"By the end of the year we should have a final report to inform the budget process during the next legislative session." said Berman.