As workers continue to truck in and spread sand over the Misquamicut beach area on Monday, members of a global consortium promoting environmentally friendly and “green” approaches to everything from urban zoning to the rebuilding of third-world villages will be touring the site to determine how best to retain the beach as we know it in the face of future storms and the overriding elements of climate change.
The workers are employed in a mission designed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restore sand swept away by decades of storms, the most noteworthy in recent years being Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Those touring the same area will be led by the organization Global Green USA, an environmental advocacy organization and an affiliate of Green Cross International, an organization founded in 1993 by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to promote a global approach to ecological and environmental problems.
Accompanying them and local officials on the tour will be representatives of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency. They’ll all be here as the result of a grant prepared by Westerly Town Planner Marilyn Shellman. Shellman was successful in convincing Global Green USA to select Westerly as one of eight communities to help this year through the U.S. EPA’s Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program.
What it all comes down to is that the town will receive $20,000 worth of technical assistance from Global Green through an EPA grant, and a report with recommendations for how to make Misquamicut sustainable into the future.
Amy Grzybowski, who leads the town’s planning department and oversees grants, said the report could help create a new roadmap regarding zoning in the Misquamicut area in an attempt to better prepare for impending changes wrought by climate change. She noted that some projections for the Westerly coastline envision Atlantic Avenue covered by water. All of which brings into question the Army Corps of Engineers’ plan for that 84,000 cubic yards of sand being trucked in daily on a schedule that calls for the completion of this $3.1 million project by June 1. In the end, the beach is supposed to look the same way it did in the 1960s, with triple the depth from the dunes to the water.
While we are supportive of our tourism-based economy at the beach, we can’t help but see the Army Corps project as a large-scale version of children buttressing sand castles against the onslaught of the waves. Even on a pleasant day in August, the waves win out every time — they call it nature.
The Global Green project sounds intriguing and the public has a chance to take part. The group is scheduled to tour the area starting at the old Westerly Town Beach from 10 a.m. to noon Monday and then conduct a community discussion on Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Town Hall.
The public is invited to both, and considering Tuesday’s discussion is intended to focus on the future look of the Misquamicut area, it sounds like an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.