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At Metropolitan Beaches Commission meeting locals praise Dorchester's beaches

Posted by Patrick Rosso  September 26, 2013 04:34 PM

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(Patrick D. Rosso/

Swimmers headed into the waters of Tenean Beach during the annual Brian Leahy Memorial Polar Bear Plunge.

Dorchester residents praised their neighborhood's waterfront, from Tenean Beach to Savin Hill Cove, at a Wednesday meeting of the Metropolitan Beaches Commission, but they also saw room for improvement.

Formed in 2006 by the Massachusetts Legislature and made up of non-profit leaders, residents, and elected officials, the commission evaluates and critiques Department of Conservation and Recreation managed beaches from Nahant to Nantasket. It released its first report in 2007 and is now working on a follow-up, which will provide recommendations for ways to improve the recreation areas.

The 2007 report analyzed conditions at the Malibu/Savin Hill and Tenean Beaches, and concluded that the beaches are important community gathering places, that they are getting cleaner, and that they are easily accessible from public transportation.

The 2007 report, however, found that there were issues with contamination after storms, maintenance of existing facilities was lacking, and there was a need for better police enforcement.

Many at Wednesday’s meeting said the beaches have been improving, but that there are still concerns about water quality, safety, and facilities.

The Save the Harbor Save the Bay 2013 Beaches Report Card found Malibu Beach in the middle of the pack when it came to overall water safety in 2012.

“[In Savin Hill] we have two beaches that have fairly good water quality and have made a remarkable improvement,” Bruce Berman, a spokesperson for Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, told the audience at Wednesday’s meeting.

Tenean Beach in Port Norfolk, however, has continued to struggle with poor water quality and had the lowest score of the 13 beaches on the report card.

“Tenean in not quite as optimistic of a story,” said Berman. “It was rainy this year and as a consequence most of the beaches didn’t do well.”

Aside from water quality and maintenance, increasing the use of the beaches was at the top of the list for many.

“With our festivals we increased awareness of the beaches and saw a direct increase in use,” said Maureen McQuillen, a Dorchester resident. “We need additional funding in the DCR budget to increase participation at beaches; it keeps out bad elements.”

McQuillen also highlighted Morrissey Boulevard, which runs next to Malibu Beach and has been a headache for bicyclists, cars, and pedestrians.

“The sidewalks are all broken up and it is not safe,” McQuillen added.

Over the years there have been several discussions about the state of the roadway, which often floods, but funding has kept projects from moving forward.

Over at Tenean Beach, Mary McCarthy, the president of the Port Norfolk Neighborhood Association, said the beach is a community gem, but needs public bathrooms.

“The new courts are looking beautiful and the overall beach area seems to get maintenance, but I know for us the main issue in getting a bathroom facility,” she said.

Although there is not an immediate plan in place for restroom facilities at the beach, the commission reported that DCR has developed a design for bathrooms at the beach, but hasn’t move forward with the project.

Others in attendance also highlighted a number of issues at the neighborhood’s beaches including the need for more trash receptacles and signage, more marketing of the beaches, and dredging off of Malibu Beach.

A draft report will be created by the commission and it is expected to be presented to the community in the winter. A final report, which will take into account comments received at the winter meeting, is expected to be release by the spring of 2014.

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