Public weighs in on the future of Padanaram Harbor

Oct 25, 2017

Residents want to see more public access and increased recreational opportunities in Padanaram Harbor.

Those two subjects were the most debated during a public discussion on the under-development management plan of Padanaram Harbor on October 24. The plan, being developed with guidance from the University of Massachusetts Boston-based Urban Harbors Institute, aims to identify issues and current and future needs of the harbor.

It will also identify changes needed to town regulations or bylaws to implement project goals, which will need to be implemented through traditional channels like Town Meeting or through respective boards and commissions.

The October 24 meeting invited residents and the public to share their thoughts on some of the topic areas Urban Harbors Institute has identified through preliminary meetings with town officials and a recently formed advisory committee.

Public access and recreation attracted the most attention, with residents voicing their wishes for more ways to enjoy the harbor, both in the water and from the shore. Several residents asked about the possibility of opening up town-owned roads that dead-end into the harbor to use for recreation, such as launch points for kayaks and small watercraft, pointing to the setup on Hill Street as an example.

In other recreational areas, residents asked about making more efficient use of the Padanaram Bridge’s opening and closing cycles, arrange moorings to reduce the number of large vessels passing through the bridge, and making it easier to acquire a mooring or rental spot for kayaks and boats.

Public access to the harbor was also a hot-button issue. Common input included the idea of walking paths, parks, and other ways to enjoy the harbor on foot, with some residents noting there really isn’t an easy way to view the harbor by land, especially with the causeway closed.

Steve Bliven from the Urban Harbors Institute noted that’s already under consideration by the Pathways Committee, which is exploring the idea of a system of walking paths along Smith Neck Road. Walking paths are also being explored in the village itself, but Bliven noted it’s a complex issue due to state public access laws and Chapter 91, the state laws and licensing system that govern public waterfront activates.

From the discussion, Bliven highlighted the idea of providing a destination for harbor visitors, and increasing public awareness of public waterfront access – pointing to small initiatives to include picnic benches and public spots in marinas on the water, along with several “secret” public parks along the Padanaram shoreline.

Officials also solicited input on rising sea levels and how the plan could begin to prepare for it. Residents noted that could be a major issue, and asked to look into how the town’s infrastructure can cope with rising sea levels, along with specific issues that could be faced in other areas in town.

Other topics discussed include historical values of the harbor area, dredging, shellfishing and aquaculture, marine life, commercial uses of the harbor, land use and open space, and water quality.