SANDWICH – To the disappointment of many, the future of the iconic Sandwich Boardwalk will no longer encompass the structure that stands there now.
The Sandwich Historic District Committee voted 3-2 on Wednesday evening to demolish the existing structure to make way for a new boardwalk that meets federal accessibility and flood regulations.
“Tonight kids jump off the bridge and run on it like they always do,” said Jonathan Fitch from Sandwich during the meeting. “Is it so bad that it cannot be saved?”
During the meeting, more than a hundred people crowded into the Human Services Building on Quaker Meeting House Road and shared their emotional connections with the boardwalk and many years of memories of jumping off the bridge.
The committee, a chapter of the Old King’s Highway Regional Historic District Commission, voted to continue discussing the design plans for the new Sandwich Boardwalk through September 8th. The committee said the application was incomplete and they would need a site map and more detailed profile plans for the project.
Once the new structure is built, people will be calling it “Skyway to the Beach,” said Fitch. “Sandwichs promenade in a box. It’s too high and the railing is ridiculous. ”
Fitch questioned whether the city was on a “stupid” mission to keep the boardwalk able to sustain higher sea levels. Both parking lots that lead to the boardwalk, let alone downtown, will all be flooded, Fitch said. “But our promenade will stand upright.”
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Demolition and construction are scheduled to begin in autumn 2022 as soon as the necessary permits have been received. The project is expected to be completed by autumn 2023.
The approximately 1,500 foot long boardwalk was first built by Gus Howland in 1875 to reach the beach and cross the swamp over Mill Creek. The current boardwalk is not officially a historic structure and cannot be placed on the state or state historical registry.
“The Sandwich Boardwalk is historic,” says Ray Howard, chairman of the Friends of the Sandwich Boardwalk, who advocates maintaining the existing structure. “The litmus test is to ask anyone in town if it’s historic and they’ll say yes.”
“It’s historical for our people,” he said. “It represents our community, our culture. It may not be the most historic in our city, but it is the most important. ”
Sandwich boardwalk often rebuilt
As discussed at a previous meeting of the Sandwich Historical Commission – a separate group appointed by the Board of Selectmen – there is no longer enough original material to consider the boardwalk historical and it is now being categorized as a replica. City records show many variations in the construction and appearance of the promenade over its 145-year history.
“The boardwalk was built in 1870 … repaired and reused, another storm, repaired and reused,” said Ross Vander Pyl, a member of the Sandwich Historical Commission. “I see a pattern here.”
Vander Pyl, who voted against the demolition, didn’t understand why the city couldn’t carry out the repairs. “I think we should fix it and use it again.”
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The boardwalk was last fully reconstructed in 1992 after being damaged by Hurricane Bob. Since then, storms, weathering and decay have taken a heavy toll.
Deputy City Engineer Sam Jensen said a number of the primary load-bearing structures that make up the promenade are in serious disrepair. The scope of the work to maintain the existing promenade is extensive.
“It’s in a very fragile condition because of rot and decay,” he said. “It doesn’t have much life left. It is shortly before the end of his service. “
The last repair to a section of the structure was made in 2020 after it was “wiped out” in northeastern storms, Jenson said. The 29-year-old lumber and fasteners are so rotten and corroded that the city faces a potential “wholesale loss” in a major storm, he said.
The new sandwich boardwalk will be structurally stronger
The aim is to develop a project that is “a stronger promenade, accessible to everyone, and much less often out of service,” said Jensen.
The city has not suffered storm damage recently and has somehow diverted closer investigation from the state that would close it, Selectmen Robert George said during the meeting.
“We’ve been really lucky with Mother Nature for the past two years,” he said. “If we don’t take it and pack it, Mother Nature will.”
As the promenade rebuilding project progresses, about a dozen permits would be required, including one from the US Army Corps of Engineers. The cost of the current plan is estimated at $ 2.5 million.
Part of the demolition work will be salvaging the nameplates and handing them out to the original plank donors, said Alan Pepin, a GEI adviser. The panels cannot be reused in the new promenade, as the pavement is planned to be widened.
Permit and flood zone rules require higher elevation for the boardwalk, and railings and slope adjustments are required to meet accessibility standards. The promenade is currently inaccessible to many People with disabilities.
New sandwich boardwalk to meet ADA requirements
In a passionate speech addressed to those opposed to replacing the boardwalk, Sandwich resident Carl Johansen said it was important because the disabled cannot use it.
Johansen, a disabled veteran, said he couldn’t use it himself. His brother’s last wish before he died was to walk across the Sandwich Boardwalk but was blocked because he was in a wheelchair.
“We are sandwich; we’re better than that, ”said Johansen. “We should take care of all people, not just some.”
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The state requires that any structure that requires repairs costing more than 30% of its estimated value must meet the requirements of the Federal Disability Act (ADA).
“In the city of Sandwich we do not have the right to choose who receives our constitutional rights,” said Brendan Brides, sandwich construction commissioner who is also a member of the city’s disability commission. “That’s why I moved to this country for freedom.”
Dawn Dawson, chair of the Disability Commission, pointed to comments on social media and others saying that people with disabilities don’t belong on the boardwalk.
“It hurts to see something like this in public,” said Dawson, crying as he spoke.
He receives complaints from people when they see things around town that aren’t ADA compliant. The first complaint he received when he joined the commission in 2005 was the same as the last – not being able to walk the Sandwich Boardwalk.
“It’s been since 1990 since we had ADA and we’re so far behind it now, it’s incredible,” said Dawson. “Make no mistake, this is an urban structure and this structure is suitable for everyone, not just a few.”
Contact Beth Treffeisen at btreffe[email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @BTreffeisenCCT.