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Kayaking, paddle-boarding prohibited at Scituate beaches

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  July 17, 2013 04:05 PM

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Beach fun can mean a variety of things, from sunbathing, to sand sculpting, to swimming among the waves. But in Scituate, paddle-boarding, surfing, and kayaking don’t make the list.

In a web blast on the town’s website on Tuesday, officials reminded residents of a bylaw prohibiting many types of water recreation within 200 yards of a town beach.

Town officials contacted Wednesday didn’t know the specific reasons behind the law, but said it’s probably on the books for a reason.

“I don’t know who crafted the bylaw. They have to be voted at Town Meeting, I don’t know what the discussion was,” said Harbormaster Mark Patterson. “[It was probably] something that arose because [of an event]. Like most rules and regulations, the primary reason is to promote safety and order. It was probably around those lines.”

Patterson said he didn’t know when the bylaw had been enacted, but that it had been on the books for at least the seven years he had been a harbormaster.

The restriction lasts from June 10 through Sept. 10. Restricted activities include kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, surfing, and the use of “any such similar device” on a town beach.

For some residents, the vagueness of the rules was disconcerting.

“Here's where I take issue with the notice the town sent out yesterday -- it says ‘surfboards and similar devices on beaches under the control of the town of Scituate is prohibited from June 10th to Sept. 10th.’ What qualifies as an 'other device'? Can my 4-year-old have a boogie board?” Patrick Connaughton asked in a Facebook post.

While some in the harbormaster’s office said boogie boards and skim boards would qualify, Patterson said he sees the bylaw less for toys and more for adult forms of water sport.

“The lifeguards guard the beaches, and I don’t know what they tell people,” Patterson said, noting lifeguards are they ones who enforce the beach law. “We don’t typically get calls for people on boogie boards or floatation devices. Mostly it’s paddle boarders, canoes, or kayaks.”

Patterson said the announcement was merely to remind people of the rules, and wasn't prompted by any particular problem.

“We have a lot of paddle boarders and kayakers, and with the growing popularity, we want people to be aware of the rules and regulation,” he said.

Selectman Tony Vegnani didn’t know about the bylaw until he, too, received the web blast. Recreation Director Jennifer Vitelli, who also oversees the bylaw’s implementation, was not available for comment.

Those who enjoy such water activities, shouldn’t despair entirely, Patterson said.

“It’s not allowed from the beaches, but it is allowed from other parts in the town,” he said.

The bylaw would not have made a difference for two kayakers stranded in the water in early June after their boat tipped over in the waters off Minot. However laws requiring lifejacket usage did have an impact.

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- No person shall use any of the bridges within the town for the purpose of diving, nor shall any person swim in the waters or channels in the vicinity of such bridges. Any person violating this section shall be liable to a fine of twenty dollars for each offense.

- No person in a nude state shall bathe or swim in a public place in the town. Any person violating this section shall be liable to a fine of twenty dollars for each offense.

- State law prohibits boats of any type from operating within 150 feet of any beach. From 150 feet to 300 feet out vessels may only travel at “headway Speed” which is the slowest speed a vessel can travel and still maintain control.

- Boaters in Scituate, including paddle boarders and kayakers, need also remember that there must be one life jacket on board for each person and that children 12 years old and younger are required to wear their life jackets at all times they are on board.

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