Improvements add to popularity of Amherst beach
AMHERST – Build it and they will come. Or make it better and they will come.
Over the last few years, the Recreation Department has made significant improvements to the town beach on Baboosic Lake.
In his quarterly department report to selectmen recently, Recreation Director Craig Fraley said there has been a big increase in nonresident passes sold. As of Monday, June 19, the department sold 186 season passes, 60 of them to nonresidents.
Bad weather made for a slow start to the season, he said, but he expects this year’s numbers to surpass the 210 season passes sold last year.
Board Chairman Dwight Brew asked whether there is a need to put a cap on admissions, giving preference to Amherst residents. Fraley said no, but “if it got too crazy,” they would definitely consider it.
Nonresidents tend to be at the lake on weekends and residents go on weekdays, Fraley said. People come and go, so use is spread out, he said.
Improvements include new docks, renovated bathrooms, an updated concession stand and an oven in the concession stand. Moulton’s Market pizza is now sold, along with Hershey’s Ice Cream, hot dogs, popcorn, assorted candy and drinks.
There is an improved volleyball court and a new surface for the playground, which was moved out of the sun and into a shady area.
For picnicking, there are new tables and grills under a canopy of pines. Kayaks and paddleboards are available to rent, and a Boy Scout is building a gaga pit for an updated version of dodgeball.
New docks that can be lowered during the spring and fall rowing season were purchased with the help of the Baboosic Lake Rowing Club.
“We’re just trying to make it a better place for everyone,” Fraley said in a phone interview.
All improvements are paid through user fees, not by taxpayers, he said. On Sunday, June 11, for example, revenue from sales of daily passes, boat rentals and food came to $1,200.
Pay for lifeguards was increased, he said, to make Amherst more competitive.
Improvements are noted by several residents on the department’s web page, with one mother saying the town has been “putting out so many good activities that I don’t even need to look for things to do in the nearby cities.”
The downside for the increasing popularity seems to be more traffic.
Police Chief Mark Reams gave selectmen his quarterly report the same evening Fraley did and proposed lowering the speed limit on Broadway, the main road to the beach.
The limit would go from 30 to 25 mph, based on guidelines from the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices and a unanimous recommendation from the town traffic safety committee.
Two public hearings are required for a new ordinance, so Reams suggested installing 25 mph advisory signs in both directions on Broadway in the meantime.
Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.