YORK — Last summer, head lifeguard Jeff Patten sat in the clinic of the new Long Sands Bathhouse, where he had set up a laptop overlooking Long Sands Beach. People, he said, love the bathhouse. They appreciate the amenities, love the landscaping, like the wide sidewalk and the canopy on the beach side that provides respite from sun.
Former Parks and Recreation director Mike Sullivan said he’d heard the same sort of praise, as had Public Works Director Dean Lessard. With its gray shingle siding, it’s vaulted ceilings in the restrooms, and the plantings out front of wind and sun-resistant shrubs and flowers, it looks today as if it’s been there for a long time.
But that’s not the case. The bathhouse was actually five years in the making, “about the most complex project I could envision,” said Town Manager Burns. There were twists and turns galore during that time, including the purchase of a necessary piece of land, a complicated state permitting process, initial bids that came in at nearly double the amount of money on hand, and the elimination of a second story after neighbors across the street complained.
But now that it’s done, Bathhouse Building Committee chair Jim Barlett predicted last July, it will “change how visitors think of York when they come here in the summertime.” It arguably already has, and in the winter as well, because a year-round heated bathroom was installed.
For sheer tenacity of purpose despite years of setbacks, for designing a building at once sleek and utilitarian, and for getting the last iteration of the bathhouse done on budget and on time, The York Weekly names the members of the Bathhouse Building Committee as Movers and Shakers for 2018.
The new bathhouse replaces a small, woefully inadequate cinder block building erected in 1957. Since then, the population of beach-goers has exploded. Today, there can be as many as 5,000 people on the beach on a hot weekend day. During the long period from 2013, when funding was initially approved by voters, until last July, the building committee “dealt with public input, design options, traffic, environmental problems – and I am probably missing a few things,” said Burns. “And they did a great job navigating all that.”
“It was very satisfying,” said Bartlett. “Each step of the way, you compartmentalize the challenges you face, and you face each one that comes up. I don’t think we ever felt discouraged, but at times it felt like an enormous task.”
Two examples illustrate what the committee faced. The first had to do with ownership of Long Beach Avenue in the location where the bathhouse was to be located. It was presumed the state owned all the land because Route 1A, as the road is alternately called, is a state road. However, a small triangle of it was owned by the heirs of York resident Roger Norton, who own the beach from the Cutty Sark to the Sun ‘n Surf. After a year and a half of negotiations, the town purchased the land for $5,000.
Secondly, when bids for the project were opened in November, 2016, they came in at between $1.3 million and $1.4 million, about double the amount of money on hand. The committee worked to scale back the plans and then settled on local contractor Glenn Farrell who agreed to a soup-to-nuts contract of $785,000 – which still required an additional $216,000. In November, 2016, voters overwhelmingly approved spending money from the sale of town-owned property for the project.
The building itself is not much changed from an early sketch made by retired landscape architect and committee member Stu Dawson. He envisioned a building that drew inspiration from the 18th century trolley stations that dotted York at the time. In fact, the tracks ran along Long Beach Avenue.
“He said, respect the history of York Beach, and the fact that the trolley ran along the beach,” said Bartlett. “He got us focused on what we wanted to do.”
But Bartlett said the committee functioned as a team, with members Jim Smith, Peter Smith and Brenda Knapp providing key insights and assistance, as well. And, said Burns, the new building never would have become a reality without the efforts of Mike Sullivan, who was a “champion” of the project.
Work isn’t quite completed, either. Through a separate fundraising campaign, money has been raised for a water fountain, benches, a flagpole, a porch swing and other amenities that are expected to be installed for next summer.
Both Bartlett and Burns say the bathhouse is a game changer for the beach.
“What a nice space. The quality of the space is noticeable,” said Burns. “The fact that they have a patio, you can have a band out there or watch a movie in the summer. It’s great.”
“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback in the summer and afterward,” said Bartlett. “A public building should be built for the long haul. The community should feel good that this building will last.”