The Beaches Are for Everyone [OPINION]
The siting of a temporary water park off the southeastern tip of New Bedford's East Beach has been controversial and has probably taken a bit longer to become operational than most would have anticipated.
The Texas-based Altitude H2O will operate the 30,000-square foot "inflatable playground" through the end of the summer season, drawing folks from all over the region to the city's waterfront. That's good news, right? Unless you live in the neighborhood, I guess it is.
First, the project has been controversial in that a number of folks who should have been in the loop on this project were apparently left out. Ward 3 City Councilor Hugh Dunn believes the council should have had input. The Mitchell Administration disagrees. Some have suggested that corners may have been cut to expedite the siting and opening of the water park. The process should be made simpler anyway.
What amazes me, though, are the number of complaints coming from beach area residents. Some have expressed dismay over the anticipated crowds, the traffic and the lack of adequate parking. If you buy a house near the beach you've got to expect all of the above. If you buy near the airport you would expect planes flying overhead.
Our South End beaches, once a hubbub of activity during the summer months, went largely ignored for years. They are making a comeback and folks who have enjoyed relative quiet and peaceful vistas along the shoreline should expect to encounter more activity during the summertime. That's a good thing.
Our beachfront has been vastly underused for many years and should be the center of attention when the weather is good. There should be boat and jet ski rentals and hang gliding available to residents and tourists. There should be food vendors and kiosks selling New Bedford shirts and hats and other locally made products.
Residents are right to be concerned about after-hours activity at the beaches that can include alcohol, drug use and rowdy behavior. The police should and must do better at patrolling the area. But for residents to complain about activity during the day during the summer months is unreasonable.
The beachfront is for all to enjoy and not just a select handful of folks who own homes there. And while we are at it, let's waive that parking fee for city residents at our beaches. Municipal beaches should be for residents to enjoy and not an opportunity for the government to make money off of them.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.