On November 4, 2013, the Board of Selectmen (BOS) heard pros and cons for adding a $10 parking fee to the Bristol Beach parking lot, opening the lot to “day-trippers” similar to Old Silver, Surf Drive and Menauhant beaches. Comments will be taken under advisement. The BOS will announce its decision in two weeks. Please email them at email@example.com with further comments and/or your vote for or against.
Two selectmen spoke about the legality of charging fees based on deed restrictions put in place when land was gifted to the Town (N.B. until at least 2023 when the restrictions end unless extended by MA law until 2043). Selectman Flynn mentioned that Atty. Ament, on behalf of one abutter, stated that charging fees would be in violation of the Bristol Beach Deed. Selectman Murphy said that Town Counsel didn’t make a ruling that “we can’t do this” but would like more time and that “the jury is still out on that behalf of whether or not we could even do this if we wanted to”.
Pros: The Chairman of the Beach Committee (BC), one other BC member and the Assistant Beach Superintendent spoke. The main points included:
1. The BC had been asked by the BOS to suggest ways to raise revenue. Rather than increasing the cost of beach stickers, this is the 3rd year that the BC has suggested opening Bristol. This year’s proposal to open it to day-trippers Mon-Friday (excluding July 4) is for a one-year pilot program. Income derived is estimated at $9,360/year, based on 24 spaces at $10/day. It was BC understanding that Town Counsel’s opinion was that, based on his review of the deed, this would be permissible and there was no restriction against charging a fee.
2. By request, this past summer the BC surveyed the lot and found that for 39 days the easternmost lot, owned by the Town and not covered by deed restrictions, was not filled or even unchained. Why not open this lot to tourists to experience our beaches and possibly come again to Falmouth or eventually move here? Please share the beach and allow people to support our Town.
Selectman Murphy asked if the Town owned portion alone could be used for the pilot program, not incurring violation of deed restriction. Yes, it could.
3. There is no additional cost to collect fees at the gate because staff is already there.
Cons: The President and two other members of the FHMIA Board, the President of the Teaticket Civic Association on behalf of their full membership and 4 other members of the Heights and Maravista communities spoke against charging a fee. The main points included:
1. The deed restricts use of the beach itself to “residents of the Town of Falmouth, their guests and seasonal residents”. Even if day-trippers pay for a space, under strict interpretation of the deed restrictions, they are not allowed to use the beach.
There was much clarification regarding who can buy a sticker: anyone lodging overnight in Falmouth can buy a day, week or multiple week sticker, and is therefore considered a “guest” and may park at Bristol. Many hotel/motel owners buy stickers to hand out to their guests. So, many tourists already have access to Bristol Beach. It is only the day-tripper (who now uses Old Silver, Surf Drive and Menauhant beaches) who would need to pay the $10 fee at the gate.
2. While the lot may have been underutilized 39 days this past summer, the beach was not. Many neighbors from the 1709 residential dwellings in the area walk to the beach, which is hardly underutilized and often overcrowded. Each year, with erosion, the beach is getting smaller and part of the beach is in poor condition, not being graded enough. (The Asst. Beach Superintendent clarified that the DPW has replaced 5 sections of the wall and unfortunately both sweeping machines were “down all summer” so the DPW swept it by hand. They will work with DPW to improve the “blanket” portion of the beach.)
3. There are 54 parking meters at the Heights for the day-tripper. Suggestion: increase those.
4. The BOS changed the hours at the Heights Beach parking lot a few years ago to 10 PM in order to be consistent with other beach lots. From a policy perspective, charging a fee at the Bristol Beach lot would now make it inconsistent with the other sticker-only beach lots in town. Any change in status to Bristol should include a status review of all beaches.
5. If this pilot program becomes successful, then residents with stickers may be shut out.
6. If the beach becomes overcrowded, there is a safety issue. There is no room on the road for cars to line up for a space. It is a busy curve and one area on the way to the Heights beach is consistently grown over making it difficult for people with beach buggies and baby carriages to navigate safely.
7. The Beach Committee does not have its own budget. Any funds collected would go into the general fund with no guarantee of getting it back for DPW beach maintenance.
8. This has always been a charming, small, neighborhood beach and people choose to go there for that reason.
9. The Town must consider limits to what we can support from a conservation perspective.
See also: The Falmouth Enterprise, November 8, 2013, page 11, “Heights Residents React To Bristol Beach Parking Fee”.