Editorial: Treason or vision to reimagine Misquamicut’s Atlantic Avenue?

Editorial: Treason or vision to reimagine Misquamicut’s Atlantic Avenue?


Misquamicut reimagined without a massive parking lot at the state beach is what Westerly resident and Colby College student Alexander Berardo asked readers to envision in his letter to the editor published Thursday.

Shuttle beachgoers in from somewhere outside the enclave of Misquamicut, he suggested, to relieve traffic congestion on Atlantic Avenue and the narrow neighborhood streets in that section of town.

He even identified a large plot of land available at the Westerly Airport Industrial Park for use as an inland alternative to the massive lot along the beach.

Berardo points out that plenty of other large beaches use a shuttle system — Narragansett, for instance, and the National Seashore beaches on Cape Cod — so there are plenty of examples from which to start the conversation.

Of course there’s the not-so-slight matter of the state’s feelings on this, but until the question is posed, how would we know the reaction? Owners of the smaller lots along Atlantic Avenue likely would love the idea, as it would reduce competition in the center of all the action. Perhaps the state beach lot could then be torn up and seeded with grass or filled with sand for passive recreation or picnicking or both. Consider it the un-paving of paradise.

In the weeks after Superstorm Sandy, many wanted to reimagine Misquamicut without so many commercial and residential buildings, suggesting that rebuilding was simply asking for more fights with Mother Nature along a barrier beach.

That ship has sailed — for now anyway — as rebuild they did, albeit smarter and with that next fight in mind.

But maybe it’s time for this discussion about parking. Fewer cars would make for a much more pedestrian and biker friendly atmosphere at the beach, and residents of the area wouldn’t feel as assaulted as they do now.

Would this lead to less cash in the registers at beach businesses? Maybe, but if a shuttle were run properly perhaps not too much less. An open air trolley vehicle would beat school buses or the like and the ride would be half the fun of a day at the beach for kids. Once the discussion started there would be no end to the ideas, but starting is the key to exploring new ideas.

Remember the days when every town was in the midst of a planning “charette” in which all current practices were put aside — on paper — in favor of a “let’s start from scratch with what we know now” approach?

Maybe this winter would be a good time for the town to host a “Misquamicut charette.”

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