Everybody agrees it’s a beautiful park. But is it a beautiful gift?
That was the question on everyone’s mind a Tuesday night’s selectmen’s meeting when representatives of an anonymous donor offered the newly created park where Saint Catherine’s Chapel once stood as a gift. The offer was not unexpected. The town was approached shortly after it had been sold by the Archdiocese of Boston.
Local architect Jeff Metcalfe described how the site, once occupied by the decaying chapel and parking lot had been transformed into a park with walking paths, benches and markers detailing Manomet’s history. The owner, who he did not name, has summered on White Horse Beach since the 1940s and has “lots of fond memories of the area,” he said.
Fond memories however, didn’t allay concerns about how much it would cost for the town to take care of the property. Metcalfe said the owner would offer a $90,000 endowment to pay for the first five years of maintenance.
For the town to take care of the park, it would have to hire additional staff for the Department of Public Works, Town Manager Melissa Arrighi said. It’s difficult for the town to effectively maintain the parks it does have, she noted. Even with outside funds, maintaining the new park’s irrigation and lighting systems, picking up trash and dealing with any damage that might occur.
Selectman Belinda Brewster agreed the town didn’t have the money to maintain the park, noting that a perpetual care fund for town cemeteries was inadequate for that purpose.
Town Meeting Member Karen Buechs added her voice to those worried about the gift’s cost.. She noted the owner or her representatives never presented their plan to the Manomet Village Steering Committee or the Planning Board. This person assumed the town would take the park without offering any hard facts before building it, she said. Fellow Town Meeting Member Kevin Doyle concurred with Buechs. He compared the park to being offered a brand new Maserati. At first he’d want it, he said, but then he’d have to consider the cost of caring for it. Plymouth should only accept the park if it came with a permanent endowment to pay for it.
Selectman Tony Provenzano rolled out the idea of creating a non-profit to oversee maintenance of the park. The thought quickly gained traction. Buechs and Doyle both expressed support for it. White Horse Beach Association President Paul Duseau offered to meet with town officials to discuss the idea. Greg Cogan, one of the trustees for the property, said he had approached area non-profits about paying for maintenance, but with no success. Selectman John Mahoney also backed Provenzano’s idea, saying the DPW was usually first to have its budget cut.”We’d be lucky to get through the first four years with the $90,000,” he said.
While money was the worry for most people, other potential issues came up for the park. White Horse Beach resident Nancy Jordan and Buechs both said driving in and out of the park was risky.Though Bill DeMill, who lives next to the park, said he had never seen an accident in the years he’s lived there.
DeMill supported the park, noting that before the property had become “a horror show” when it was used for parking by beachgoers.
Parking was also an issue for Priscilla Beach resident John Reardon, who wondered where people, especially large groups, would put their cars. He noted the area already has a parking problem. Arrighi noted the the parking was really just for maintenance vehicles. The park was intended for neighborhood use, not as a destination for people from other parts of town.
Jordan was also concerned about the safety of the chipseal used for the pathways, saying it would be hard for strollers or wheelchairs to navigate. Metcalfe said the substance would, after some use, settle into the ground, creating a smoother service.
In the end, selectmen voted to table the issue to give time for Arrighi to meet with people interested in maintaining the park. She is expected to report back to the board on October 29.