Sunday, July 16, 2006

Fun (and not so much fun) in the sun

The state of Massachusetts fresh water recreation is abysmal as far as families with small children are concerned. Most of the fresh water beaches are restricted to residents of the town the water is in. There are a few state run fresh water beaches, but damn it's hard to go to them.

I tried to go Sandy Beach in Winchester twice now. The first time, I managed to find a hotline for information on Massachusetts beaches. The recording said something like "There is a blah blah blah for Sandy Beach." Does that means that the beach was closed? Does it mean that it was reserved for the Berkowitz's Barmitzva? No, it turned out it was closed due to high bacteria counts from all the run off from the rains we've been having. So, I called the information number for Sandy Beach from the state's website.

"Hi," I said. "I'm calling to find out if Sandy Beach is open now?"
"Uh.. Gee. I don't know. That's at the other end of the Pahk."
"Uh.. this is the number on the State's website to call for information. Do you know who else I might ask?"
"Um, I'm not sure. Lemme ask some body."
Five minutes later.
"OK, try this number. They might know."
"They MIGHT know?"
"Yeah. Try that." And she hung up.

So, I called the other number. The conversation started much like the first.
"Hi," I said. "I'm calling to find out if Sandy Beach is open now?"
"Uh.. Gee. I don't know. Lemme see if I can find out." followed by sounds of her repeating the question over a walkee talkie or a short wave radio.
"Yes," she said. "It's open."

So, Saturday morning we pack up the kids, several tons of sand toys, blankets, bottled waters and snacks and headed to Winchester. We got a great parking spot, hauled our several tons of children, sand toys, blankets, towels, bottled water and snacks and walked smack into a sign that said "NO SWIMMING. WATER POLLUTED." It was followed by a number to call for more information. Just out of curiosity, I called the number and lo and behold... It was disconnected. I told the lifeguards that, and they were a little surprised. Yes, between Friday and Saturday the bacteria counts had gone up and they closed the beach. So, we sat on the beach for a bit and decided to go to this DCR wading pool they have near the Stone Zoo in Stoneham.

So, we wended our way through the suburbs, only getting lost four times and found the park we were looking for. Turns out they don't start to even fill the wading pool until they open at 11:00 AM. This is about 4:00 PM to a toddler. We're usually trying to head home from our morning adventure by 12:00 noon at the latest so we can have lunch and get the kids down for a nap before 2:00. Considering the wading pool is primarily for the under 5 set, you'd think they'd know that morning is prime-time for toddler adventures. But some knucklehead in the state house made a financial decision about DCR pools to save some money, thus cutting it off from it's main consumers: toddlers. Since they don't vote, I suppose they're not a particularly important constituency, but still. It's so frustrating.

Fortunately, it was after 10:30 by the time we got there, so we didn't have long to wait. But still, it pissed me off that they have such limited hours.

This morning we made the treks to Revere Beach. It is a schlepp, and an ugly one at that, down wide concrete boulevards peppered with donut shops and sketchy looking automobile repair garages. The beach was extremely crowded (in terms of traffic and parking) because of the Sandcastle competition. But we were there by 9:15, so we got one of the last parking spots. The beach itself is huge, and doesn't really get crowded. We set up our sun tent to keep the baby in the shade, and we had a really good time. I lay some towels in the tent and lay down to nurse and she fell asleep and we took turns taking the boy into the water. It was a really fun morning.

Going to the Beach is really hard around here considering we live on a coast. A lot of the towns on the North Shore consider beach parking a major source of revenue and charge $25 per car for parking. Some of them even charge $10 per person. But once we're there, I always have a good time. It's just getting there that almost always sucks.


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