By M.E. Jones
HARVARD — Nobody from the Parks and Recreation Commission asked the selectmen to hand over ownership of the town beach, but Chairman Stu Sklar at a recent board meeting said it might be worth considering.
His suggestion sprang from a discovery and the issues it raised a couple of years ago.
At that time, Town Administrator Tim Bragan informed selectmen that the town, not Parks & Rec, owns the beach at Bare Hill Pond, which has been under the commissioner’s control for many years.
In practical terms, that meant the commission now needed permission from the board to conduct programs and hold events at the beach, which it never did before.
“We own the beach but they run the (swimming) programs, Sklar said, engendering a “may I” process that seems “silly” to him, given Park & Rec’s longstanding, autonomous management of the beach. Therefore, he proposed transferring ownership, a move he acknowledged would need Town Meeting approval.
Selectman Marie Sobalvarro asked why the town would want to do that.
“They could control their own destiny,” Sklar replied, adding that the commission ran the beach for 50 years before selectmen dug up the revelatory 1949 deed.
“They don’t run programs there except during the summer,” Selectman Lucy Wallace pointed out. “Are there any restrictions” in the deed to prevent such a transfer? she asked.
Sobalvarro sought to clarify the proposal. “So, we’d transfer that land to the program managers?” she asked.
Sklar said it wasn’t as odd as it sounded, noting sporadic control of land “all over town,” including the Town Common, which is under the jurisdiction of Park & Rec.
Wallace said she’d like to see an assessor’s map of the beach area to see where the boundaries are and who else has responsibility for various parcels. “I get your point,” she told Sklar, but the question then becomes “what are all the pieces?”
If the property ownership is optional, “maybe this shouldn’t be on our plate,” Sklar opined.
Selectman Leo Blair said the situation “as it has existed in the recent past,” at times seeming like a power struggle, is “not good,” and it would be a “prudent” to fix it.
“We should talk to Parks and Rec,” Wallace said. “It’s probably worth looking into.”