The state’s recently unveiled vision for Nantasket Beach’s future is lovely — with an expanded boardwalk, fountain, bike paths, and shaded benches — but could be lethal to the historic Paragon Carousel and does little to revive Hull’s struggling business district, local officials and business owners said.
Of particular concern to the nonprofit group that owns and runs the carousel is a proposal in the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s master plan to find alternative uses for the adjacent state-owned clock tower building.
The Friends of the Paragon Carousel currently lease the building and use it for offices, a museum, a restoration studio, souvenir and ice cream shops, and storage.
“The Clock Tower Building is a critical need in the continuing operation of the Paragon Carousel,” Marie Schleiff, president of the group’s board of directors, wrote to the state agency in October. The carousel “would cease its current operation without the revenue and space provided by this essential building.”
Schleiff said the 86-year-old carousel – the last remnant of the Paragon Park amusement park that closed in the mid-1980s — attracted about 100,000 visitors this year. Community organizing saved the carousel, and the Friends have been restoring its 66 carved horses and two Roman chariots since 1995.
“In addition to the carousel’s significant emotional and historic appeal, it continues to have an economic impact on the town of Hull. It can and should be considered the center of revitalization,” Schleiff wrote.
DCR project manager Mike Galvin said his agency “definitely supports the carousel” and would take Schleiff’s comments into account.
“One of the things we’ve got to figure out is how to maintain the clock tower building,” he said. Whether “that huge building is the place for [the Friends group], that’s for others to decide. Our main goal is to make [Nantasket Beach] as inviting as possible and maintain whatever we have or build there.”
Galvin also responded to complaints from local officials and the Hull Nantasket Chamber of Commerce that the master plan focused on the waterfront area, and didn’t incorporate plans for revitalizing the nearby commercial district. He said the master plan’s proposals for a wider boardwalk, added landscaping, and separate bike lanes would “help extend the season down there” and bring more visitors.
“Right now, you go down to Nantasket when it’s a hot summer day,” he said, but with the new amenities “you might go down and walk along the promenade or ride your bike on a cooler day.”
Hull Town Manager Philip Lemnios said he was disappointed that the master plan kept parking next to the waterfront, instead of moving it away to make space for more beachside activity throughout the year.
“All we’re asking for is some imagination,” Lemnios said. “If we were starting this park today, no planner would put parking abutting the beach.”
Galvin said his agency was “always looking at parking down there. But parking provides revenue for maintenance, so we’ll have to balance all those pieces in the final plan.”
He said the agency started working on the Nantasket master plan in 2006, pausing in 2009 when the state’s economy tanked, and resuming the work last year. The agency is accepting comments from the public through Nov. 20, before a final plan is released.
‘I hope people see the improvements and don’t just look at what they don’t like.”
He said the agency has no money for its proposals — estimated at about $70 million, with about half of it to pay for bringing in sand from offshore if the federal government approves the idea – but would use the plan document to argue for funding.
“I hope people see the improvements and don’t just look at what they don’t like,” Galvin said. “The more support we have for even pieces of the plan, the more we can improve the reservation.”
Patricia Abbate, president of the Hull Nantasket Chamber of Commerce, said despite concerns, the business community was “very happy this is happening. But we consider it a starting point.”Johanna Seltz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.