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Boardwalk to Wing Island blocked in landslide Brewster vote

Brewster Government Television
A voter speaks on Article 1 at the special Town Meeting in Brewster to address a proposed boardwalk to Wing Island.

Brewster voters sent a message to the Select Board last night: no boardwalk to Wing Island.

Hundreds of residents turned out for a special Town Meeting to vote on three petition articles filed by boardwalk opponents.

All three passed with overwhelming support.

Voter Lisa Forte-Doyle said she’s never been to Wing Island, but she wants to shield it from tourism.

“Let's save it. Let's leave it be. Let’s protect it,” she said. “The newer Brewster that's developing and building and spending all over the place — it’s going to look like the South Shore of Boston.”

Wing Island is a wooded, upland area surrounded by salt marsh. Right now, planks laid directly on the ground serve as a path to the island to reduce trampling of the marsh.

Supporters of a raised boardwalk say it would allow people with mobility challenges to access Wing Island, and that it would better protect the marsh.

Brewster Government Television
Brewster residents raise their voter cards in favor of Article 1, to stop the planning of a boardwalk to Wing Island.

The island is owned by the town and was Brewster’s first open-space acquisition in the 1960s, according to Town Manager Peter Lombardi.

The three articles asked the town to stop planning and spending money on a boardwalk, to transfer control of the island from the Select Board to the Conservation Commission, and to rescind the Drummer Boy Park master plan, which mentions the boardwalk.

At the meeting, the last article was amended to say the town should revisit — rather than rescind — the master plan.

The articles were non-binding, but the Brewster Select Board intends to uphold the will of Town Meeting, vice chair Ned Chatelain said.

Boardwalk opponent Tim Whelan, a Brewster resident and former state representative, said he doesn’t want Wing Island to become like a public beach.

Brewster Government Television
A voter speaks on Article 3, regarding the master plan for Drummer Boy Park, at the Brewster special Town Meeting on Monday.

“There are plenty of lovely other places that I can go, and I can leave Wing Island for the birds, and for all of God's creatures that are there,” he said. “I just don't want to see us build a boardwalk and have it look like what we see when we go over to Gray's Beach in Yarmouth.”

Another resident, Abigail Archer, urged voters to vote against Article 1, saying it would shut down debate. She said the current access — over narrow planks — is harming the salt marsh and does not allow people of all abilities to cross.

“Only a certain segment of our population can access the beauty that is Wing Island, and that does not include the mobility challenged,” she said. “We will all be mobility challenged at some point in our lives.”

She said some residents seem to favor closing the island to human access for the benefit of wildlife.

“It's an idea to be considered and discussed,” she said. “It's not fair to only have some segment of our population be able to access this resource.”

Turnout for the meeting was high enough that it exceeded the capacity of the cafetorium at Stony Brook Elementary School. Some voters had to be seated in the school library.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.