Yarmouth Riverwalk Park Project ‘A Destination Location’

July 20, 2021

The Cape Cod Times recently put the spotlight on an exciting BETA project located in Yarmouth, MA. Hailed as “a destination location”, Yarmouth’s Riverwalk Park and Boardwalk project is moving forward and attracting the attention of locals and visitors to the area. Read more about Riverwalk Park below, or by clicking to see the original article published on July 6, 2021.

Original content from the Cape Cod Times authored by Jeannette Hinkle: 
Yarmouth is moving forward with plans to design and construct a riverwalk park, boardwalk loop and event
space at the site of the former Yarmouth Drive-in on Route 28.

Construction on the park could begin as soon as spring 2023, according to preliminary estimates.
Town staff envision a destination recreation center that will revitalize the Route 28 commercial corridor between West and South Yarmouth, a bustling stretch of road dotted with mini golf courses, hotels and restaurants.

“Yarmouth has a lot of bigger recreational areas, but they’re kind of further out, not really in the heart of Route 28,” Town Planner Kathy Williams said. “One of the things that was really thought of was how we can energize Route 28 and have a destination location, keeping in mind the recreational purpose of the property.”

Selectmen recently awarded a $662,000 contract to engineering consultant BETA Group, for final designs of the riverwalk park, boardwalk loop and event space. BETA Group will also guide the project through permitting and construction bidding, Williams said.

According to preliminary designs, the park entrance would take visitors from Route 28 into the property
through a landscaped access road that ends in a parking lot bordering what is now an open field.
Alongside the parking lot sits a park overlooking Parkers River that would include restrooms, a lawn, walking paths, a kayak launch and other amenities.

A boardwalk loop at the far end, inspired by the immensely popular Bass Hole boardwalk in Yarmouthport,
would take visitors out into the salt marsh.

“This would be a little bit wider (than the Bass Hole boardwalk),” Williams said. “It’d be six feet wide so people could pass each other, and then there would be different outlooks where people could stop and pull off and view the wildlife and the marshlands.”

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Officials scrapped a plan to connect the park to Seagull Beach via boardwalkafter opposition from neighbors, who said the route would disrupt their views and privacy, according to Williams. The most recent boardwalk plan keeps the loop directly in front of the drive-in property.

The event space has not yet been designed, though Williams said town staff has considered the need for power hook-ups, lighting and wi-fi access. A conceptual design of the event space, now in the works, will be presented to the public, the town’s Drive-In Site Utilization Committee and the Board of Selectmen for comment before the consultant produces more detailed designs.

The site will also have a pump station for wastewater because of its location at a low point along Route 28, as well as an existing upweller for growing shellfish.

The town purchased the drive-in property for recreational purposes in 1985, and the agreement was finalized in 1986, according to Williams. Used for an occasional carnival, circus or concert, the site then sat mostly vacant for decades.

Yarmouth considered building a marina there, but dropped the idea because it would have been too costly,
according to Williams.

“In 2013, they did a feasibility analysis to see how much it would cost compared to the revenue that could be generated and it really turned out to be not cost-effective,” she said.

In 2015, the town chartered the Drive-In Site Utilization Committee, which concluded after collecting comments from the public that the best use would be a riverwalk park, boardwalk loop and event space. The concept was further vetted by the committee, town staff and BETA Group, which submitted a feasibility study for the project in 2018.

Town staff were working on funding and design when the coronavirus hit. Last summer, amid the uncertainty of the pandemic, selectmen allowed the site to be transformed into what became a wildly popular outdoor entertainment venue that hosted nationally known musicians and comedians.
The venue was a lifeline for struggling local businesses during an unprecedented few months, but neighbors were unhappy with the noise coming from the property. This year, citing both land-use restrictions and neighborhood complaints, the town is accepting applications by event organizers interested in hosting one-off events at the property.

The total project cost is estimated to be $7.6 million, Williams said, of which the town has already secured $6 million.

Among the funding sources are major grants, including a $1 million state Seaport Economic Council innovation grant and a $956,000 federal Land and Water Conservation Fund grant. Money will also come from town meeting appropriations, Community Preservation Act funding, the town’s Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund, and other municipal sources.

Town staff will now begin raising money for the remainder. Williams said officials haven’t discussed borrowing to fill the gap.

“We’re going to continue during design to look at different grants,” she said.

BETA Group will prepare a more detailed design of the riverwalk park and boardwalk loop, while also creating a preliminary design for the event space, which was not part of the 2018 study. BETA Group will also produce a new cost estimate.

Town staff will also build a business plan that will likely include guidelines about what type of events can take place there and how often, Williams said.

“Obviously, the event space and how frequently we have events is still an ongoing discussion with the neighbors,” she said.

Along the way, BETA Group will also share designs and cost estimates with the Drive-In Site Utilization
Committee and the Board of Selectmen, Williams said.

Reach Jeannette Hinkle at jhinkle@capecodonline.com.