July 19, 2018
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Damages from winter storms still plague Maine beach town as tourists arrive

Rich Beauchesne | The York Weekly
Rich Beauchesne | The York Weekly
Sidewalks along Long Sands Beach in York are still under repair as tourists begin to fill the beach.
By Deborah McDermott, The York Weekly

YORK, Maine — On the eve of July 4 and summer high season, Town Manager Steve Burns surveyed Long Beach Avenue from Long Sands Road right up to the new bathhouse. Sidewalks remain unfinished all around the bathhouse, and are simply nonexistent for much of the road south of the Sun ’n Surf restaurant. In the southern end, parking spaces have not been delineated, there are no meters and kiosks planned to be installed this summer haven’t been ordered yet.

“I’m surprised we’re this far behind. My expectation was that all of the sidewalks would have been done by now, and they’re not,” said Burns. This leaves him worried as the town opens its doors to thousands of visitors and summer residents.

“I worry about everything. I worry about the image. I worry about the liability. I don’t want anyone getting hurt,” he said. “I don’t want businesses being impacted. I don’t want people who rented their week in the gray cottage across the street to be impacted. It hits everyone across the board.”

[Storm knocks out power, causes coastal flood concerns]

Had it not been for winter storm Riley that slammed the coast in early March, leaving in its wake more than $1 million in damage townwide, said Burns, he would not be having this conversation. The storm upended sidewalks particularly on the southern end of the beach, damaged seawalls and buckled roads.

The seawall near the bathhouse was significantly impacted, and work had to be undertaken this spring to replace the old seawall with a stepped cement wall. Meanwhile, most of the sidewalks on the south end were so damaged they had to be ripped out entirely.

“This was completely, completely, completely unplanned,” said Burns. “It was the storm that caused this. We’re trying to fix the damage, but this is an add-on from the regular work. When you have a late season storm, this is what happens.”

According to Lessard, LaBrecque Construction Inc. of Portland, was hired to do all of the sidewalk work and initially had two crews on site — one at the bathhouse and one working south of Sun ’n Surf. For a while now, there has been only one crew, he said, because of other obligations. He does expect a second crew to return next week and continue the south sidewalks. No LaBrecque crews are working this week, he said, because of the holiday.

Bathhouse work

Burns said he has made clear to Lessard that the bathhouse area is his priority because it is in such a high pedestrian traffic location. Today, the area looks like a construction zone. Although work on the bathhouse is complete and it has been open for several weeks, it could be a month before all the sidewalks are installed, said Lessard.

The sidewalk splits on either side of the bathhouse, with one running along the beach and another along the road. On the north side of the bathhouse, there is a 140-foot stretch of dirt where there should be a sidewalk next to the road. Lessard said it will take at least three or four weeks to complete that work, whenever it starts. “There’s a lot of work for us to do there,” he said. “I think that’s going to take most of the summer.”

On the south side, the sidewalk next to the road has been installed but the one on the beach side is a work in progress and is being installed in 12-foot square segments.

“This is pure manual labor,” Burns said as he examined the work being done. “The setting, the curing of the concrete is all individually done. I think they’re doing the best they can, but it’s just slow going.”

[Nor’easter knocks out power, floods roads and causes flight cancellations]

He said he’s also concerned with a ramp that has been installed for beach cleaning and other vehicles. The ramp was constructed in segments, and is uneven, with one segment at a steep pitch giving way to a flatter surface and then a bump at the bottom.

“This has always been used by pedestrians,” he said, as people continually walked by him to get to the beach, “and it’s not pedestrian friendly. It’s not acceptable the way it is. So I’m asking for options. Maybe a handrail needs to be installed, maybe it’s as simple as that. But something has to happen.”

The bottom line, he said, is “people are going to have to use good judgment” to get around the bathhouse. Former Parks and Recreation Director Mike Sullivan, who retired July 1, told Burns people “are basically accommodating and understanding. They see what they’re going to get out of this. And I appreciate that. But I’d love to see the whole thing done. The last thing you want is to create problems at this time of year.”

South end sidewalks

Burns also expected the sidewalks south of Sun ’n Surf would be completed by July 4, as well, “until it didn’t happen.” According to Lessard, a sidewalk has been installed for 660 feet south of the restaurant. From there until the Sea Latch motel, a gravel foundation has been laid so the sidewalk can be easily installed. From the Sea Latch to Long Sands Road, while there is granite curbing delineating road from rock, there is no foundation whatsoever.

“This isn’t suitable for walking,” Burns said from a vantage point across the street from Long Sands Road. “You can’t really jump over the curb and walk. Here, people will be walking in the road, and that’s not good. The issue for me is pedestrian safety. It’s tough when you have to get ready for July and you have a storm in March that’s destroyed infrastructure. One nice thing about the beach is that people drive slow when it’s crowded. That’s a saving grace, but it’s not ideal.”

Voters in May approved the purchase of 14 kiosks to be installed from Sun ’n Surf south to beyond the Long Sands Road intersection. Because there is no sidewalk for much of the stretch of road, there are no kiosks and no delineated parking spaces. According to Lessard, several temporary kiosks will be put in at some point where the sidewalk has been installed.

[Long-awaited beachfront bathhouse nears completion]

Although Burns thought the kiosks had been ordered, Lessard said he needed to get selectmen’s approval to expend the funds and it has not yet been on an agenda.

“With meter poles out and no kiosks, that means we’re going to take a revenue hit on this end of the beach. And it should be significant,” said Burns.

Asked how long it will take before all the work is completed up and down the beach, he said, “How long? I don’t know. Hopefully by next summer. I’m saying that in all seriousness. I mean look at the pace. It’s slow going.”

He said he’s hoping people will be patient this summer season.

“It’s important for York to put best foot forward and this is not a best foot,” he said, “but my hope is that people get it. We’re working on it. We’re trying to get there. We appreciate their patience and we hope they use their common sense.”

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