Plans Unveiled For New Scenic Boardwalk
By: Mary Stanley
A one-mile boardwalk is being proposed in town that would extend from the heart of Sandwich Village over to the town’s marina. It would cross expanses of marshland and conservation land and offer scenic views of Old Harbor for the pedestrians and bike riders who use it.
William L. Burbank, a member of the Sandwich Chamber of Commerce board of directors, is behind this idea. He says the walkway would be a tourist draw and could provide the town with a much-needed economic boost.
“Based on the number of people who visit the Cape Cod Canal, I believe this boardwalk will draw 1,500 to 2,000 people per day. And that is going to open up the purse strings for local business owners,” Mr. Burbank said.
Director of the Sandwich Chamber Kathleen M. Bavelock agreed.
“As a community, we have had lots of good conversations about economic development and what it means. This project is a really nice reflection of those conversations. It is taking what we already have here, a beautiful natural area, and brings it up to the next level—giving our local business owners an economic shot in the arm,” Ms. Bavelock said.
For the past year, Mr. Burbank has been researching the benefits of building a boardwalk that links the various economic areas in Sandwich, such as Sandwich Village, Merchants Square, the marina, and the Cape Cod Canal.
As currently envisioned, this wooden walking path would have two starting points, one just behind the Town Hall Annex and one behind Russell’s Corner. Both of those starting points would extend through the marsh to Brady’s Island, which is directly across Route 6A from the Sandwich Fire Station. The route would then lead walkers and bikers across 6A and the railroad tracks, headed east onto conservation land with a designated viewing spot of Old Harbor. From there, the boardwalk would continue toward Town Neck Road, running parallel with Tupper Road, before ending at the marina.
Parts of this walkway would travel over marshes and other conservation land that often get lost behind the overgrown phragmites.
Mr. Burbank explained that during the course of his research, he discovered that there is a rich history behind Brady’s Island that most people are unaware of, and this boardwalk project not only links economic centers in town but links the past with the present.
He said Brady’s Island was originally owned by Hugh Brady, a worker at the Sandwich Glass Factory. To get to his job each day, Mr. Brady built a boardwalk from the island to Tupper Road.
In recent weeks, Mr. Burbank has begun visiting various town committees, such as the conservation commission and the community preservation committee, bringing his plan designs along to garner feedback.
He said the responses have been overwhelmingly positive, both from the boards as well as from neighbors in the areas of town where the boardwalk will be built.
He said when the town held its public forums on the Local Comprehensive Plan, residents from the marina area indicated a desire for a pedestrian and bike-friendly path that would link the marina with other parts of town.
Recently, he brought his plans to the conservation commission to give its members an opportunity to weigh in on the proposal. After looking at a portion of the boardwalk that extends out onto conservation land offering a view of Old Harbor, Conservation Officer David J. DeConto called the proposed project an “opportunity to bring kids right into the face of this coastal heritage.”
In fact, the only criticism he has heard was the name of the project.
“The conservation commission asked me to change the name from “boardwalk project” to something else, because it could become confused with the Sandwich Boardwalk,” Mr. Burbank said. For now, he is calling the project “Linking Economic Centers.” Ms. Bavelock said there is still time to come up with a name for this pathway and said it may be possible to create a contest in town to name the trail.
Mr. Burbank said this project will in no way compete with the Sandwich Boardwalk but it would be a complement to the popular spot.
In addition to the economic and historical benefits, Mr. Burbank said other advantages of this project include improvements to unattended conservation land. He said in the process of building this pathway, some of the phragmites—an invasive weed that has overtaken Brady’s Island—will be removed.
While this project could bring immediate benefits to existing business owners, it also has the potential of spurring future economic development opportunities, Mr. Burbank said.
Mr. Burbank estimates that this project, which would be built in two phases, could cost anywhere between $3 million and $5 million.
He said he plans to soon file a grant application with the Cape Cod Economic Council seeking $30,000 and has already filed a grant application with the community preservation committee seeking $49,500. He said these funds will be used for engineering designs and permitting costs.
The rest of the money, which represents the bulk of the project cost, he said will come from fundraising and federal grants. He said there are federal funds available for projects such as this one.
“There’s a lot of money for bike paths and walkways that get people out of cars and transport them by bike or foot,” he said. He added that the timing for a project like this is right, especially with a federal transportation bill that is about to be passed.
Completely optimistic about getting approval and permits for the project, Mr. Burbank anticipates that this pathway will be completed in just three years.
“The Canal Centennial, marking 100 years since the Cape Cod Canal was built, is in 2014. We would like to dedicate this boardwalk at that time,” he said.
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