Improving accessibility to park facilities, regrading the parking lot, and improving concession facilities are some of the projects that the new Pear Tree Beach Building Committee may be undertaking.
At the kickoff meeting on Oct. 24 of the all-volunteer committee, members spent over one hour and 30 minutes discussing plans for upgrading the beach, which is located on Pear Tree Point Road.
Pear Tree Point Beach is about eight acres and offers a bathing area, handicap accessible picnic area, gazebo, bathhouse, concession stand, boat launch ramp, and two smaller beaches.
The Parks & Recreation Commission has provided a project objectives list of upgrades to the newly formed committee with items it has voted on, that it would like incorporated into this project.
These upgrades include improving curbs, ramps, and parking stalls, as well as correcting drainage issues in the parking lot.
Other improvements are rehabilitating and replacing the concession bathhouse building, reducing wind and water erosion by increasing natural shoreline areas, reconstructing the boat ramp, providing handicap accessibility access to the dock, and replacing the security guard check.
“The committee’s charge is to ultimately take these objectives and turn them into bricks and mortar,” First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said.
In regard to the cost of the project, Parks & Recreation Director Pam Gery said there is no cost estimate as of this time. “We will be going out to bid for a consultant that the Building Committee will be working with in the upcoming months,” Gery said. “At the end of that process, we will have a cost estimate for the improvement project.”
Committee members Michael Sgroe, who serves on the Parks & Rec Commission, and Randy Tankoos were appointed co-chairs of committee, and Tom Bell, the town’s Harbor Master, is secretary.
Martha Banks said it was a “surprise” to her that there might be year-round dining at the beach.
“I think one of the nice things about Pear Tree Beach is its naturalness,” Banks said. “People come there because of the beach and the view.”
Banks added that Pear Tree doesn’t have a big beach area.
“On a nice day in the summer, parking can be very, very tight. And yet now, we’re talking about significantly increasing the footprint of the bathhouse,” Banks said. “To build a meeting space, a dining room — all of this is going to impinge upon beach space and parking. And so I’m going to have to be convinced that there’s really a need for this.”
Another objective of the committee is adding a seawall both to the front and the back of the beach, to help keep sand on it.
Gery said the intention with this is “not to block the view.”
“I’ve heard that over and over and over from the public,” Gery said. “We understand that people want to drive in and keep that view of the water, so that’s a no brainer. But I think the seawall can be a beautiful asset.”
Mary Flynn, Parks & Recreation Commission Chairman, said whenever there is a full moon and a high tide, a lot of sand comes onto the parking lot.
“Our staff is shoveling the sand back on,” Flynn said. “We like to try to keep sand on the beach in any way we can.”
Parking lot, walkway
Gery said it’s the duty of the commission to look forward 10 and 20 years when the town may have “a lot more flooding than we have now” and determining whether “raising the parking lot will actually make that difference.”
Committee members brought up the idea of enhancing and expanding the area along the road to create a pathway or walkway.
“There are so many walkers in that route that use that area that it would be a really nice safety addition I think to create something,” Gery said.
The current boat launch wasn’t built to the appropriate scale to be usable by most people who want to access it for daily or seasonal use, according to committee member Tom Bell. “It’s basically unusable at anywhere near low tide.”
“We are going to change that,” Gery said.
Adding trees for shade was also brought up, to which Gery said, “In the last year, we have met with the Tree Conservancy. They are willing to donate the trees to replace what has come down there.”
By the next meeting, the committee hopes to have a draft RFP (Request for Proposal) for an architect.
Stevenson said the town will build a building that’s “going to stand the test of time” and not “burn the taxpayer’s every year by operational costs.”
She said it’s going to be a “phenomenal project,” one for which the town will “so greatly appreciate.”
“Parks and beaches are really one of the centerpieces for our town,” Stevenson said.
Committee meetings, which are streamed on Channel 79 and open to the public, will be at 6 p.m. on the first and third Wednesday of each month. Upcoming meetings include a Special Meeting on Nov. 10 to walk Pear Tree Beach and see Weed Beach, and regular meetings on Nov. 14 and 28, and Dec. 5 and 19. Visit the town website to confirm before attending any meetings.