Hull’s a beach town. It’s a friendly town (most days), and it’s a place steeped in hundreds of years’ worth of beautiful history. But we’re nothing, if not a beach town.
My name’s Rob Stephens, and I’m not a person who writes “Letters to the Editor”; I’m not a complainer; and I certainly don’t point my finger at someone who’s trying their best so I can say “you’re doing it wrong.” I work hard; I take care of my own; and I handle my business quietly.
But I couldn’t bring myself to sit on the sidelines and say nothing with some of the things that have been developing recently.
The reason I choose to live here is the people, plain and simple. I’m not a native Hullonian, but as I’ve heard it said in the past, I got here as fast as I could. And who are the people of Hull? Hullonians are tough. Hullonians pull our coats tight and hunker down when the storm comes from both sides. We support our local businesses when the fall settles in and the rest of the world forgets that we’re here.
Hull is a town that turns out for a stroll on the beach when it gets over 40 degrees in January, 25 for some of us. I’ve been for a swim with the drowned hogs, and I’ve watched the surfers conduct their business in a nor’easter. But there’s nothing I love more than walking down Nantasket Ave. to see Hull bursting at the seams on a steamy summer day.
When I pass the restaurants, I see floor-to-ceiling windows thrown open, rooftop decks full to capacity, and every kind of flavor, smell, and sound filling the air. I see the old-timers get their folding chairs up on the sea wall to keep an eye on things. I see the young kids run up and down the boardwalk for an ice cream or a chance at the arcade. I see the older ones walking that same boardwalk, trying to figure out the right thing to say to a crush.
There’s so much to see you could never see it all, but the thing I always see is people making memories for a lifetime.
Out-of-towners tell me about coming to Hull every summer and riding the carousel. They talk about the beautiful bathhouse or getting a drink at the Parrot (even if the Red’s faded the last few years). They remember Paragon Park, and an ice cream cone with the rainbow sprinkles from an ice cream stand that looks as if it’s right out of a 1920s carnival.
Our town gives this gift to thousands of people every single year, and they remember. But the thing that gets missed by people who don’t realize, or don’t care, is we remember, too. And that remembering is part of the soul of our town.
That’s why I’m writing. Because I think the town has decisions to make in the near term that could damage Hull at its core. The town is considering whether or not to put a retail marijuana shop at the end of Nantasket Beach. I’m not opposed to the idea of marijuana shops in Hull if it’s the will of the people. The building where Java Junction used to be seems much improved. But if leadership allows this to happen, we will have gone from a town whose face was an amusement park, or a boardwalk, to a pot shop on the beach. A marijuana shop that was going to be a grow facility, until it wasn’t. The people asking us to allow this might make a lucrative business selling marijuana on Nantasket. Unfortunately, the town has a different responsibility. The proposal brings with it a whole set of concerns, not the least of which is whether or not this is who we want to be.
The second major issue in front of the town is the proposed destruction of the Paragon Boardwalk, to be replaced with 141 apartment units. Two years ago, there were stories in The Boston Globe, the Hingham Anchor, and The Hull Times raving about how a couple from Hingham had purchased the boardwalk and was going to revitalize it. One of the owners said of the boardwalk at the time that she wanted to create “something that we can be very proud of over time, for it to be a destination that people want to go to and enjoy spending their time there.” And they did. The revitalization of that area has been amazing, and I am so thankful for everything they’ve done. However, no one imagined that, when they said they wanted to create a destination “over time,” what they meant was maintain the historic integrity and importance of the site for less than three years. No one thought that in three short years creating “a destination” meant destroying a landmark in exchange for high-density housing.
Hull has seen multiple apartment buildings developed along the beach in the last few years. Why do we need more? Why is another group of 525-800-square-foot apartments more important to Hull than maintaining our history? The documents are available on the town website; I urge you to look for yourself.
So, what can we do? I hope that, by saying how I feel, my friends and neighbors will have the courage to do the same. We can reach out to town leadership and tell them what matters. We can ask that if a second marijuana facility is going to be built in town it not be the feature item of Nantasket Beach. We can demand that the boardwalk not be razed to the ground, decades of memories erased, in exchange for more of the same. In short, we can make ourselves heard by local government so that the people can manage the town and not the other way around. We can remember who we are and, in so doing, protect the place we all love.
If I’m wrong, it certainly won’t be the last time, and that’s OK, too. That’s the beauty of democracy.
Rob Stephens is a resident of Hull.