Boulders at the 3rd Road entrance to Sunrise Beach in Marshfield make walking onto the beach dangerous, nearby residents say, and the problem has grown worse as wave action exposes more rock.
“Believe me, it’s treacherous,” said 78-year-old Aaron Levy, whose daughter has slipped on the rocks.
The road dead-ends at the ocean, and a concrete stairway serves as one of several access points on odd-numbered streets to the town-operated beach, serving perhaps 100 surrounding households in the Ocean Bluff area, according to his son, Elli Levy.
When beachgoers reach the bottom of the stairs, they meet an array of rocks and boulders they must cross to get to the sand. Some of the boulders have flat tops, but they sit at different heights and angles, with smaller rocks in between, creating an uneven surface.
There is “absolutely, no way, whatsoever” to walk around them, Elli Levy said.
“I’ve slipped twice on the rocks so far,” said Stella Cohen, Aaron Levy’s daughter. Her ankle is bruised and swollen, she said. “It’s pervasive. It’s not just the seniors; it’s everyone.”
The family has spent summers at the house for more than 60 years.
Their neighbor, Joe Lynch, who lives on the corner of 3rd Road and Ocean Street, agreed. In his 50-plus years spending summers at the house, he said, access was never this difficult until workers placed boulders on the beach when they rebuilt the sea wall a number of years ago.
“That beach access is a disgrace,” he said.
Elli Levy blamed lack of maintenance by the town of Marshfield. Other towns do things to control erosion, such as build jetties and add sand, he said, but Marshfield “does not want to do anything to reverse the trend.”
“My point of view is the town is more concerned with growing a year-round community and growing business,” he said.
From the town’s point of view, the issue is money. Thomas Reynolds, superintendent of public works, said he receives only a fraction of what he requests from Town Meeting to repair sea walls, and at a cost of $3,500 per linear foot, the money goes fast.
The rocks were placed on the beach for a reason, he said. Called armor stone, they protect the base of the sea wall from powerful waves that might otherwise pull sand from beneath it and cause a collapse.
If the town had money to work on the sea wall, it would also build landings at the bottom of the stairs to provide easier beach access, Reynolds said.
“I know there’s an inconvenience down there,” he said.
Town Administrator Rocco Longo said Marshfield raises in the neighborhood of $300,000 a year from its “very, very low” beach sticker and parking fees to go toward beach work. Some towns, like Duxbury, where Longo formerly served as administrator, raise well over $1 million, he said, though they may include other water-
related revenue, such as fees for shellfishing licenses and moorings.
Longo, Reynolds, the town treasurer, and others have been talking informally about how to raise more money for work on the beaches.
Residents said the problem at Sunrise Beach should not be expensive to fix. All it needs is a backhoe and an hour’s time to move some of the boulders and create a path, Lynch said. Most of the erosion-blocking boulders could be left in place.
That is easier said than done, the town administrator said. It would require a permit from the Conservation Commission, plus time and the right equipment, which he is not sure the town has.
“We can’t possibly make access to everybody that abuts the beach,” he said.
But Aaron Levy was not satisfied. “They can do it if they want to,” he said.
According to Longo, private property owners may own some of the land in question, if not at 3rd Road, then elsewhere, adding another wrinkle to the problem. He said waterfront property rights are one of the most complex issues he has encountered in local government.