Residents of Dartmouth listen to the Board of Parks and Recreation discuss the proposed restoration of Round Hill Beach with project organizers. Tim Dunn/TSM

DARTMOUTH- Town residents were invited to an open discussion about the proposed restoration of Round Hill Beach on Tuesday night at the Dartmouth Town Hall.

About 50 people filled the third floor meeting room to listen to the Parks and Recreation Board discuss the proposal for the South Dartmouth beach with the group who created it, the Round Hill Salt Marsh Restoration Project Team.

The project team says that the $5.2 million project would be funded completely in grant money from the state, and wouldn't leave the Town of Dartmouth any responsibility to match any funding.

Town residents and board members remained concerned about the beach parking situation if the project is approved. The concern is about whether or not the grant money for the project provided by the state would force the town to allow non-residents of Dartmouth to use the parking lot. Currently, only town residents who purchased a parking pass are allowed to park at the beach, but that all could change according to Joan Britto of the Park and Recreation Board.

Counsel representing the Round Hill Salt Marsh Restoration Project Team says that the grant money would in no way change the current parking situation, something the Parks and Recreation Board says they want more proof, or at least a better explanation on.

"Parking is an issue, that if we allow state funding will that be a precedent for outside residents to be able to bring their vehicles in and cause a more difficult parking issue," Britto said. "We're open to getting the facts of what the state funding does and what restrictions it places on the town."

Other concerns from the Parks and Recreation Board surrounded the necessity of the restoration project. They say that certain elements of the restoration, such as replacing the septic system, would be counterproductive. The board says that the current sewage system in place at the beach has been running without incident and that replacing it could lead to unwanted and costly repairs. Board member James Vieira says the sewage system for the beach should be a matter of "don't fix it if it ain't broke".

"I don't think the benefits outweigh what's happening here. I don't know why that after a hundred years we need to do this project so desperately. It’s been like this for a hundred years and we never had a problem," Vieira said.

"To me, are we looking for problems? Could we be creating problems down the road?" he said.

The discussion of the proposed restoration at Round Hill Beach lasted roughly two hours and was filled with confusion from all sides. The Parks and Recreation Board accused the Project Team multiple times of providing inconsistent information regarding the funding and physical details of the project. Confusion surrounding the legalities of the restoration, especially how and if accepting state funding will affect the current parking situation, remained throughout the entirety of the meeting.

Members of the Parks and Recreations Board expect that discussions surrounding the proposed restoration of Round Hill Beach will continue into the upcoming Town Meeting.