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Sandwich Residents Asked to Weigh In on Redesign for Iconic Boardwalk

Samantha Fields

Sandwich residents say they’re hoping the town’s plans to replace the Sandwich Boardwalk will still preserve its historic character.

Last night, several dozen residents gave the Select Board their input at Town Hall — where officials hosted a poster session, allowing residents to examine mock-ups, feel three sections of railing, and ask questions of the engineering consultants and town officials. The Select Board asked for feedback on three major design elements: the boardwalk’s overall height, the angle of the arch, and the materials used on the side rails.

It’s part of an effort to make the structure more resilient against storms, and accessible to those with disabilities, which Lisa Judelson, who is completely blind, said she appreciates.

“Walking with my guide dog— I feel safe with him because he won’t walk himself off the edge. But when I’m using my cane, it does not feel safe. I don’t walk straight. I veer left, and there’s not even a lip to give you an indication you’re going off the edge,” she said. “Never mind anticipating someone coming from the other direction. And [even] when I could see it was daunting with my children.”

Ron Held of East Sandwich said he could empathize; he said he’d prefer to see as little structure as possible — just seeing the marsh and the creek — but making the structure more accessible is essential.

“It would be nice if it could remain the way it was, just a flat platform, but with the condition of the old one and the new building codes for people with disabilities and accessibility issues,” he said, “I guess it’s just gotta change.”

The current boardwalk must be demolished and replaced, the town and its engineering consultants said, because the existing structure has been too badly damaged by storms to be repaired.

Held, a 43-year Sandwich resident added that he didn’t like the look of wooden side-rails, but it seemed like the best option compared to galvanized steel mesh — that look like a grid — and flexible steel cables that run horizontally.

“[The cables] seem to be able to be spread apart or more hazardous to a kid that wants to make a challenged out of it. The galvanized material — with the squares — that’s gonna try to rust out much more quickly than stainless steel,” he said. “So it kind of leaves us with the wood.” 

Taxpayers also weighed in on whether the height of the new boardwalk should be 10.5 feet with an arch of 12 feet, or whether the new structure should be elevated to 12 feet with an arch reaching 13.5 feet, as the engineers have advised.

But many of the 50-odd-residents in attendance said the entire redesign strayed too far from the iconic structure that stands today.

“The whole experience is you sit on the sides, families sit, you crab,” said Michele Pola. “When kids are learning to jump off the higher part, they start at the lower part,” she said. “That’s not going to be an option. So it’s nothing towards the experience close to what it is today.”  

Her sister, Andrea Pola, agreed.

“It’s a beautiful structure and we’re going to be sorry to see it go,” Andrea Pola said. 

More comments can be sent to boardwalkdesign@sandwichmass.org until Sept. 13. The selectmen will consider the public comments before presenting redesign preferences to the Sandwich Historic District Committee on September 22, where the members could vote to accept or reject the town’s proposed design.

Eve Zuckoff covers the environment and human impacts of climate change for CAI.