At its meeting on Monday night, the Board of Selectmen approved a new policy on the use of Falmouth's beaches, setting guidelines for reserving beach space for regular groups and one-time events.
The new policy asks that those seeking to reserve beach space notify the town 60 days in advance of the event's date, in order to ensure enough time for their application to be processed. Those who apply less than 60 days prior may still be heard and granted permission, the board said, but only those who allow that much notice will be guaranteed of a hearing.
In addition, a maximum of two reservations per month will be granted to any one individual or organization. Selectman Kevin Murphy suggested a further limit of no more than seven reservations per year be added, to protect against “the commercialization of our beaches.” Murphy said the continuous meeting of one group at a particular beach could link that group to that location in beach-goers' minds, inadvertently giving the town's endorsement to the group.
Selectman Brent Putnam said that since existing beach policy already forbids the use of town beaches for commercial purposes, and since interest in reserving beach space drops precipitously in winter, the two-reservations-per-month limit should be sufficient. The board eventually decided the same.
The policy, as originally drafted, banned reservations before 5 p.m. between Memorial Day and Labor Day, so that events would not interfere with regular beach-going hours. But Selectman Melissa Freitag said that the time should be changed to 4 or even 3 p.m., to accommodate the frequent weddings held on Falmouth's beaches.
Also, Freitag said, that part of the policy could begin when the beaches officially open, late in June, rather than Memorial Day. Since schools don't let out until late June, and tourists don't begin arriving in large numbers until around that time, she said, beaches are unlikely to be so crowded that a wedding or other event would be a disruption.
The board eventually decided to adopt Freitag's suggestions, moving the earliest hour for summer reservations to 4 p.m., and setting the date for that policy to take effect at the official opening day for Falmouth's beaches, on either the last or second-to-last Saturday of June.
The board voted unanimously to adopt the new policy. Acting Town Manager Heather Harper said applications already submitted, and those for events less than 60 days away, would be processed as quickly as possible, as usual.
Later in the same meeting, the board dealt with one such application, voting unanimously to reserve a portion of Surf Drive Beach for a wedding later this month.