Winter Storm Season One of the Worst for Sandy Neck Beach

BARNSTABLE – Sandy Neck Beach Park in Barnstable has been another victim of the winter storm season which has battered the Cape Cod coastline.

“It has been a very challenging winter, certainly the worst that I have seen in my tenure at Sandy Neck,” said Nina Coleman, who has been the Sandy Neck Beach Park Manager for the last 15 years.

Beginning with the early January storm, the barrier beach area along Cape Cod Bay saw significant flooding which damaged the dunes, trail system and gatehouse.

“That one just really caught us off guard,” Coleman said. “I know a lot of cottages out at the cottage colony were considerably flooded – actually higher than the Blizzard of ’78.”

There was also 18 inches of flooding inside the gatehouse.

“It ruined a lot of our equipment. Took out a lot of our files and caused some extensive repairs on the interior of the gatehouse,” Coleman said.

The first March nor’easter was a huge erosion event lasting through multiple tide cycles.

“It took quite a bit of our dune and beach,” Coleman said. “The elevation of the beach is extremely low, which makes us extremely vulnerable.”

The nourished dune in front of the parking lot also took a beating, which is concerning to Coleman.

“About 75 percent of that sacrificial sand was taken from the storm Riley in March,” Coleman said.

Sand is staged in the parking lot right now and is waiting to be placed on the dune following the next storm cycle.

Coleman said extent of flooding from the two storms is unprecedented.

The cottage colony keeps marks of the different storms and the January storm saw more flooding than the historic storm in 1978 and the first March storm was the third highest.

“To have two huge flooding events of that magnitude in one year is pretty concerning,” Coleman said.

Short term efforts are being planned to replenish the dune in front of the parking lot and elevate the gatehouse above the flood line.

“That’s kind of the immediate effort in place right now,” Coleman said.

The town has begun discussing possible long-term solutions. A coastal resiliency analysis for Sandy Neck has been completed and is being reviewed by Town Council.

“There’s definitely an eye to the future,” she said. “Really as a manager right now I need to get us through the next year and that means some pretty quick action on my part to get that gatehouse shored up and to make sure we don’t lose the parking lot.”

Coleman said losing access to the parking lot is a big concern because it is a draw for residents and visitors and a big part of the economy.

“It’s really imperative that we make sure we continue to have that amount of access and parking,” Coleman said. “Parking is becoming gold.”

Discussions have begun on a possible plan to move the parking lot further away from the beach, but the area is heavily protected.

“It’s an area of critical environmental concern because it is a barrier beach – because it is endangered species habitat,” Coleman said. “It’s kind of the Holy Grail of protection.”

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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