In 2016 the Ayer Parks Commission made several changes to the policies for usage of the Sandy Pond Beach facility, specifically regarding residential and non-residential use. This is in response to growing concern among town residents that non-residential use of the town beach has had a negative impact. Some of the concerns that have been voiced to the Parks Department have included:
- Lack of parking lot spaces, forcing residents to try to find street parking, which is limited.
- Safety of swimmers
- Cost to Ayer taxpayers, who have the full burden of paying for Sandy Pond Beach services and upkeep.
While some of these concerns such as safety and overcrowding are subjective, others are more easily quantified. There are a limited number of parking lot spaces, and street parking is sparse. The annual cost for maintaining the beach is approximately $35K-$40K, most of which is to cover lifeguard wages. The number of beach users over that last ten years has increased, and while it has not been shown to cause a breach in waterfront safety, it is a legitimate concern should that trend continue.
In response to some of these concerns, various options were considered. The most common suggestion among residents was to close the beach to Ayer citizens only, but that did not seem viable based on the agreement the Town of Ayer had made with the LWCF that required the facility to be open to the public. Another thought was to limit parking to residents only at the facility lots. This would alleviate some of the parking congestion that residents were experiencing, but not address the facility usage concerns. Further considerations included charging some kind of fee for non-residents, either through parking or entrance to the facility, which was deemed allowable by the LWCF agreement.
After several meetings with various town officials, employees and residents, a plan was completed for revising the policies for usage of Sandy Pond Beach by residents and nonresidents. These changes will take place starting May 27 and are listed below.
- Starting May 27, the gates for Sandy Pond Beach will be locked until 11:00 AM, when a Parks Department staff member will open the main gate. Swimming will be available when lifeguards are on duty (hours posted on main gate). The Park will close and gates will be locked at 7:30 each night.
- Residents of the Town of Ayer will not be charged a fee for using the Sandy Pond Beach facilities, but will need to show proof of residency before entering the gate. This can be any form of picture ID, including MA driver’s license, MID, student ID card from ASRSD, etc.
- Residents who do not have a picture ID will be able to acquire a facility usage card. Starting April 15, these can be obtained at Town Hall at the third floor reception office during regular business hours. Proof of residency is required to obtain a card. Minors 12 and old requesting a card will need to be accompanied by an adult who can demonstrate their Ayer residence. Children under 12 do not need a card, but will not be permitted to enter the facilities without an adult.
- Non-residents will be charged a $5.00 fee for adults and $3.00 for children under 12 for daily use of the facilities. There will be an attendant at the gate to accept the fee. Cash will be the only tender accepted. Collected fees will be used to offset costs of maintaining the facility.
- Those wishing to just use the basketball court, volleyball court, or any other feature of the facility must still show proof of residency or pay the non-resident entrance fee before entering.
- As of May 27, the lower parking lot along Snake Hill Road will be restricted to Ayer residents only. The upper lot along Sandy Pond Road will remain open to the general public. A sticker showing town residency will be required to park in the lower lot.
- Up to date Town of Ayer transfer station stickers will suffice as proof of town residency. Ayer residents without a transfer station sticker may obtain a Sandy Pond Beach parking sticker at no charge. Starting May 1, these can be obtained at Town Hall at the third floor reception office during regular business hours. Proof of residency will be required to obtain a parking sticker.
It is expected that while implementing these new policies will be challenging, they will also be beneficial for patrons of Sandy Pond Beach and address many of the concerns that residents have expressed. Parking should be easier to find for residents, lifeguards will be able to monitor patrons more readily and increase waterfront safety (including having an extra guard on staff during the busiest periods), and residents can feel justified in knowing that nonresidents are contributing to the cost of maintaining the facility.
If you have any questions regarding these changes in the Sandy Pond Beach usage policies, feel free to contact the Ayer Parks Department to discuss them. We appreciate any input.
Ayer Parks Commission