Sandwich Selectmen Advised Not To Restrict Boardwalk Jumping
By: Mary Stanley
The activity of jumping off the Sandwich Boardwalk at high tide will continue unfettered by town government.
Last night, Town Manager George H. Dunham told the board of selectmen that he consulted with the town's insurance company and spoke with the liability manager about what the town's exposure would be if anybody got hurt jumping from the towtrn-owned structure.
"The insurance company even sent somebody down to observe people jumping from the boardwalk. The liability manager told me there is no liability on the part of the town unless we start putting up signs prohibiting the activity or restricting it," Mr. Dunham said.
He said that if the town did decide to put up signs prohibiting the activity, then it would be responsible for enforcing that restriction and would have to staff the area.
"We were told not to do anything because there are statutes already in place and that if someone from the public decides to jump from a bridge of their own free will, then the liability is on them," Mr. Dunham said.
"Well, that's good news," said selectman Linell M. Grundman.
While taking the plunge from the wooden structure into the waters of Mill Creek is considered relatively safe, it is important for people to know that it can only be done at high tide, Mr. Dunham said. Concerned that some visitors may not be aware of the different tides, Ms. Grundman asked if the town should consider putting up signs discussing the tides.
"I wonder if that is something we should contemplate," Ms. Grundman questioned.
Selectman Frank Pannorfi did not see the need.
"I drive by Scorton Creek and people know when the tides are high. I never see anyone there when the
tides are low," said Mr. Pannorfi.
Selectman James W. Pierce suggested that a sign could be put in place informing visitors about the tides or the very least indicating the depth of the water.
The board did not discuss the liability issue of jumping from the bridge at Scorton Creek since that is a state owned structure and the town has no authority over it.
Though board members had not weighed in individually on whether they supported placing a restriction on jumping from the Boardwalk, some selectmen talked about their own memories of jumping off of the structure.
"When I was 11 years old, I worked at Crow Farm in the summer and as soon as I was done working, if the tide was high, I would ride my bike right down to the boardwalk and jump in the water," Mr. Pierce said.
Selectman Ralph A. Vitacco said though he personally has never participated in the activity, his children have.
Many residents and visitors say jumping off of the structure is as much a part of the town's culture as any of its historic buildings.
Last week, at high tide, a large crowd of people, mostly visitors from out of town, gathered on the bridge, eagerly waiting their turn to jump into the water. Many said the activity is an integral part of their summer tradition. Some said they had been jumping from the structure for more than three decades and had even taught their children how to dive from the boardwalk.
The issue of the liability associated with this activity and whether the selectmen should consider implementing a restriction was brought up two weeks ago by selectman John G. Kennan, Jr. At that time, the board directed Assistant Town Manager Douglas A. Lapp to contact the insurance company for an opinion on the matter and to advise the town.