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Calls for Boston Beach Clean-Up

The Legislature's Metropolitan Beaches Commission releases a report Tuesday recommending significant rehabilitation efforts for Boston's urban beaches.

As WBUR's Meghna Chakrabarti reports, the commission is drawing a line in the sand when it comes to cleaning up the urban shoreline.

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MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI: Boston Harbor maybe beautiful, but many of its beaches don't exactly sparkle. Take Nantasket beach, in Hull. The Department of Conservation and Recreation, or DCR, manages nearly half of it. And at times, not very well, says town selectwoman, Joan Meschino.

JOAN MESCHINO: "In 1991, a good 60-foot section of the sea wall had fallen and no one had been down here making any move to repair it."

CHAKRABARTI: Until 2005, when DCR began work on the Nantasket seawall. The Metropolitan Beaches Commission releases a report today that recommends DCR make similar efforts for 13 other Boston-area beaches. Because, from Nahant to Hull, DCR beaches need upgrades to bath-houses, sanitation services, parking, and public safety, says Bruce Berman of the advocacy group, Save The Harbor/Save the Bay.

BRUCE BERMAN: "These beaches are close to public transportation, and they're the primary recreational resource in the summer time for nearly a million people. And so we have a responsibility to just make sure they're well maintained and well managed."

CHAKRABARTI: Here's what the report recommends to the state: create a new metropolitan beaches unit within DCR, set up an advisory board staffed by representatives from beach communities, and write up signed agreements with towns about exactly what DCR will do to clean up. Commission co-chair and state Representative Anthony Petruccelli will soon be introducing legislation matching the recommendations. He says the program's first-year will cost the state just under two million dollars.

ANTHONY PETRUCCELLI: "We hope to have some additional funding in the 2008 budget for the upcoming season. Unfortunately, when the budget is implemented for July 1st, the beach season is already underway."

CHAKRABARTI: And not just at the 14 Boston-area beaches targeted by the report.

JOESEPH ORFANT: "Well, you know that's a good point, because we have 87 beaches across the Commonwealth."

CHAKRABARTI: Joeseph Orfant is DCR's representative on the beaches commission.

ORFANT: "We really have to pay attention to equity and fairness across the state. We've got some great resources in Horseneck beach, Salisbury beach, Hampton ponds in the Springfield area, so we have to make sure that what we do is fair and equitable to all the state parks."

CHAKRABARTI: But Paul Grogan, president of the Boston Foundation, believes that better urban beaches could benefit the entire Commonwealth by drawing more people to the state.

PAUL GROGAN: "These beaches could really be made into a first class asset, that would increase the appeal of the whole Boston area, at a time when we're trying to create a quality of life that is really second to none."

CHAKRABARTI: And Grogan says the cost to rehab Boston beaches is just a drop in the ocean compared with the 4.5 billion dollars that went into cleaning up Boston harbor.

For WBUR, I'm Meghna Chakrabarti

This program aired on April 3, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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