Charlotte making getting to the beach easier

The Charlotte Recreation Department wants to make trips to the beach a little easier.

At the Charlotte Selectboard’s July 25 meeting, recreation director Nicole Conley delivered a preliminary design for a 20-foot ramp that would help Charlotters who currently struggle with the concrete steps leading down to the town beach from Lake Road.

“Unfortunately, we recently had someone stumble down the stairs. One of the railings was loose. So just between that and trying to find an accessible way, we’re working on the process quickly,” Conley said. “I don’t necessarily want to say it’s ADA-accessible, but it definitely allows for an easier way to access the beach.”

Conley pointed out that the prospective ramp would also make visits to Lake Champlain more convenient for local kayakers. She described it as a removable, seasonal structure, like the town’s nearby dock.

Municipal officials have discussed the possibility of constructing a ramp at the beach since 2019, and the selectboard formally committed to the project last year, after the town’s proposal for both a new dock and a ramp won a recreational facilities grant for $19,000 from the Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services. A quote cited at the time priced the ramp by itself at $9,000, but ultimately its installation could become part of a larger scope of work along Lake Road, for which Charlotte will seek additional grant funding from the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

“The land next to the road is eroding, so we’re trying to add some sort of what we decided was a cement wall,” Conley explained.

According to Juliann Phelps of the Charlotte Recreation Commission, the ramp will need approval from the development review board before installation. The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources will also weigh in.

“The Agency of Natural Resources application process is the timetable that’s the critical path right now, getting the determination to see if this needs a shoreline permit,” selectboard member Matthew Krasnow said. “If it’s within the town’s right of way and is considered a construction project part of the stabilization of that section of Lake Road, it could move a lot faster.”

In the meantime, the town could improve the staircase that currently admits beachgoers. When the selectboard approved a bid by Whitcomb Concrete Construction to repair the steps outside the Charlotte Senior Center for $2,800, Phelps suggested taking advantage of potential “economies of scale” by asking the company for a quote to do the same at the beach.

“We’ve had a hard time finding a contractor to fix the cement stairs,” Phelps said.

Selectboard member Frank Tenney asked Charlotte Senior Center board member Gary Pittman to reach out to Whitcomb on the recreation department’s behalf.