Downsized Wing Island Boardwalk Proposed; Select Board Responds To Opposition

By: Bronwen Walsh

Topics: Conservation

Horsley Witten Group is developing two alternate concept designs for the proposed Wing Island Boardwalk. One would connect the island with Drummer Boy Park. The other would provide an ADA-accessible path to Wing Island from Route 6A. FILE PHOTO

BREWSTER – Having reviewed more than 150 written public comments – 60 percent of them opposed – the select board on Monday endorsed downsizing the scope of the proposed Wing Island Boardwalk project to one with as minimal an environmental footprint as possible.

“Residents said they wanted better access to Wing Island,” said Select Board member Mary Chaffee. “Right now, it’s not easily accessible to the public. I support this project,” including a Y-shaped design that includes a connection to Drummer Boy Park. “I think that we can move forward in a very thoughtful way.”

Acting Chairman Ned Chatelain concurred with Chaffee, saying, “This is public land. Access at this time, however charming, is inadequate. Access from Drummer Boy Park is important. I would like to see (the boardwalk) height and width reduced.”

Select Board member Carrie Hoffmann urged making the boardwalk “as invisible as possible,” because “the vistas are very, very important to folks.”

An initial concept design called for 12-foot-wide sections of elevated boardwalk sited seven feet above the marsh and 10 feet above Cedar Ridge to guard against sea level rise.

But public comment submitted last month was 60 percent opposed to that initial design, Town Administrator Peter Lombardi said, primarily due the potential environmental impacts to the marsh and island. Twenty-five percent supported the initial design while 15 percent provided comments but expressed no strong opinion either way.

Climate change, sea level rise and storm surge are happening, Lombardi said, “and we need to be cognizant of that in our planning. The current path is narrow, and the uneven plank design has led to some negative impact on the marsh itself.”

The board recommended planning for a six-foot-wide boardwalk to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards and age-friendly community goals, and siting the boardwalk nine feet above Cedar Ridge and five feet above Wing Island, where the town plans to seek a permanent conservation restriction, Lombardi said.

Meanwhile, Horsley Witten Group is doing a carrying capacity analysis to gauge potential overuse, Lombardi said, and the project ultimately will involve the oversight and input of six regulatory agencies. Overall cost remains unknown at this stage, he added.

Project engineers have developed two scaled-back concept plans that will be presented at a second public forum later this fall, likely in late October or early November. Permitting will not proceed further until after the next public forum, Lombardi said.

“We have some work to do between now and then,” he said. “This is a major project, and I’d rather give it the time that it needs. We take our outreach really seriously here in Brewster.”

Board member Cynthia Bingham recommended scheduling the next forum no later than the first week of November. Hoffmann suggested waiting until after the Nov. 14 fall town meeting. Date and format have not yet been determined. The Select Board is scheduled to meet again Monday, Oct. 3.