Tri-Town Beach Commission gets rolling on possible 2022 opening

  • The Tri-Town Beach in Whately, pictured in the summer of 2020, was closed that year due to pandemic regulations and remained closed through 2021 due to the deteriorating state of the park. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 1/24/2022 9:12:07 AM
Modified: 1/24/2022 9:10:50 AM

WHATELY — The Tri-Town Beach Commission met last week to begin planning for the first possible swimming season in two years.

After being closed in 2020 due to pandemic regulations and remaining closed through 2021 due to the deteriorating state of the park, the commission took its first steps to working out a plan to prepare the swimming area for 2022 and beyond.

“If we’re going to open, it needs to look better than it did the last few years,” said Whately Select Board Chairman and Tri-Town Beach Commissioner Jonathan Edwards. “It needs to be a place that people really want to show up and enjoy, and people aren’t like, ‘Eh, it’s just Tri-Town.’”

Deerfield Commissioner Ked Cuddeback said the commissioners also need to figure out what is needed financially to open the beach.

“We need to get a clear handle on a couple of things. I agree that we need to get the place spruced up and cleaned up,” Cuddeback said. “We haven’t got a lot of time going into budget season here to make some decisions.”

Edwards said there is approximately $4,000 in bank accounts tied to the Tri-Town Beach, plus $17,000 appropriated by Deerfield and Whately voters at Town Meetings.

Edwards highlighted park aesthetics and adaptation around dwarf bulrush plants, which are designated by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife as a threatened species, according to a MassWildlife pamphlet.

Cuddeback recalled the last time he was at the beach in 2019, he saw lifeguards removing all sorts of vegetation from the water.

“I can’t imagine that is a terribly attractive swimming experience,” Cuddeback said.

Likewise, Edwards said he’s heard aesthetics and overwhelming vegetation of the beach are why many people have avoided it in the past, and should be the main focus when considering how to draw people back.

“A large concentration of people that I speak with, that’s why they don’t use it,” Edwards noted. “Please don’t take this as an indictment on what has happened in the past. My goal is to have increased use, not static use.”

To begin adapting to the abundance of dwarf bulrush plants, Cuddeback and Edwards said a plan will need to be presented to Natural Heritage, a branch of MassWildlife, before any action can be taken. A plan, however, will require a survey that can only be done when the plants bloom in May, which could hamper opening plans for the summer.

“If you are to find a spot where you could replant, for lack of a better term, the dwarf bulrush so you could maintain the actual beach area,” Edwards said, “Natural Heritage will want to see a plan and respond to the plan. If we tee it up ahead of time, we’ll save some dollars.”

Cuddeback noted the survey is going to cost up to $20,000 to get the process started and the Tri-Town Beach Commission may need to ask for more money from towns at either special or annual Town Meetings.

“I think the survey needs to be started in a May-June timeline,” Cuddeback said. “We need to alert the towns that those types of resources are going to be necessary to have Tri-Town Beach be a viable community resource.”

Edwards suggested the commissioners put their “feelers out to the two finance committees” and gauge interest in rehabilitating the beach.

“It’s essentially going to double the budget without any expenditures,” Edwards said. “I feel comfortable spending that money on this type of management plan.”

The commission plans to meet on a weekly basis for the near future as a sense of urgency kicks in to get the beach ready for residents in the summer. The next meeting will be held remotely on Thursday, Jan. 27, at 5 p.m.

“From my perspective, it’s imperative we get the work done this summer,” Cuddeback said. “Otherwise, we’re going to be treading water, quite literally.”


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