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Task Force members present: Susan Murphy, Planning Board; Tom Foley, Trustees of the Hingham Bathing Beach; Ben Wilcox, HDIC; Nick Amdur, Aland Perrault and Dave Beal, Harbor Development Committee; John Riley, Board of Selectmen; Ken Corson, Acting Harbormaster; Cliff Prentiss; Conservation Agent. M.J. Shultz, Tom Patch, and Dana Baxter were also present.
The meeting adjourned at 6:00 PM at the Hingham Bathing Beach.
Ms. Murphy explained that the purpose of the meeting was to conduct a site visit and provide an open exchange of information relative to the Harbor Planning effort.
The group toured the bath house which serves the Bathing Beach. Trustee Tom Foley reported that the bath house was open approximately 2.5 hours on either side of high tide. Trustees are in agreement that the Bath house either needs replacing or “sprucing up” to present a more appealing appearance. The Bath House includes a men’s and women’s bathroom, each with two toilet stalls and one shower. The bathhouse is served by a septic system which seemed to be working fine, but Mr. Foley did not know when it had last been emptied or tested. Ben Wilcox noted that there was a stub in the sewer line under Route 3A should there be a desire to hook into Town sewer in the future. Ms. Murphy noted that this public restroom would be an ideal candidate for the fixture replacement program offered by Aquarion Water Company as a way for private developers to meet the requirement for a Water Balance plan.
The group discussed the fact that the 2007 Harbor Plan called for a 4’ boardwalk to better separates the edge of the sandy beach from the paved parking lot. Mr. Foley noted that the Trustees were opposed to the boardwalk concept because the edge of the parking lot was regularly undermined. That said, he agreed that it would be good to create some sort of separation between the beach and the parking lot, perhaps with a different kind of paving, bollards or even just a painted edge of the parking area. Alan Perrault asked whether there was a need for more benches for the grassy area under the trees. Ben Wilcox noted that in Hingham Square these benches are donated by residents.
Landscaping, mowing and trash removal at the Bathing Beach is done by the DPW. Mr. Foley also noted that the split rail fence along the beach’s western edge was maintained by the Congregational Church.
There was a brief discussion about whether additional barrels should be supplied, or if they would be abused by people dumping domestic trash. There was a preference expressed for the kind of barrels with a smaller opening so as not to accommodate large trash bags.
The group discussed the Farmer’s Market use of the site on Saturdays. Some felt that the market had gotten too big and should perhaps be relocated to another area. Others felt that this was the ideal location for the market. There was a discussion about whether the use was, in fact, permitted under zoning and the terms of the Trust, and if not, whether the Trust Documents and zoning should be modified to reflect this use.
Harbor (“Horse”) Beach and Boat Launch
The group proceeded to the beach area located between the Iron Horse Park and Bathing Beach. The Beach in this location is not served by a lifeguard. The associated parking lot serves residents accessing the approximately 195 boats moored in the inner harbor, as well as other visitors to the Iron Horse Park, the Town Pier and Boat Launch. The lot includes twenty nine, 50’ by 12’ car and trailer combination spaces located on the southern side of the lot closest to Route 3A. Vehicles with car-top mounted kayaks and small boats also use this parking lot, frequently parking in the spots closest to the shore to facilitate water access.
Mr. Riley identified this beach area as one of four possible alternative locations as a site for some sort of Town-owned restaurant and/or marina facility. He noted that this site could gain access to the Town Sewer under Route 3A via a gravity feed. He explained that, with the goal of economic development for the Town, it was his goal to create some sort of revenue-generating facility on the Harbor. He reassured the group that it could be done tastefully, and in such a way that the residents would appreciate.
At the Boat Launch, Ken Corson noted that the ramp itself was in pretty good shape. He went on to explain that the Town’s 2004 Agreement with the Department of Fish and Game requires that the Town provide 33 dedicated trailer parking spaces in the Harbor Parking Lot and ten additional trailer spaces which could be located off-site in exchange for the agency’s commitment to maintain and eventually rebuild the boat ramp. While the specific location of the 33 spaces does not matter (though it must be in close proximity to the ramp), these spaces cannot be used for any other than recreational purposes. Use of the launch is free and open to the public, though commercial boat haulers get charged a $400 annual fee for using the ramp.
No swimming is allowed at the beach area around the boat ramp.
While the group was at the Boat Launch area Cliff Prentiss pointed out that the beach area immediately adjacent had recently been planted with 300 plants to stabilize ongoing erosion of the adjacent beach onto the paved launch area. Due to the heavy rain, the bank stabilization planting had taken off and seemed very well established.
