The Bermuda staircase/seawall, which provides the only access to the pocket beach below, was damaged during winter storms in 2015-16. Subsequently, City staff closed the stairwell due to tidal action that eroded the lower stairway foundation causing the lower stairs to collapse.
The community was told then by the City that staff was working through the design and environmental process, and that a request had been made for construction funding for the Bermuda repair project from the Regional Park Improvement Fund.
Back then, OB was told the project “should be 100% funded,” and that a bid and award to a company, as well as construction, would each “take about three months.”
The projected timeline for having the stairway fully reconstructed was determined to be “late spring of 2018, if not earlier.”
Fast forward to September 2019, and the reconstruction project has yet to begin.
“I’m one of those people who feel it’s time to get the project started,” said OB resident Tom Roeber, who lives near the Bermuda stairs. “I’d like to see at least a temporary fix, simple stairs to get to the platform so people are not crawling down the cliffs and risking getting hurt. All you need is a stairway to go about 12 feet.”
OB Planning Board member Kevin Hastings, speaking for himself, agreed.
“They (City) spend years in the design of some of these projects,” he said. “When Bermuda (stairwell) collapsed in 2016, they got on it real quick. But it’s still in design.”
“The project is currently in the design stage, and we are estimating that construction would begin in the summer of 2021 and finish in the winter of 2021,” said City spokesman Alec Phillipp. “However, this is subject to change pending the design and required environmental review.”
The City has estimated that replacing the existing Bermuda stairway, and either repairing or replacing the existing seawall, would cost $1.5 million, $600,000 for construction.
The City added the repair project would also “provide a complete assessment of the factors causing and contributing to the failure of the stairway, with the aim of either repairing or replacing the structure as appropriate.”
The repair project also includes assessment of the adjacent seawall, given the two structures are connected, and the seawall has been undermined and repaired in the past, the City said.
“We all know people are going to use it (stairwell), so why not make it at least accessible?” asked Roeber.
“If they (City) give me permission, I’ll build it,” he quipped. “Hand me a few ladders — I’ll put them there.”
In Hasting’s view, the City’s summer construction moratorium, which forbids coastal construction work between Memorial and Labor days, ought to be waived for repair projects like that needed at Bermuda.
“What the summer moratorium means is that, when they finally get to work on this thing, the king tides and the waves come and you can’t build a beach-access stairwell,” Hastings said. “In the wintertime, it’s not gonna happen. They really need to make an exception to the beach moratorium for these things.”
Concluded Hastings, “People are getting impatient. It’s gone way too long.”