Local beaches improved, but report cites lack of maintenance

Just in time for summer temperatures, Gov. Deval Patrick last week appointed Westfield Mayor Richard Sullivan to head the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Like others coming into new administration jobs, Sullivan has a tall order in front of him: managing the state's parks as the agency recovers from budget cuts past and present. But the waterfront, particularly that in the Greater Boston area, figures in big as well.

An April report from the Metropolitan Beaches Commission, which was established by the state Legislature and chaired by state Sen. Jack Hart and state Rep. Anthony Petruccelli, called for an additional $3.3 million a year for staffers and maintenance for 14 Boston-area beaches. There are 87 state beaches total.

The beaches that fall in Dorchester's jurisdiction include Malibu, Savin Hill and Tenean. The three were cited as having poor maintenance and runoff issues, including an inadequately maintained bathhouse at Malibu and Savin Hill, and no bathrooms, causing the Little League baseball team to set up portable toilets in May.

Sullivan, who has served as mayor for 14 years, said he views the beaches report as a "road map."

With many expecting for the parks and beaches to become safer and cleaner, he is "looking to do that on day one," he said. The new commissioner starts June 11, but he was already walking through Beacon Hill last week, first for a hearing over changing a Westfield energy board and then the next day to introduce himself to the State House press corps and lawmakers as the Senate debated additions to its budget.

The governor and the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles have directed him to put the assets and resources of the Department of Conservation and Recreation "on the front lines," Sullivan said.

Hart said he has had a brief conversation with Sullivan, a former chairman of the Turnpike Advisory Board and president of the Massachusetts Mayors Association. "We're hopeful he'll adopt this as a blueprint," Hart said.

In its budget for the coming fiscal year, the House provided about $2.4 million for metropolitan beaches, but did not specify whether the money would go specifically into personnel or equipment. (The budget also ups funding for DCR by $9.6 million.)

The recently released Senate budget provides $1 million solely for personnel, "to give a shot in the arm" to the beaches, though Hart cautioned that the total amount need until two to three years from now.

"In the meantime, we're off to a good start," he said.

The budget now heads to a conference committee, where both chambers will hash out a final version to send to Patrick's desk.

The beaches should see some marked improvement over the summer, Hart added.