Beach Access: Mobi-Mats for Trails on Plum Island

Club members Susie McKay and I (Kathy Strauch) attended the site visit on July 30 to see what Newburyport is doing about beach access on the north end of Plum Island. (Thank Susie for getting me there; she was the driving force.) There was one man from MBBA, but I don’t know his name. Susie and I made sure to let people know that we represented Plum Island Surfcasters. Julie from the Newburyport city conservation dept. said that signs at the roads would mark each trail and state where the trail leads. Signs at the far end near the water would be smaller and would indicate where the trail would lead to along the road. I suggested reflective signs that would be easy to find in the dark with a flashlight and she agreed that would be a good idea.

Here is a handout from the city of Newburyport describing the problem and the trails:

We saw the new Mobi-Mats  on several of the trails (newspaper article at this link ). The mats currently only cover about 1/3 of the the trails. These are expensive mats and there is not enough money to do all the trails. Because they are so expensive and there is worry they would wash away in winter storms, the mats will be pulled up before winter and put back in spring. This should prevent sand build-up over the years. Without a covering of sand, the mats are much easier to walk on than loose sand, so that will be an encouragement to people to use the trails.  These mats are designed for handicap-accessible wheel chair traffic.   Pulling a wheeled cooler or a fishing gear cart will be much easier on the Mobi-Mats than on loose sand.

All the cross trails are not being cut off; some openings are being left. The rationale being that leaving the openings is better than having people demolish sections of the fence to keep using their favored trails.

As I was viewing and listening, I kept trying to think of how the fishing community could help the restoration effort and keep good relations with the town. As the mats are very expensive, I don’t think the club could help out directly. But maybe we could be advocates for using some of the fishing license fees for this. It seems to me that walking trails to get to the beach are just as important to fishermen as fishing piers and boat launches. I suggested this to both Julie and Sharif Zeid (city council member), who both liked the idea. Sharif Zeid mentioned that all the money they have for the project comes from one-time grants and there are no recurring funds for trail maintenance.

We may hear from the city about who to contact to lobby for fishing license money.