Truck after truck barreled down Woodlawn Beach this spring, taking winter’s storm debris from the swimming section to a large pile away from the recreation area.
There the black, pulpy debris will sit until September, in a row that is 25 feet high and 25 feet deep, running along one-quarter of the mile-long beach.
Woodlawn Beach State Park opened to the public Memorial Day weekend, and most of the sand was as pristine as usual. But it took a lot more manpower and equipment than usual for the town, which is entering its fifth year of operating the beach. The town even enlisted the help of Local 17, Operating Engineers, and its apprenticeship program to help clear the beach in time for the season opening.
“We had more debris than the other four years combined,” town Supervisor Steven Walters said.
The Town of Hamburg, which operates the beach, is working with New York State to arrange the transport of the debris off the beach.
Snow and windstorms pummeled the beach, pushing tons of sand back onto the dunes, and leaving debris up to 6 feet high along the water’s edge. It consists of black weeds and leaves, huge trees and tree limbs, some as long as 30 feet, and assorted plastic containers, beer cans, tires and other smaller junk.
“It was an unusual year. We incurred some costs,” Walters said, but he added, “State parks have indicated they are going to help defray some of the costs.”
He did not have the exact cost to the town.
In previous years, debris was sold to a composting company or taken to a pile near Rush Park. But the creek’s trajectory has moved closer to the pile, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation has determined that the pile must be removed from there, Walters said. The state will issue a request for proposals to find a firm to dispose of the tons of debris from near the creek and on the beach, he said.
The work is to be done in September, after the summer park season ends.
Since some of the extra debris can be attributed to the November lake effect storms, the town may be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for at least part of the cleanup.
“FEMA did come down here as part of the storm reimbursement,” he said. “It clearly was an unusual year in terms of the amount of debris.”
He said the town is working with FEMA to determine how much of the pile can be attributed to the storm.
“We’ve got all that we’re still working on,” he said. “Earlier this month our primary concern was to get the beach cleaned to be opened.”
The park is open from dawn until dusk, and the town charges $7 per car from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Gate hours are extended for special events such as July 4 fireworks.