Beach access goes to committee, not voters

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Recreation Director Kathleen Dillingham tells residents at a public hearing on August 16 that she has taken no position on whether the town beach should be open to non residents.

OXFORD — The Board of Selectmen unanimously voted at its Aug. 16 meeting to remove an article from the Sept. 20 Special Town Meeting warrant, that if approved, would have opened up the town beach on Thompson Lake to the general public.

Instead, the board has followed a recommendation by Town Manager Butch Asselin, and agreed to place the article on the Annual Town Meeting warrant in June of 2019.

Asselin also recommended, and the board agreed, that an ad hoc committee of no more than seven people including a representative of the Pismo Beach area, a member of the Board of Selectmen, a resident-at-large, the Recreation Director and others be on the ad hoc committee to looks at the issues and report back to the selectmen with their findings.

Sharon Jackson, a former member of the Recreation Committee, says opening the town beach to non residents will have an adverse effect on traffic and other issues in the neighborhood.

The unanimous decision followed more than an hour of discussion during a public hearing by Pismo Beach area residents, including Sharon Jackson, and others about why the beach should remain open to residents and their guests only.

“It’s not right,“ said Jackson, a former member of the Recreation Committee, who earlier that day made the suggestion to Asselin that the article be removed and an ad hoc committee created to study the issue.

Jackson argued that three-quarters of the townspeople are unaware of the proposal to open the town beach “to the world” and that before any vote is taken, residents need to be aware and educated about the ramifications of such a move.

Jackson said the result of opening the beach to the public would be chaotic parking issues on the narrow streets that surround the town beach and ball fields, that restricting the beach hours to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. would impede fishermen who go out early in the morning and sometimes don’t return until after 8 p.m, and residents who couldn’t find parking to use the beach themselves, among other problems.

Jackson said the board’s plan to open up the beach to the public to access state grants and fees from non residents would not provide enough money to make the change worthwhile.

“Oxford residents would be turned away because the rest of the world will be (there,) she said.

Others agreed with her, saying traffic, including speeding traffic, is already a serious problem on King Street, the main thoroughfare to the beach area.

Recreation Director Kathleen Dillingham stressed that she taken no position on the issue but has addressed the board previously simply to get clarification on the current policies.

There are problems at the beach, she said but unless there are clear rules that are enforceable it is difficult to resolve some them.

“If you’re going to have these polices, enforce them,” she said.

Asselin told the Advertiser Democrat later that a number of exceptions to the original language in the Pismo Beach warrant article approved by residents in 1975 developed over time.

“The Recreation Director is only seeking clarity on the matter so that rules relating to beach usage are consistent and equitably enforced by her staff,” he said.

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