Degradation, Overuse A Concern At Kent’s Point; Residents Urge Collaboration With Town Toward A Solution

by Ryan Bray
Devon Puglia speaks to the Orleans Select Board Jan. 31 about problems at Kent’s Point brought on by overuse of the area, particularly from non-residents.  RYAN BRAY PHOTO Devon Puglia speaks to the Orleans Select Board Jan. 31 about problems at Kent’s Point brought on by overuse of the area, particularly from non-residents. RYAN BRAY PHOTO

ORLEANS – There are few spots in Orleans better for walking, taking the dogs out and catching a glimpse of Pleasant Bay than Kent’s Point. But for residents in the area, that’s also become part of the problem.

Residents and neighbors to Kent’s Point told the select board last week that the popular recreation area has become degraded from overuse in recent years. There are also traffic problems and other public safety issues, they said.

“Our message to you is very simple. This is a special piece of land, one that needs to be respected and protected,” Devon Puglia, a resident of Keziahs Lane, told the select board during the public comment segment at the Jan. 31 meeting.

Those who spoke implored the select board and the town’s conservation commission to work with them toward a solution to the problem. That could include restricting access to the point to vehicles with valid town beach stickers and curbing the time in which dogs can be let off leash.

At almost 28 acres, Kent Point was acquired by the town as conservation land in 1988. The area includes 1.5 miles of trails and more than a mile of undeveloped shoreline with views of Pleasant Bay, Lonnie’s Pond and Frost Fish Creek. The parking area is accessed via Frost Fish Lane.

Carol Counihan, vice president of the Friends of Lonnie’s Pond Association and a resident of Herring Brook Way, called Kent’s Point “a jewel amongst Orleans’ conservation properties.”

“Where else in town can you walk acres of woods surrounded by a mile of shorefront with incredible views? It’s a truly amazing property,” she said.

But she also cited concerns about the degradation at the point and its overuse by visitors, including increased number of “rogue trails,” erosion and impacts to wildlife.

Mary Ellen McAndrews, meanwhile, raised issues with the impacts brought on by increased traffic along Keziahs Lane, a private way which is used as an access road to the point. She said many motorists fail to acknowledge the street’s 10-mile-per-hour speed limit and drive both ways despite it being a one-way street.

McAndrews said she and other residents near the point conducted a car count from Oct. 16 to 23 during which 156 vehicles were found at the point parking lot. But less than half of those vehicles, 56, had valid town beach stickers, she said.

Neighbors also counted the number of disposable waste bags, or “mutt mitts,” that were taken from a dispenser at the point. McAndrews said 44,000 mutt mitts were taken between October 2022 and October 2023, further demonstrating the area’s use.

McAndrews suggested that access to the point via Keziahs Lane be restricted to residents with valid beach stickers and that a “mechanism” be put in place for enforcing the restriction.

“The bottom line is if the town doesn’t address this issue soon, Kent’s Point is not going to be available for Orleans residents to utilize,” she said. “It’s just become so degraded, and the road, the access point, has become increasingly dangerous. It’s an accident waiting to happen.”

Puglia voiced support for enforcing the parking restrictions, namely by way of fines that could generate revenue for other entities and needs, including schools, solar projects and water quality improvement efforts.

Robin Herr, who has been walking at the point for four decades, also spoke of the “environmental, quality of life and safety” issues that exist. She said there have been injuries and close calls, some due to dogs, in recent years. In June 2021, she suffered a broken leg herself after a dog ran into her from behind, she told the select board.

“I often ask myself ‘What if this had been a 3- or 4-year-old?’”

Some in attendance of the Jan. 31 meeting suggested that limits be placed on when dog owners can let their pets off leash at the point. Ed Hafner said the town could require that dogs be kept on leashes between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

But Michael Cirincione, a resident of Lobster Lane, thought otherwise, saying “let’s not make this about the dogs.”

Cirincione said Kent’s Point offers a “social atmosphere” for dog walkers as well as a place where older residents can meet with others and stay active.

“I understand that you got hurt, and that’s unfortunate,” he said, referencing Herr’s injury. “But we all live in a world today where we can’t just put a bubble around ourselves and walk around and never expect to get hit by a car or get in a car accident. What are we going to do, ban cars next?”

For Puglia, the question is whether the town is willing to let the problem grow or work with residents toward a solution that benefits everyone.

“People are hoping for action, because people are concerned,” he said. “And we’re here to work collaboratively with you and the conservation commission if you all would work with us.”

Kark Oakes, a resident of Heritage Drive, encouraged concerned residents to work together to help hold users and visitors to the point accountable for helping preserve and keep the area safe.

“We can really affect people’s behavior if we have that kind of community,” he said.

Town Manager Kim Newman said as conservation land, the matter rests in the jurisdiction of the conservation commission. The select board endorsed drafting a letter to the commission supporting a collaborative effort between the two bodies to find a solution to the issues at the point.

“I think it sends a good message to the community that we’re listening to them,” said Kevin Galligan of the select board. “I felt the tone and content [from speakers] was very on point.”