A Moratorium On Memorial Benches

by William F. Galvin
Harwich is instituting a moratorium on memorial benches at beaches. WILLIAM F. GALVIN PHOTO Harwich is instituting a moratorium on memorial benches at beaches. WILLIAM F. GALVIN PHOTO

HARWICH – The town is imposing a moratorium on the installation of memorial benches at beaches along the Nantucket Sound shoreline due to the proliferation of benches and the impact on them in recent storms.

“A number of benches took a beating, with three feet of sand on top of them,” said Jared Hopkins, parks foreman with the department of public works.

Altogether, there are 48 memorial benches on town beaches. On Pleasant Road Beach there are eight benches within a 100-yard stretch. Red River Beach has 18, Pleasant Road Beach and Seymour Pond have eight each, Earle Road Beach has seven, Bank Street Beach has four, there are two on Pleasant Bay and one each at Round Cove and Cahoon Road landing.

The decision to issue a moratorium does not rest with the DPW but with the recreation and youth commission. Recreation Director Eric Beebe said last week that he had a request from Hopkins to halt the issuance of bench installations because storms were battering the beaches and the proliferation of benches.

Beebe said there is still one bench request in the pipeline which will go forward.

Recreation and Youth Commission Chair Vahan Khachadoorian wanted to know how long a moratorium would be in place, but Beebe said he wasn’t given a timeline. Hopkins said memorial benches could be located in parks, ballfields, along bike trails and at public landings along the ponds with approval of the recreation department. The department has a brochure that recommends three different styles of benches which range from $1,800 to $2,100. Some of the benches have a plaque embedded in them recognizing the individual being memorialized.

Hopkins said his department is charged with installing the benches. The DPW adds a couple of feet of steel to the base of the benches to stabilize them and to prevent them from being stolen, he said. It takes two people two to three hours to install, for which there is no charge.

Many of the benches are wooden and suffer rot over time, Hopkins said, and they could be replaced with new benches.

As for the length of a moratorium, DPW Director Lincoln Hooper said once his department gets caught up in cleaning up the beaches this spring, he would take another look at the tradition.

The recreation and youth commission agreed by consensus to put the moratorium in place.