On Monday, June 4, 2018, the Selectmen held an Open Hearing regarding beach rules. Because Acting Beach Superintendent Bruce Mogardo and Beach Committee Chairman Jason Chorches gave a presentation at a prior meeting, the Selectmen chose to have members of the public speak first and then have Mr. Mogardo respond.
In the end, the Selectmen approved the rules we have previously reported to you with one change, requested by Selectman Brown, to clarify that the rules are in effect at all times and not just during beach hours when a lifeguard is present, even if they would be difficult to enforce.
Most importantly for the Heights is that Mr. Mogardo is working to hire 2 additional parking lot attendants for the Heights Beach and Old Silver, as an experiment. One attendant would stay at the entrance kiosk and the other would wander along the wall to be a second set of eyes to watch the beach and to notify the closest lifeguard of any possible problems. The lifeguard would then be responsible for making decisions at his/her discretion. When the lots are full, both attendants would watch the beach from the lots.
Please also see the FHMNA Resources Page for phone numbers to put into your cell phones in case you would like to report anything not being handled by the lifeguards, or after hours.
Below is a summary of the discussion including comments from three people who spoke and Mr. Mogardo’s responses.
Paula Lichter, VP, FHMNA presented a consensus of the Board of Directors, based on our members’ comments over the years (see the full presentation here). FHMNA asked to:
- prohibit hard balls and kites
- hire an extra lifeguard to supervise just the beach, not the water
- create a system to evaluate and track the effectiveness of the new rules
- place tents in the back of each beach so they do not block anyone’s view of or path to the water
- improve the beach rules’ signs and find a way to distribute them to all beach goers
- enforce the Town leash law and beach policy of no dogs from May to Oct, especially after the lifeguards leave the beach
- prohibit music which can be heard over 15’ from the source.
In addition to the prepared statement, Ms. Lichter asked if phone numbers for the Beach Superintendent, Beach House and police be added to the signs. She spoke with Mr. Mogardo after the meeting adjourned about possible ways to make this happen without having to redo all the signs.
Dan Shearer, member of the Beach Committee, speaking only for himself, is against allowing tents of 10’ x 10’ which can “hold 4 chairs and a queen sized bed”. He was in favor of 5’ x 7’ or smaller canopy tents sold by Ocean State Job Lot. He also noted there are specific beaches where fisherman and paddle boarders congregate after hours. Mr. Braga read the rule that these are prohibited only during beach hours.
Another woman seconded the concern about dogs on the beach.
Mr. Mogardo’s responses:
a. to hard balls and kites: if it puts people in danger or jeopardizes safety, “we stop it” and “we don’t fly kites on a beach full of people”.
b. to tent size: “that’s up to you”. Most other towns don’t specify size.
c. to tent placement at the back of the beach: “we would suggest that anyway” and also that they would not be placed where they would obstruct handicapped access.
Mr. Mogardo also suggested handing out the rules with each sticker bought at time of sale, but there was no resolution, other than signage, for notifying those who do not buy a sticker.
Rather than write down every nuance of each rule, the Beach Committee and Department chose to limit the rules and train the lifeguards to use their discretion.
Selectmen Braga said she was not in favor of “hard and fast rules” but rather wanted to allow lifeguards’ discretion. Selectmen Jones said he wants “this to be the beach committee’s decision” because they have “been appointed to make these recommendations” and that the Selectmen should approve the “advice of our advisory committees” and “see how it goes”. He added that people should be respectful of people around them.
Mr. Mogardo said they were open to suggestions for change. They wanted to “strike a balance between peoples’ rights, peoples’ safety and the privilege of having fun”. He added that he receives more complaints about alcohol and dogs after 5:00 than he’s ever heard before. Selectman Moran said the Town Manager would deal with the dog issue as he sees fit. After hours leash laws could become a police matter.
The Selectmen will hear interim reports from the Beach Department and can “tweak” them if necessary during the season.
Watch the meeting on FCTV by scrolling to 0:39:40 through 1:03:15.