Sometimes less is more.
That adage came to mind recently while reviewing the plans for the proposed redesign of the Sandwich Boardwalk.
The boardwalk depicted in these latest renderings is one foot wider than the existing structure, stands twice as high off the marsh, and has waist-high railings along its entire quarter-mile length.
Instead of a gentle ribbon-like structure passing unobtrusively through the great, scenic marsh, the new boardwalk is solid, massive, and formidable.
In other words, this is not your father’s boardwalk.
And that’s a shame.
We understand why some changes are necessary. The structure, as currently designed, is vulnerable to extreme storm surges. The winter storms of 2018 left the boardwalk buckled and twisted like a wrung-out beach towel.
But in our opinion, the engineers, in trying to design a sturdier boardwalk, took things too far. It’s a case of over-engineering.
First off, the proposed new boardwalk stands much too high. Raising the structure to better protect it from the tides makes sense, but doubling its heights is extreme.
We’d like to see it dropped back down two or three feet. Not only will this allow it to blend in better with the marsh, it might allow the engineers to get rid of the awful railings.
Sure railings are safer, but they’re visually obtrusive.
You’d never catch the National Park Service putting railings all along the edge of the Grand Canyon. Sure it would be safer, but it would ruin the aesthetics of this natural wonder and interfere with its idyllic charm.
Same goes for the boardwalk.
Let’s be reasonable about how high the boardwalk actually needs to be, so we can scrap the railings.
Anyway, greater safety will be afforded by the wider deck. People can keep to the middle if they’re nervous crossing. Or if it’s still too much for them, they can stick to the stretch over Mill Creek which certainly deserves railings, or they can stay on the short end of the boardwalk closest to the beach.
We like the beefed-up super-structure and the proposed helical piles, which would screw into the marsh floor and more securely anchor the boardwalk in place. These design elements make a lot of sense.
But let’s send the engineers back to the drawing board on the rest. Let them come up with a redesign that is more in keeping with the modest lines of the original “plank walk.”