I walked off the beach yesterday and my pulse was racing. An enormous jeep truck was spinning its wheels trying to move out of the deep soft sand. Deeper and deeper it sunk into the depths and then it began to spin sideways banging up against my friend’s jeep. And the driver didn’t stop as we watched shocked from our beach chairs. The bumpers were grinding and the driver kept trying to accelerate his way out of the quicksand like mess.
We had been sitting chair to chair in our Labor Day beach circle of friends enjoying the lap of the waves and the September sun. But then that jeep truck shocked us back into reality.
“Stop, stop….you’re crushing my car,” my friend finally jumped up trying to get the driver’s attention.
The driver was oblivious focused on more acceleration. He was clueless as he continued to tare through the sand, not moving forward even a smidge, as his back fender pushed sideways into the parked jeep.
The driver got out barely saying a word clearly infuriated and perhaps embarrassed with his inability to dislodge his mega truck. I imagine he was thinking, “I bought the biggest piece of macho machinery for $60K plus, I should be able to rip my way out of any mess.” I’m not sure I heard him say sorry.
Our group sat with jaws dropped watching this insanity.
And I kept looking down at the sand, and the tracks of that jeep and then I looked behind him and saw an endless line of jeeps waiting to leave the beach. The line up of jeeps with their exhaust pipes idling were tucked against the small dune of sweet grasses that barely protected the ocean from the pond. Just last week Hurricane Henri’s rage had crashed through some of those dunes flattening and obliterating an essential barrier separating them from the bay. And beyond that bay lay the lovely homes that had been built relying on the separation between the ocean and their front doors.
And now Henri was gone but the rage of the Jeep and the driver felt also cruel and destructive. Of course he didn’t mean to hurt the beach. None of the line up of jeeps waiting to leave at day’s end crushing their big wheels against the base of the soft dunes sustained with fragile grasses wanted to cause harm to this beautiful place. Everyone just wanted to have fun.
We have been so lucky to have a drive-on to our beach as long as I have been coming here. It’s been 50 years since my dad drove my sisters and I over that same stretch jumping the dunes in our WWII pink beach jeep in the late 60’s. And it’s been a ritual each summer to buy our passes from the “Trustees of the Reservation” who safeguard this gorgeous stretch of our island. Our annual stickers give us the right to drive and park and bring our chairs and loads of family and friends to our beloved beach. This is what we have done our whole lives.
But, the beach has narrowed, and the driving path runs close to our beach chairs now, not to mention too close to the sacred dunes.
I snap back into reality as I watch a “Trustees of The Reservation” staff worker push his full body weight into the back of that massive spinning truck and work its way out of an ever deepening rut. I wonder what that job description looked like when he signed on. It seemed like he could get crushed if the jeep rolled back.
My friend reluctantly took down the license of the perpetrator as his fender had gotten crushed. No one wanted to be angry, it had been such a perfect end of summer gathering. But, we were all forced to look at the mess that was happening.
Now what do we do? No one could ignore the mess yesterday. We all experienced the beach had narrowed and the truth is, no-one wants to give up the luxury of driving on. But, the reality is, we can see there is cause to revisit our tradition as our shorelines have been eroded. After all, we love it here on this island and cherish this gorgeous shore line. We love that we get to have a front row seat at our water’s edge. But is it time to re-think how we access it?
As I walk home though the tire tracks, I snapped some photos thinking about what we are supposed to do. It feels like doing nothing is not going to be the best strategy.