, Newburyport, MA


March 15, 2013

The vagaries of life on barrier beaches

I spent some time early in the week reconsidering my awareness of nature around and about Newburyport, Newbury and Salisbury into which I was born and have lived for nearly a century.

Much has changed, including our responses to all challenges.

The superhighway cuts a swath through and along the outbacks of our city and towns, increasing runoffs to farmlands and small streams. So has the expansion of housing and business through what was mostly unoccupied land until well after the Second World War.

As for our beaches, well ...

The stark reality of our intrusion on nature’s sensitive terrain is that it’s a consequence of mankind’s inability to avoid its lure.

We build homes and businesses upon it, or as close as possible to it as opportunities rise — just as others around the world do.

Barrier beaches, however, have lives of their own, and all are subject to the vagaries of nature and the whims of human kind. There is no question that we are, after all, temporary tenants despite our proofs of ownership.

The challenge for those choosing to live or otherwise investing on ocean fronts is to bring change to what is possible within the strictures of nature and regulatory authority without abuse.

That was on my mind as I made what I could of an ebbing tide with a fair northeasterly wind in my face.

On Tuesday, Plum Island had a modest group of breaking waves south of its jetty and a long spine of one a quarter mile or so breaking offshore and parallel to the shoreline reaching toward the center.

On Wednesday, wind direction had shifted westerly and there was no breaking surf except for that along the shoreline.

There is not much left to the beach’s shingle at high tide in Salisbury’s center where remnants of the old Ocean Echo attest to another age and a more inviting spread of sand. At high tide, waves were covering beach shingles right up to final barriers.

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