Saturday, February 14, 2009

Town Neck Beach, Sands of Change

Paul Schrader came to me over a year ago with the idea of creating a video about the erosion of Town Neck Beach. He and Clare are regular visitors to the beach and boardwalk that crosses over Old Harbor Marsh and, over the years, they have witnessed stark changes to the barrier dunes and salt marsh system.

Mary and I live in the Town Neck area of Sandwich, Massachusetts, and often take the five-minute walk down to the beach. From our own observations, as well as those of other Sandwich residents we heard from during the production of this video, there is no doubt that we are experiencing accelerating erosion of the barrier beach.

Paul and I wrote an article for the Sandwich Enterprise, a local weekly newspaper, which provides some interesting background on the topic. Read it here. We edited the video, “Town Neck Beach, Sands of Change,” into a 30-minute version and a 10-minute version. To see the long version, request a DVD from me by emailing a request to If you can stop by our office to pick it up, there is no charge for the DVD. Otherwise, we will mail a copy to you for a handling and postage fee of $5. Directions to the office are at

The 10-minute version follows. If you have a broadband Internet connection, make sure to click "watch in high quality" for the best viewing experience. Also, this YouTube version of the program includes closed captioning. Hover your mouse over the triangle at the bottom, right-hand corner of the video window. The closed captioning box (CC) will appear. Click it to turn it on or off.

Paul Schrader and I also recently appeared on Spectrum, a WXTK radio show hosted by Judith Goetz. We talked about the Town Neck Beach erosion problem and our documentary, Sands of Change.

To hear the podcast of the Spectrum program, click here. Be patient. It's a pretty big file.

You can help us preserve this beautiful spot on Cape Cod by learning about the erosion problem and sharing your awareness with your friends and neighbors. If you would like to join our email distribution list, please send a message to to indicate your interest. We will need your participation to assist the town in its efforts to protect this fragile ecosystem.

The following photos were taken by Paul Schrader.

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt


  1. Mr. Hunt filming the beach as it is today,with all of the breaks in the barrier beach is an alarming picture that did not need to happen.

    You may not agree, but as you may recall going back many years we had made comments in regards to providing more protection during the hard winter months from erosion at more than one Board of Selectmen Meeting.

    Sandwich has continued to dismiss the need to provide a plan to at the very least slow this process down [Like the Piping Plover Habitat]

    It has been suggested that the snow fencing that was removed and thrown away at our then town dump be reinstalled to allow a winter build up of sand and then plant beach grass to hold it in place. That was never done.

    At one time the Massachusetts Beach Buggies were willing to provide the free labor for the project and they were turned down and had it been accepted we may not have the condition Town Neck beach presently finds itself.

    This barrier beach will continue to degrade, until a nourishement of sand and planting of beach grass is acomplished.

    The way it is now and the way it will be into the future is speculative, but one thing for sure, Sandwich best find the stomack and the where for all to start the process. To wait only will make the cost to repair it even harder to do.


  2. Great video Randy. Well narrated, nicely photographed, knowledgeable speakers. I don't know what the answer is, or even if there is a viable answer. The fish hook shape of the Cape and the current flow sweeps sand in a ESE direction that creates a natural trap for sand and sediments. Hence the extensive mudflats down cape. Barnstable has struggled with dune blow out at Sandy Neck for many years with questionable results. Have town officials had any conversations with the people involved in that town as to their experiences? I do recall that they have tried snow fences, xmas trees, dune restrictions, etc, over the years but I don't know if anything ever really was effective. If not, they would be worth calling.

    Be well,

  3. C.A.J. and Peter: Our inaction at Town Neck Beach regarding snow fencing, additional sign postings, etc., has me concerned. I will push for a documented, preventive maintenance program that will spell out what, when, where and who. Peter, you bring up a good question regarding our cross-communication with Barnstable and other towns down Cape. I'll look into that.

  4. Randy all one needs to do is observe what the town of Dennis has acomplished with all there beaches in the bay areas. Rebuilding the dunes with Fencing, Christmas trees over the years and they also have handicap accessible ramps, along with a push pontoon vehicle that handicap folks can get to enjoy the beach.


  5. We are excited and pleased with the response to the video by concerned residents. One of our initial goals is to educate people as to the fragile nature of the area. Resolution of the problems will require a unified community. Perhaps we can all make a difference by simply taking care not to disturb the topsoil and grasses that protect the underlying sand.

  6. In the original documents of The Army Corps of Engineers regarding Town Neck Beach, they stated that they would maintain the jetties and renourish the beach on a routine basis. They have not done so.


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