Last summer during a fierce heat wave, discovering Shannon Beach was a godsend. Pristine, beautiful, located on Mystic Lake in nearby Winchester, the beach offered fresh water swimming, a wide, beautifully-maintained sandy beach and ample parking. Its only downside? In order to get there, I had to drive through five, five rotaries—a bit excessive for even this seasoned greater Boston driver! But to swim in fresh water or to hear children happy and splashing while reading a trashy novel was definitely worth the nightmarish drive, I decided.
Close readers have noticed that first paragraph was written in the past tense. Why? Because in its infinite wisdom, Massachusetts’ Parks Department decided to renovate Shannon Beach, making much of its sandy beach inaccessible. When did this happen, you ask? When summer was well underway. Huh? (These same brilliant souls’ equally inept counterparts in state government recently shut down an entire public transit branch, the Orange Line, with, so far, no good options for the thousands of people relying on the Orange Line to get to work or school. JEEZ!)
That gorgeous lake isn’t past tense, of course, so in the midst of one of this summer’s heat waves, I navigated those pesky rotaries and parked in the Beach’s parking lot. “Surely I can find a spot abutting the beach where I can swim,” I reasoned.
But what I discovered, Dear Reader, was heartbreaking. Because the large expanse of beach was no longer accessible, the pebbly “shingle” lining the lake was crowded, impossible to walk on, and, worst of all, covered with broken glass. With no shingle maintenance, climate change’s back-to-back heat waves, and so many families flocking to this “beach,” it’s no wonder that this past Sunday night a violent fight broke out at Shannon Beach resulting in one hospitalization and several arrests.
And, yes, we can be pretty sure alcohol and COVID-frayed nerves contributed to this nasty fight.
But not entirely. The brilliant souls who decided to begin work on a wildly popular swimming area just as things were heating up must shoulder some of the blame.
I went to Mystic earlier this summer and got in the water sans broken glass even with construction. Seemed to have lots of happy families. Construction started quite a while ago at the beach I went to, don’t know the name of it. Does the heat bring out our snarls and sarcasm? I guess so! For myself, I get crabby over an even more hopeless cause, like getting water from the sky. Today was heartbreaking for me.
An update: took a chance and went to Shannon Beach this morning. Although the hill between to parking lot to the water is still dauntingly steep (an obstacle I’m assuming will eventually be fixed), I climbed and descended safely and was rewarded with access to the sandy beach and the lake. Bliss! And, bonus, the sight of a majestic eagle circling above as I happily swam.
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