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15AugVienna : Summer 2012
I love the idea that the soulmate of adversity is opportunity. Along with gut wrenching challenges comes the chance to forge new bonds, create meaning out of chaos, test and shape one’s mettle and take stock of life’s greatest blessings.
One beautiful example of adversity’s intimate relationship with opportunity is the Sandwich Boardwalk located on Massachusetts’ Cape Cod. The town’s motto, ‘Post tot naufracia portus (‘After so many shipwrecks, a haven’) is a fitting one and sets the tone for the telling of the Boardwalk’s story.
The oldest town on the Cape, Sandwich (along with many communities on the Eastern Seaboard) suffered the wrath of one of the most devastating hurricanes in New England’s history: Hurricane Bob. Mid August, 1991, Bob tore through the Carolinas, the Mid Atlantic, New England and Atlantic Canada leaving 1.5 billion in damages in its wake, (over 2.5 billion by today’s standard’s, adjusted for inflation) with Massachusetts taking the hardest hit. The entire Cape was left without power, and thousands evacuated, only to return later and find significant beach erosion, homes and boats destroyed. And in Sandwich, among other insults, the hurricane took its toll on the 1874 original boardwalk that stretched across the salt marsh, creek and dunes, which was washed away during the violent storm.
But with their legendary, New England can-do spirit to buoy them, the community came together and dreamed up a plan to rebuild the boardwalk.
Donations from locals and other Sandwich lovers funded the reconstruction, and each plank is inscribed with a name, phrase or message requested by the individual donor. The 1,350 foot boardwalk now stands as a proud testament to Sandwich’s community spirit.
With devotion and total commitment, the champions of the boardwalk transformed a disheartening, devastating natural disaster into an opportunity to collaborate and create something lasting and memorable…no small feat when so much of New England faced the daunting task of rebuilding after the storm.
I first visited the boardwalk over 20 years ago, and was fortunate to have the chance to spend quite a bit of time on Sandwich’s sandy and serene shores in the following years. I still have vivid memories of Esther, one of our all time favorite dog people, who walked her gorgeous Great Dane, Rebecca across the boardwalk twice a day, routinely drawing admiring looks from both locals and visitors with every visit. Looking back now, I can see how sweet it must have felt for Esther and her family and their neighbors to enjoy the boardwalk after putting so much effort into its reconstruction.
Our most recent visit, on a cool, overcast day, was a reminder of how the boardwalk provides a beautiful gathering place for folks of all ages. While Theo and I and his Other Favorite Human admired the view, young kids fished for crabs by dangling hot dogs off fishing line, using the boardwalk as their perch.
Teenagers practiced aerial flips by catapulting off a portable mini-trampoline set up on the boardwalk, using low tide to their advantage and the sandy banks near the creek as their landing spot.
And tourists strolled the boardwalk’s long expanse, taking their time to read the boards’ inscriptions underfoot.
Theo, of course, made friends with a little boy he deemed to be particularly excellent buddy material, while his humans took in the fresh air and enjoyed the calm that comes from spending time at the ocean’s edge.
If we’re lucky, we’ll visit Sandwich, the Cape and Martha’s Vineyard frequently as the days go by. In the meantime, we hope you’ll find yourself in this picturesque little town with some time on your hands.
The Boardwalk will leave you feeling touched and happy that you made the trip. It seems National Geographic agrees. They named Sandwich’s wooden landmark one of the Top Ten Boardwalks in the United States. Click HERE to read more.
The Sandwich Massachusetts Boardwalk
Town Neck Beach
Follow Town Neck Road past the first parking lot until it deadends on Wood Avenue. Take a left and follow the road into the parking lot.
Alternate route: From Route 6A take Jarves Road until it dead ends. From there follow the signs for the boardwalk.