Shoring up Long Beach seawall 

MICHAEL CRONIN/Staff photo/Crews from the Edward Paige Corporation dump new sand onto Rockport's Long Beach near the end by the Cape Ann Motor Inn in Gloucester. The new sand will help keep 2,500 tons of seawall support stones in place. 

ROCKPORT — The re-stabilization of the Long Beach seawall, a $1 million project, is expected to finish up by the end of the month, according to Public Works Director Joe Parisi.

While the re-stabilization project has been underway, the town has been investigating options to replace the 1938 sections of the wall. Last month, the Department of Public Works submitted a project overview and cost estimate to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. If FEMA chooses to go forward with funding the project, it would pay up to 75 percent of the estimated $2,580,000 project.

Currently, crews associated with Edward Paige Corporation of Westwood are spreading more than 8,000 cubic yards of sand on top of 2,500 tons of stones holding up the wall's oldest and most fragile sections. 

As the tides pulls the new sand out to shore, mixing it with the naturally occurring sand at Long Beach, the stones will sink downwards and secure themselves at the base of the seawall. Before this process starts, the new sand will provide some temporary added protection from the elements. 

"We want more sand in the system," Parisi said. "With more sand, there will be more of a beach head. In the winter time during high tide, the water goes right up to the wall."

With the tide so close, it leaves the seawall more susceptible to storm damage. Back in March 2018, portions of the wall originally built in 1938 were nearly toppled after a heavy nor'easter. Since the start of the re-stabilization project in February, the town and Department of Public Works has worked to make sure no similar failures will happen in the future.

The budget for the project totals at $1 million, $750,000 of which was funded through a state grant. The first phase of the process, laying down the support stones, was finished in September. Selectmen signed a contract with Edward Paige worth $449,000 just a couple of weeks after, and sand work officially kicked off Oct. 28. 

Meanwhile, Parisi said FEMA is still reviewing his request for the $2.58 million project to sections of the wall built in 1938.

"The wall we're proposing is deeper," he continued, also commenting how the 1938 sections were built without underground footing. "We're also proposing sheet piles so that it's locked into the sand and won't be eroded. It would mitigate future problems and be code compliant with today's needs. We also hope to put in a set of permanent concrete stairs that would provide year-long access (to the beach)." 

Parisi said Public Works will most likely repeat the re-stabilization procedure in case another portion of the seawall fails while the town waits to begin the replacement project. However, he made sure to mention "what we're doing now will be effective for a number of years."

Looking past the seawall, Parisi has other ideas to better improve Long Beach, especially regarding visitor access. For example, he said he hopes to extend the bridge over Saratoga Creek as the sand bars at each side are eroding away. For now, these are only ideas, but Parisi said it's important to consider what work needs to be done while the beach is undergoing such extensive renovations.

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or

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