SALISBURY — Local state legislators are trying to raise the parking/camping surcharges at Salisbury Beach State Reservation to bump up the beach’s preservation trust fund, but others in town are unsure how the money already in the fund is being used.
The Salisbury Beach Preservation Trust Fund was created with the help of former state Sen. Steven Baddour and state Rep. Michael Costello, after storms ravaged Salisbury Beach three years in a row.
The money in it comes from a $2 surcharge added to the parking and camping fees collected at Salisbury Beach Reservation. Local legislators want to raise it to $3.
Although the fund has amassed money over the years, there has never been an accounting of how it was spent. In addition, this year, after storms mauled the beach once more, money was cited as a reason that the state Department of Conservation and Recreation couldn’t completely repair the damage.
To its credit, DCR harvested from a local sand bar to distribute sand along the beach. But the damage to the beach and its dune structure was so severe that more sand is needed.
According to Town Manager Neil Harrington, the town hasn’t requested and has never received a tally of how much money the fund collects annually or how it’s spent. However, given the current situation, he’d like to know where the money goes.
In response to a request from the Newburyport Daily News, S.J. Port, a spokeswoman for the DCR, provided information about the fund, which now has $509,015 in uncommitted funds.
“DCR has several possible projects planned for these funds,” Port said, “including the demolition of the former (Sidewalk) Cafe, dune restoration, purchase and installation of snow fences to stabilize and maintain the barrier dune system at Salisbury Beach State Reservation, and evaluation of the existing waste water infrastructure within the campground.”
Expenditures to date have included about $188,000 to pay for a sand restoration project when the Army Corps of Engineers dredged the mouth of the Merrimack River, a little over $16,000 for Salisbury Beach pile removal, along with $4,500 for on-site waste water system evaluation in the campground.
Whether more money can be amassed is questionable. The surcharge from $2 to $3 is in the House version of the state budget, but not the Senate version. A conference committee will decide on the final budget.
“Rep. Costello and I are advocating for these to be included,” state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives said. “In my opinion the replacement of sand on Salisbury Beach is a way to strengthen the state’s tourism to benefit the whole state, because this is a very popular beach.”