Mr. Riley identified the area directly out into the Harbor from the Iron Horse Park as another potential location for some sort of Town-owned restaurant and/or marina.
At the Town Pier, Ken Corson explained that there were approximately 200 boats moored in the Harbor. The exact number is not clear because some people pay for the mooring permit but do not install the boat. Additionally, there are six rental mooring available for visitors who want to tie up and visit downtown. Fees from the rental mooring, along with the fees from the commercial boat haulers total about $4000 per year and go to the General Fund.
The Town Dock is used by the two Town launch services who shuttle boaters out to their boats. Boaters were also allowed to tie up for no fee for up to 30 minutes to pick up riders or equipment. Mr. Amdur noted that the Harbor Development Committee is very interested in creating a dinghy dock at the Town Pier with a pump-out station. Ken Corson also expressed interest in the addition of new dinghy docks, and noted that repairs to the existing docks and the addition of such dinghy docks was scheduled for 2011.
Ken also noted that Coastal Zone management was investigating placing a pumping station at the Town landing. The group discussed the possibility of linking the Town Pier to Whitney Wharf as envisioned in the bridge project approved by the CPC several years ago, or creating a bridge at another location to better link the two areas.
3 Otis Street
Mr. Bonn, the owner of 3 Otis Street, joined the group at this location. The group discussed the fact that it was common understanding that a public access walkway be made available around the perimeter of the 3 Otis Property. Ben Wilcox noted that his understanding was that the public access was limited to a strip adjacent to the bulkhead. Mr. Bonn noted that he did not feel that the existing condition of the walkway was safe for public access, and he noted that he was hoping to create a wooden boardwalk around the property if public access were required.
Mr. Amdur pointed out that 3 Otis held a very strategic location in the Harbor, as it was at the very center. He felt that the building could be successfully used for a variety of purposes including a store, snack-bar or to provide public restrooms.
Mr. Bonn noted that the building itself was of little value in light of the parking restrictions. He expressed hope that he could work collaboratively with the Town to provide public bathrooms, or a Harbormaster’s Office in exchange for additional use of the Town parking area. He also noted that he wanted to improve the appearance of the building.
North Street Intersection
Ben Wilcox noted that the HDIC had identified the eastern terminus of North Street as a critical point of connection between the downtown and the Harbor. He described the Cecil Group’s schematic plan to tighten up the intersection by eliminating the right turn lane leading south on 3A and expanding and size of the island. Mr. Riley noted that, as part of the proposed improvements at the Hingham Rotary they were proposing some sort of fly-over pedestrian bridge over Route 3A linking Town-owned land adjacent to the bank to Whitney Wharf.
The group discussed the “choke-point” created by the very narrow sidewalk linking 3 Otis to Whitney Wharf. Nick Amdur provided a summary of the various options that had been considered to link the Town Pier and 3 Otis to Whitney Wharf in a safer and more pedestrian friendly manner. Ben Wilcox mentioned a pre-cast bridge structure that could be used at a significantly lower cost.
Whitney Wharf and Mobile Station
. Mr. Riley identified Whitney Wharf or the Mobile Station as two promising alternative locations for some sort of restaurant or Town Facility. He went on to express the opinion that Whitney Wharf was not very well used by the public. He pointed out that the park use could be transferred to the newly acquired Mobile Station or even to Steamboat Wharf. He acknowledged that due to the preservation restriction put in place through the use of CPA funds this change of use would not currently be permitted, but he felt it was still worth exploring. He noted that at this location and the site of the Mobile Station it would not be physically possible at this time to construct a marina due to the fact that they would be blocked by the slips associated with 3 Otis Street.
In terms of the Mobile Station, Mr. Riley noted that the Town was planning on leveling, loaming and seeding the lot, and were also hoping to take down the trees along the western boundary of the site to open up the views. Like Whitney Wharf, the Mobile Station is also subject to use restrictions put in place through the use of CPC funds to purchase it.
Lincoln Sailing Center and Steamboat Wharf
At the Lincoln Sailing Center the group was met by Ellen Dresser, Executive Director, who described the center’s use and operations. She also noted that 2010 was the Sailing Center’s 40th anniversary, and various events were planned. The Task Force noted that there should be a sign indicating that the site is open to the public. The group discussed the Center’s lease agreement with the Town, and the Center’s plans to expand onto Steamboat Wharf. Recently the LSC received all necessary permits to relocate all rowing operations to Steamboat Wharf, but at this point these plans are on hold.
The group toured Steamboat Wharf. This area is used regularly by fisherman and for passive recreation.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:00 PM.
The next Harbor Task Force Meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 13 at 7:00 PM at Town Hall.