Brewster Voters Nix More Spending On Boardwalk

By: Bronwen Walsh

Topics: Conservation , Brewster , Wing Island

Voters endorse special town meeting articles effectively ending any expenditures on the proposed Wing Island boardwalk. BARRY DONAHUE PHOTO


BREWSTER – All three special town meeting articles won “greater than a majority” votes by an overflow-capacity crowd Monday night at Stony Brook Elementary School, effectively ending, for now at least, any further expenditures on a Wing Island boardwalk.

The “yes” vote on Article 1 conveys to the select board a sense of the meeting’s position on the spending of money for the boardwalk, said Town Counsel Lauren Golberg of KP Law. In other words, said petitioner Debra Johnson, “Cease further expenditures for this ill-conceived project.”

The positive vote on Article 2 puts Wing Island under the control of the Brewster Conservation Commission, said John Depuy, a member of the Friends of Wing Island interim steering committee.

“Dedicate Wing Island to conservation and education of the natural world,” Depuy said. “We fully expect the select board will honor that vote.” Select Board Chairman David Whitney and board member Mary Chaffee pledged to include an article to achieve the goals of Article 2 on the annual town meeting warrant this May.

And petitioner Jillian Douglas urged residents to support an alternative to Article 3: forming a new committee to re-examine the Drummer Boy Park Master Plan and report to the May 2024 town meeting. The alternative article was approved.

“The town administration is committed to adhering to the spirit of the articles,” Select Board Vice Chairman Ned Chatelain said.

The votes end, for the present, the controversy over the proposed boardwalk linking the park to town-owned Wing Island. Officials said the current planks used to access the island, which flood at some tides, do not meet access requirements and prevent all residents from enjoying the area. A grassroots group rallied against the initial boardwalk proposal, and after it was unclear whether the proposal would move forward, opponents petitioned for the special town meeting.

Lifelong Brewster resident and former State Representative Tim Whelan spoke in support of the articles, saying the town is “just about maxed out” on its credit card, having recently approved the purchase of the former Sea Camps properties for $26 million, the $138 million Nauset Regional High School debt exclusion, as well as additional money for firefighters.

“If we must spend another $3 million, I beg this town meeting to provide more support for affordable housing for teachers and substitute teachers’ pay,” Whelan said. “Leave Wing Island for the birds and all of God’s creatures that are there” so that it doesn’t end up looking like Grays Beach in Yarmouth, he said.
Johnson called the proposed boardwalk project “extravagant, unnecessary and entirely discretionary.”

“The town has dug itself into a financial hole that it will take decades to get out of,” she said. “Clearly many Brewster residents don’t want this in our scenic town. Leave Drummer Boy Park, Quivett Marsh and Wing Island alone.”

According to the special town meeting warrant, most select board and finance committee members voted against all three special town meeting articles.
“How many people are here!” said Barbara Lowe. “How many people does it take for the town to understand?”

Abigail Archer encouraged residents to continue debate over Drummer Boy Park and Wing Island.

The current access — the boards — are harming the salt marsh,” Archer said. “Parking is impacting private property. As a town, I think we need to keep discussing these issues.”

Salt marshes are among the most important and productive ecosystems on earth, said Carol Marcy. “There are simpler and much less intrusive ways to give disabled access. Leave the wilderness alone!”

Saying she was “distressed to see the town being torn apart,” select board member Kari Hoffmann said one thing everyone agrees on is “we all care.”
“No project is worth this mistrust,” Hoffmann said. “We have a lot of work to do. I hope that eventually as a community we can solve that access to Wing Island issue. Brewster folks are good at this. We are and we have been listening.”