The town has closed a portion of the beach at Hen Cove after three people got stuck in the soft mud there.
Three weeks ago, a family was taking advantage of unseasonably warm weather, DNR Director Timothy Mullen said, and went to the Patuisset end of the cove to play on the beach. The boy, who ran out onto the sand as far as he could at a very low tide, ended up ankle-deep in soft mud. The father followed, and went in up to his knees.
As soon as the father called in to report the incident, Mr. Mullen pulled on hip boots and checked the situation out. He got stuck, himself, and almost had to take off his boots.
He and other town employees investigated and then posted about a third of the beach as off limits.
The mud was brought up by the dredging that was done in the area. In a normal winter, that mud and silt would have been stirred up and carried out by storm tides. The mild weather Bourne enjoyed this winter, however, allowed the loose material to stay in place longer than usual
On Tuesday of this week, when the weather forecast called for rain, Mr. Mullen said what he wanted to see was a stiff storm coming out of the southwest. If that wish seems unusual, it is because a good spring storm could help move the muck, spreading it over a far larger area.
During a normal tide, someone in the water would be unlikely to touch down in the soft material, but the affected part of the beach was closed to prevent any risk of a recurrence during a very low tide; being stuck, if not downright dangerous, could be scary.
The DNR “doesn’t muck about, no pun intended,” Health Agent Cynthia A. Coffin said on hearing of the DNR’s decision to err on the side of caution and post the beach.
Even without a storm event, Mr. Mullen said, the cove’s bottom is 50 percent more stable than it was three weeks ago, and is expected to continue to improve.
Mr. Mullen said his department would be checking the area again before Memorial Day weekend to see if more of the beach can be reopened.
Enough is already open to allow beachgoers to enjoy the area.
Asked about another effect of the dredging, a steep drop-off not far from the beach’s shore line, Recreation Director Krisanne Caron said the Hen Cove beach is already the fourth on the list of beaches to be covered by lifeguards this summer. It was added to the three for which lifeguard coverage had already been planned after an increase to that budget was approved at Town Meeting.
Ms. Caron will be holding tryouts for lifeguards this weekend and next Tuesday and will probably have to add a third session.
She said that it takes about four full-time and one part-time person to staff each beach. Trying to staff a beach with just one or two people provides an illusion of safety, but is not adequate, she said.
So far, Ms. Caron said, she has more open jobs than she has applications. It is hoped that returning college students will be filing applications as they return home. Several applicants are planning to attend a recertification program in June.
How many beaches are covered, and plans for swimming lessons, are all contingent on personnel.
Covered or not, Mr. Mullen expects the beach at Hen Cove to be fully open by the June start of the swimming season.