The Block Island Times

Conservation Commission looks into new snow fencing

By Renée Meyer | Jan 19, 2014

Snow fencing was once again a central topic of conversation at the Conservation Commission’s monthly meeting on Jan. 14. The commission had received an email from Town Council member Chris Warfel at its previous meeting regarding an alternative to the wood-slat and wire snow fencing currently in use on Block Island that could perhaps be used for dune restoration. Warfel had also sent before-and-after pictures of a dune that he had experimented with on Charlestown Beach, showing how the alternative material had trapped sand and allowed for the growth of dune grass in the area. The commission appeared intrigued by the results and questioned Warfel on the materials and methodology used.

Warfel explained how he had noticed a bale of jute or hemp netting stored on a pallet behind the Town Highway Department’s garage and asked about it. The netting had been originally used along Corn Neck Road in the area of the Beachead Restaurant to anchor the dune and the rose bushes that had been planted there after Superstorm Sandy in late 2012. A subsequent storm had torn it up and so the road crew gathered it and stored it behind the garage. With Highway Supervisor Mike Shea’s approval, Warfel conducted his experiment down by Coast Guard Road. He explained that he had buried four inches of the netting in the sand and attached it to posts by tying it up with more jute — a method he said could be improved upon.

Member John Hopf noted that the Conservation Commission had used the wood and wire fencing along beach access paths primarily to keep people off of the dunes so that the dune grass could be allowed to grow back, citing dune grasses as the best method of stabilizing the dunes. Warfel said the fabric came to mind because the road crew “did not like the wire and no one would burn it or impale themselves.”

Member Ned Phillips expressed that he thought the wood and wire was more aesthetically pleasing, but allowed that “we should make an experiment.”

The Commissioners asked if there was more to “play with” and discussed what areas the method might be effective for, after being told by Warfel that he was fairly sure it was still behind the garage, but would check. They agreed that the “blow-outs” would be a good place to start, and Warfel said he would volunteer to help.

Speaking of volunteering to help, the Commission set Tuesday, Jan. 21 as its first work date this year for dune restoration. Members said they would appreciate any and all volunteers to meet at State Beach at 2 p.m. for an hour or two of work.

The Commission then turned their attention to Payne Road. Phillips explained that there was a line of “heritage” ash trees there which, he approximated, were about 90 years old and were being overcome by vines. After a brief discussion, the Commission made and approved a motion to send an advisory to the Town Manager to have the road crew “pay some attention to the ash trees along Payne Road.”

John Hopf reported on some research he had done on the computer regarding sea-level rise and recommended that his fellow commission members do, too. He suggested that the commission be more knowledgeable in this area, which he said could become a “political football,” and perhaps send commission members to other town board meetings, such as the Zoning and Planning Boards and “throw it open to them for suggestions instead of operating in a vacuum.”

The levels of sea-level rise and predicted rise quoted by Hopf, however, drew strong disagreement from Commissioner Fred Leeder who has been actively studying the issue, and quoted much higher numbers of sea level rise as predicted by the Beach SAMP [Special Area Management Plan] project.

In the end, the Commission took no formal action on the matter and moved on to talking trash.

Commission members Les Slate and Marea Mott reported that they had attended the meeting between the Town Council and the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation on Jan. 6. At the meeting, the news was that Block Island was exceeding their annual cap on the tonnage of trash sent to the central landfill in Johnston annually and needed to recycle and/or compost more of its waste.

Mott said the meeting was lively, with a lot of questions asked and that it “opened up a lot of possibilities.” Slate pointed out that a greater problem for Rhode Island was that the landfill only had about 25 years left before it would be full.

Commissioner David Roosa added that homeowners were very good at recycling, but that restaurants, which produce 50 percent of the garbage, are just starting to recycle. He added that people tend to think that if they had rented a dumpster, they could put whatever they wanted into it. He added that there were already regulations on the books in R.I. regarding businesses recycling but that no one was enforcing them. He also said that the construction debris, which are stored in a separate container at the Transfer Station here, are not actually recycled in Johnston.

The Commissioners then swapped stories of garbage and recycling, including one offered up by Roosa about “the time that” a load of garbage from the island was sent back to be picked and sorted through after having been rejected in Johnston for exceeding the amount of recyclables allowed in it. There were a lot of maggots, he reported.

Others reported that the list of recyclable items in Rhode Island had been expanded to include many more items than previously listed, but that the general public might not be aware of the changes. Clerk Terri Chmiel showed the Commission some colorful graphics that she had pulled off of the town’s website outlining what could and could not be recycled. The Commission members thought that the town should go further, however, and voted on sending an advisory to the council to have them arrange for the graphics to be printed in the newspaper. They also agreed to revisit the subject at their next meeting and put together their thoughts on it, perhaps in a bullet-like fashion.

On a final note, the Commission announced that the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation would be holding a household toxic waste collection here on May 24.

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