Hopefully by writing and discussing we can come up with creative solutions to problems that have been plaguing the City for a number of years.
In 2016, myself and a group of volunteers began working toward creating a safer habitat for nesting Piping Plovers at Good Harbor Beach. As a community working together we have made great strides, including changing the ordinance to ban pets on the beach beginning April 1st, rather than May 1st. This action has proved to be not only instrumental in helping to minimize disruptions to nesting Plovers, but our dunes are improving in part because of the symbolically roped off area, which helps keep dogs out of the dunes and has allowed stabilizing vegetation to regrow. We are proud to work with, and proud of the work done by, Gloucester’s Department of Public Works in roping off nesting areas in a timely manner.
The biggest hurdle we have yet to overcome at Good Harbor Beach is adequate enforcement of people breaking the laws, whether it’s consuming vast amounts of alcohol, openly using the dunes to relieve themselves, or people running through and disrupting roped off federally protected nesting areas that are in place to protect threatened and endangered nesting birds. Each year we watch thousands and thousands of people come to Good Harbor Beach on warm spring weekend days and holidays. Not a penny of revenue is collected. Year after year we are told that there is not enough money to support enforcement on the beach towards law-breaking teens drinking themselves to oblivion, yet year after year we see potential money collected squandered. We wonder exactly how much additional revenue it would cost for two officers to walk the beach several times a day during peak drinking hours.
This past weekend and last weekend there were large groups of anywhere from 50 to several hundred kids in each group of teens on the beach. Quite literally, thousands of intoxicated kids. We see how much they are drinking because only a very few pick up their trash. We pick up their piles of nips, sweet ciders, beer cans, and gallon-sized bottles of hard liquor. Watching teens from out of town drink themselves into oblivion is not entertaining. It’s frightening, imagining them driving on Rt. 128 to return home. A serious car accident occurred on Saturday afternoon with teens leaving the Good Harbor Beach parking lot, after a day of collective alcohol and marijuana consumption.
The lack of enforcement creates a chain reaction of problems. Massive alcohol consumption causes the teens to have to urinate frequently. The lines are long at the bathrooms, if they are even open. The kids invariably begin using the dunes to relieve themselves, both to urinate and to defecate. For the past several summers the Creek has been closed to swimmers because of an unknown source of fecal contamination.
Photo courtesy of Jill Ortiz
Traditionally, the parking lot at GHB did not officially open to collect revenue until Memorial Day weekend but the year is 2022, not 1972. There is 7 percent more moisture in the air than there was only fifty years ago. Because of global climate change we are seeing an increase in warm weather days earlier in the season. When these days land on a weekend or holiday during the spring we can expect to see droves and droves of people. We absolutely love to see people enjoying Good Harbor Beach. What we find very troubling is large groups of people trashing the beach. When these warm days land when high school seniors are nearing graduation we can expect to see huge gatherings of out of town kids with zero respect for our beloved Good Harbor Beach. The missed revenue collected in April and May could most assuredly be used to pay for a special police detail or beach ranger to control the dangerous underage substance abuse taking place at Good Harbor Beach.
The mountains of trash left behind by the large groups of teens drinking openly on the beach is simply astounding. The garbage sits overnight until the DPW can get to it the following morning. But the problem is the garbage does not exactly stay stationary. The plastic is blown into the marsh, washed into the ocean, and covers our beach. Some mornings when I arrive before the DPW has been there to clean, the entire beach shimmers and sparkles, not in gold, but in plastic refuse backlit by the morning sun and left in the sand. We monitors do our fair share of beach clean up but it’s disheartening to see such huge quantities of garbage left behind by young persons. It’s all well and good to have a Carry In Carry Out policy but if no one is enforcing, then CICO isn’t really a policy but a free for all.
Most Massachusetts beaches have trash and recycling barrels. My good friend has a sister who lives on the beach in North Carolina with a CICO policy. But the difference is that once a week an officer comes to the beach and tickets litterbugs. The weekly ticketing gets everyone back on track to remember to carry out.
This past weekend of May 21st to 22nd was truly the worst we have ever seen, especially Saturday. Sunday was an improvement because the majority of beachgoers were families. However, because I decided to station all Ambassadors at #3 to protect the eggs there, we could not also monitor federally protected area #1 where we also have a pair actively creating nest scrapes. Unfortunately, without an Ambassador stationed at #1, we had groups of beachgoers actually recreating in the nesting area at #1. This is against federal and state laws and puts Good Harbor in serious jeopardy of closing down the beach. Isn’t it better to allocate some funds for a police or ranger detail as it is needed rather than risk shutting down Gloucester’s most beloved beach?
Photos courtesy of Duncan Todd of multitude of tracks in nesting areas #1 and #2, May 22, 2022
We would be very interested to learn the community’s opinion on better beach enforcement. How was it at Wingaersheek Beach this weekend? Did you have the same parking bottleneck, damaged vehicles, teen drinking, and trash issues as occurred at Good Harbor Beach? Any suggestions on how to prevent debacles as was the past weekend would be tremendously appreciated. Thank you.
Tracks in #3, despite three Ambassadors present, it became a game for the teens to try to get past us to use the dunes to urinate.