Beach sticker applications available in person and online this season
The Department of Parks and Recreation will continue with its online application system for Round Hill Beach stickers this spring and summer, but will also offer in-person staff to help with beach sticker applications beginning on May 13.
Dartmouth residents can begin buying their stickers online beginning March 1 and the Town Hall office will also be open to in-person applications beginning on May 13. Staff will be available to assist people with their applications on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Parks and Recreation offered limited in-person purchase options last year during select dates, and mostly switched over to the online system, which some residents expressed frustration about. However, Parks Director Tim Lancaster noted at the Feb. 5 Select Board meeting that beach sticker sales stayed steady last year.
In-person purchases will not be immediate; residents will still need to pick up their stickers after a few days.
Lancaster said that anyone who applied online last year will have a simpler process this year, as they already created an account.
“If you did the process last year, you’re over 50% ahead going into this year,” Lancaster said.
Of the 4,400 beach stickers sold last year, 3,500 were sold online, 300 were through the mail, and 600 bought their tickets in-person at Town Hall office, Lancaster said.
According to Lancaster, the online switch was made partially because some of the people who purchased their tickets in-person in the past were physically and verbally threatening to the kids, mostly high school students, who typically manage the ticket office.
“During that time, we had citizens that smashed on our counter, smashed on the plexiglass, lost their cool …” Lancaster said at the Select Board’s meeting on Monday, Feb. 5.
Lancaster said that his department also launched the online system to compensate for being short-staffed — Recreation Coordinator Becky Amaral spends more time in the field during the summer to manage youth programs.
“We pushed toward the online as a way to close the vacuum,” Lancaster said.
Due to some of the negative customer interactions, Lancaster said there was “concern” over leaving the teenage employees alone in the office. The Parks and Recreation department also received “threats” through the online system for buying stickers.
“We just don’t stand for that,” Lancaster said.
To avoid dangerous situations, there will be “multiple kids” in the office this year. Lancaster said that implementing a buddy system will give the kids “strength in numbers.” In addition to assisting walk-ins with filling out applications, they’ll also be processing online orders and mail-ins.
For safety purposes, Lancaster said the ticket center is designed so that customers cannot physically enter the office.
“Those kids can lock down the office if they feel they need to,” Lancaster said.
Select Board Member Heidi Silva Brooks called the situation “appalling.”
“That’s a terrible state of affairs,” Silva Brooks said. “That’s appalling that our residents cause that level of grief to a department that’s doing them a service.”
Lancaster said the department is also updating its camera systems so that they can catch license plate numbers.
“It appears that we’re doing everything to accommodate everybody as much as possible. We know we’re going to get that outlier that’s just not going to be happy …” said Select Board Vice-Chair Shawn McDonald. “The behavior of individuals that take it out on our Town employees is not going to be tolerated.”