EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

March 13, 2013

Popular boardwalk damaged

PLUM ISLAND — Last week’s storm has left behind yet another scar on the island, one that is being complicated by the federal government’s sequestration spending cuts.

The popular boardwalk at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge’s parking lot 1 was smashed by the waves and is closed indefinitely. The boardwalk provides one of the island’s best public access ways to the beach.

“The boardwalk sustained significant damage,” said Graham Taylor, refuge manager. “A fairly large chunk of it will have to be torn down and rebuilt.”

Complicating the repair is the federal government’s sequestration, which has caused spending cuts across many government agencies, including the one that manages the refuge, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Taylor said it is not known when the funds will be available to rebuild it.

“Working with it (the sequestration) is a lot more challenging for us,” said Taylor.

The sequester went into effect at the beginning of March, when Congress and President Obama failed to reach an agreement on balancing the federal government’s budget.

The boardwalk at parking lot 1 is the largest and most heavily used in the refuge. Located just inside the gate, it has 140 parking spaces — more spaces than all the other beach access lots combined. It also has a visitor building and a bathroom.

The boardwalk is not the only area of the refuge that sustained damage. Taylor said the area around Sea Haven, also known as the polio camp, saw severe erosion. It’s located about 4 miles from the refuge entrance, along a remote part of the beach that does not have direct pedestrian access.

The footpath that leads from the shore to the parking lot at Sandy Point State Reservation also saw some wash over, he said. Sandy Point is located at the southernmost tip of the island, about 6 miles from the refuge entrance.

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