As most of us are home these days, we thought it would be interesting to send out occasional reading for you to enjoy. This piece was written at the end of last year, the combined work of Carol Pacun (text) and David MacAdam (photo essay) with most photographs taken by the late Clair Baisly. As spring arrives in New England, we are reminded how nature marches on, and of the importance of community, whether virtual or physical. Stay safe and be well. - J.L.
Andrew Hardings Lane Beach 1988 - 2019
Note: with climate change and rising water issues making headlines from Venice to Little Beach I thought it might be interesting to review and update the disastrous results from the break through of North Beach in 1987. The following “Requiem” is based on an opinion piece I wrote for the Cape Cod Chronicle ca. 1987. C.P.
Requiem for a Town Landing, ca. 1987
Last night we walked down to Andrew Hardings Lane to look again at the shifting sand, at the pine tree newly toppled from its bank by the force of an exceptionally high tide, at the dead brush scattered about the beach, and at the ocean, now at low tide, innocently lapping at the shore. But in our walks to the beach, it isn’t what we see that is so heartbreaking. It’s what we don’t see -what we miss the most -is the people. For those of us who live in the Old Village, the town landing, all but eliminated this winter by the Outer Beach breakthrough , was not just a bit of beach with a parking lot. It was a community, a place to meet friends, to gossip with neighbors, to watch the tourists, to listen to and believe some fish stories, to discuss the issues of the day (heavy on the weather), to laugh and feel a part of a small town neighborhood. This place belonged to and was a real part of our community, offering something special to all ages.
Over the years, as all grew older and our lives inevitably changed, we believed that, whatever happened, there would be a place for us at Andrew Harding’s beach. Concerns about the “breakthrough” at Outer Beach were initially dismissed. Yet, by the end of the last summer, there were ominous signs as the waves rushed from the ocean through the breakthrough and slapped at the shore with ever increasing force. All of us gradually removed our boats to safe harbors, thinking, or perhaps praying, that this would be a temporary measure. The swimmers, after years of predicting when the waters would be the warmest, noticed that on some days the water was never warm, that at high tide, the currents made swimming impossible. Parents left their books and gossip to patrol the shore and anxiously watched their children in the surf. On one of the last days of August, groups of us were huddled at the parking lot as the water crept up almost to the pavement. Houses along the beach no longer seemed safe, the beach itself was disappearing into the ocean and, finally, we had to admit what we were experiencing signaled that our summers at the beach may be over for a long time, if not forever.
Now, months later, there is nothing but a fence with a “no trespassing” sign looming at its side at the end of the lane. The parking lot has washed away, the beach itself, a moonscape carved out by the sea, is barely accessible at high tide. The houses at the edge of the beach are attacked daily by the power of winds and waves. The devastation is heartless and complete.
In the larger scheme of things, what historians will write, what films and pictures will verify, is that the sea came in and destroyed houses, ate away at dunes, eliminated hundreds of feet of beach and broke up a parking lot. But to many of us, the sea took away what was more important: a way of life. And we continue to mourn our loss.
2019: Thoughts On Andrew Hardings Lane Beach After The Deluge
Now in 2019, it is almost impossible to believe that our glowing beach, filled with people of all ages, was once a wasteland. That somehow we, with hefty support from natural tidal dynamics, brought back the beach. Old Village neighbors, acting with the Old Village Association, became rabid defenders of “our” beach – a Chatham (if not a world!) treasure. Ted Keon arranged to have sand pumped into giant tubes that lay across the beach and spewed sand from container ships stationed off shore. Sturdy beach goers dropped by for a clean-up to make the beach more sand and less tar. The town agreed to purchase the “new” beach, now west of the original land, and, thanks to the Old Village Association and generous owners (we collected the required money in two weeks!) the beach became by law a public beach, open to all, in perpetuity.
However, as we look to the future, we cannot assume that the beach we have now will last forever. History has taught us that humans can make a difference, but we must understand and accept that natural events, over which we have little control, will occur. We can adjust to these changes, but we cannot prevent them. This time, natural changes gave us a hand with sand from the north partially as a result of the new breakthrough at Ministers Point. The ocean has been on the move, probably forever. Now climate changes and rising seas have the power to make these changes come faster, and perhaps with more force.
The lesson for us is in the commitment of those of us who in 1989 understood that the real loss of Andrew Harding Lane beach was not about a stretch of sand, but of a special community. Although we will always miss the families whose houses were demolished, we found some of that community spirit again by working together to save our way of life. This is what we treasure in the Old Village. Whatever nature did, we held onto what is really important: our neighborhood spirit. No matter what the future brings, we can protect our valuable way of life – together.