Pear Tree committee wants upgrades to reflect beach users’ concerns
Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee members want to make sure they address the needs of those who “actually put their feet in the sand,” said Parks & Rec Commission member Cheryl Russell at at a recent meeting.
“It’s not just about people that walk by, walk their dogs and look at the view,” Russell said. “We need to consider the people that use the beach and use the facilities down there.”
The newly-formed, all-volunteer building committee is charged with overseeing the upgrading of Pear Tree Point Beach. The upgrades were part of last year’s comprehensive master plan put forward by Parks & Rec.
The town is now accepting proposals from qualified, professional architectural design firms to evaluate and assess current conditions, and develop a professional design for improvements and upgrades to facilities at Pear Tree Point Beach. The Request for Proposals (RFP) for professional design services is due Jan. 7 at 3 p.m.
People who regularly use the beach area can greatly benefit by the proposed improvements, according to Russell.
“Just doing the beach and the parking lot isn’t going to fix the bathhouse, [or] the restrooms that need to be fixed. I think that the sand is just so dirty,” Russell said. “People that go to the beach deserve a better beach house.”
Committee members also spoke about their assigned task with regard to Pear Tree.
The purpose of the Pear Tree committee is to “implement,” Selectman Marc Thorne said. “It’s not to choose.”
Thorne said Pear Tree is the “commission’s park.”
“In a very real sense, it’s not up to us what gets built,” Thorne said. “Our job is to find out what it would cost to build [it], and go back to the commission, and the town.”
Since the previous Pear Tree Point Beach Building Committee meeting, the following statements were removed from the RFP: “The possibility of a year-round concession and facilities to support catered events” and “the addition of two multi-purpose rooms to the bathhouse that can be rented out,” Parks & Recreation Director Pam Gery told the Darien Times.
Added to the RFP is “flexible space for community use,” Gery said.
Funding available for the project is $150,000.
During public comment, beach neighbor Jim Errington, who has spoken at previous meetings against many of the proposed renovations, presented an online petition he created that garnered about 150 signatures.
The purpose of the petition is to “access the sentiment of the entire town of what they thought about this development project,” Errington said.
The petition, which Errington read at the meeting, asks the town to follow specific guidelines with regard to the proposed renovations.
These include “to undertake to restore and improve the natural beauty of the beach” and “to formulate a plan to make the beach more resilient to sea level rise using natural features that can prevent water and sand spilling over to the parking lot and to the road.”
Errington said those living near the beach, such as himself, should be very involved in the project. “Not only are the neighbors residents of the town, but they are the most knowledgeable about the area,” he said.
“The neighbors are there all the time and can observe things that other people can’t see. I’m at that beach five, six times a day,” he said. “People in the neighborhood can help, can assist, they can get you a better result.”
Errington said there will be flooding in the area once construction has been completed.
“The second you finish it, it will be two feet under water. Within 20 years, it’s going to be five feet under water,” he said. “It’s the wrong place to have the building. You are wasting an awful lot of time and money if you put a red cent into that particular location because already at least three, four times a month, it’s underwater.”
Errington recommended that before going any further with the project, the committee should consult with an experienced environmental engineer.
“Start from scratch, ask them where they would put it,” Errington said. “Design it from the beginning in terms of what do we need in terms of resilience.”
He said that thinking 20 or 30 years in the future, the town should figure out a way to design something “that’s going to be useful for our kids and for our grandchildren.”
Darien resident Tom Igoe said, like Errington, that he also regularly uses the beach.
Igoe said many improvements should be made to the area.
“We ought to see what can be done to improve that building, to improve the bathroom facilities, the shower facilities, and the concession stand, and make it a better facility,” said Igoe, adding that this should be done “without having to spend millions of dollars.”
Russell said she wants to work with everyone involved with the beach to try and make decisions that satisfy everyone.
“I think that if we all work together, we’ll be able to come up with a compromise for everybody,” she said.
The next meeting of the Pear Tree Point Building Committee is Jan. 16.