, Salem, MA

August 20, 2013

Rope draws the line at Beverly's Brackenbury Beach


---- — BEVERLY — Visitors to Brackenbury Beach on a recent weekend were met by warm sand, cool breezes ... and a security guard asking them where they live.

The owner of an adjacent private beach almost literally drew a line in the sand, putting up a rope and posting a guard to separate the public and private sections of the beach.

The rope and guard were gone last weekend, but their presence was an indication of the off-again, on-again disputes that arise over access to the waterfront.

A woman sitting on a deck at a house that fronted the cordoned-off section of beach declined comment when asked about the rope and security guard.

Parks and Recreation Department Director Bruce Doig said he had not heard about the recent measures at Brackenbury, but said private beach owners have hired security there in the past.

“It wouldn’t surprise me that on top of that, they put up a rope defining the public area,” he said.

Brackenbury Beach is a small beach located at the end of Brackenbury Lane in the Cove section of the city. Its sand contains specks of magnetite that will stick to a magnet, according to an inventory of beaches on the city’s website.

Parking is not allowed on Brackenbury Lane, so people who use the beach must park on Hale Street and walk three-tenths of a mile to the water.

Most of the beach is privately owned, but there is a public right-of-way that extends from the road out to the water. Doig said the exact width of the public beach has been disputed over the years. He said it is supposed to be 60 feet. The city’s beach inventory says it is 49 feet.

A similar situation exists at Rice’s Beach near Lynch Park, where there is a 40-foot public right-of-way in the middle of privately owned beach on either side. Doig said he has attended meetings in the past to discuss public access at Rice’s Beach.

“Neighbors do get upset when people get up close to their lawns and property and kids are playing on the rocks,” Doig said. “They’re concerned about liability. If they want to have protection, they would have to hire a security guard.”

The city at one time hired lifeguards to staff Brackenbury and Rice’s beaches but does not now, Doig said.

Ward 4 City Councilor Scott Houseman said he had not received any complaints about the rope and security guard at Brackenbury.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or