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Budget woes: Beach music in winter

It might not feel this way temperature-wise, but it’s not too early to be thinking — or worrying — about the condition of the state beaches along coastal communities from Nahant to Nantasket. Hard-won gains in staffing and beach maintenance are in danger of eroding this summer, according to the Metropolitan Beaches Commission, which was established by the Legislature in 2006 to bring state Department of Conservation and Recreation beaches to their full potential.

Mostly in urban areas, these beaches will never be mistaken for the rolling sand dunes of Cape Cod. But they do bring tens of thousands of beach users each summer to the water’s edge and beyond. Before 2006, a trip to one of the state beaches might be diminished by dirty sand, overflowing trash bins, and poorly maintained bathhouses. But the Legislature and state recreation officials stepped up with more funding after the first Beaches Commission report in 2007. Suddenly, beach activists along the coast could concentrate on adding amenities such as kiosks and kayaks instead of fretting over the absence of basic maintenance schedules.

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More than $4 billion has gone into the successful effort to make Boston Harbor swimmable and fishable. It would be a shame if that investment is undermined this summer by a failure to hire a beach supervisor or secure enough sand sanitizers. But that’s the possible outcome of another year of flat budgetary support for the state beaches, according to the Beach Commission.

About 200 people from nine coastal communities in the metro area gathered last weekend at UMass Boston to present their wish lists for the coming summer. Revere residents want better beach access for elderly and disabled beachgoers. East Boston residents want boat rentals. South Boston beachgoers want closer monitoring of public drinking and better communication with the State Police. But what they all want — and deserve — are assurances that the beaches won’t slip back to their shoddy pre-2006 conditions.

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