WELLFLEET — Obtaining a coveted spot at one of the kayak racks at a town beach just got a lot more random.
To give some relief to those who have sat for years on a stagnant waitlist, the Wellfleet beach administrator got rid of the town’s traditional system for assigning rack spots for canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards at the four town-owned beaches where they are offered. For the first time in at least a decade, the $100 rack rentals were divvied up by lottery.
“The problem was you did not get off the waitlist until someone died, and by then you were too old,” said Suzanne Grout Thomas, the town’s director of community services, including the beach department.
She said that, in most years, between 5 and 15 people gave up their rack rental spots. There are 136 total spots spread across four locations.
At Powers Landing, the most popular spot, 71 people were in the inaugural lottery last year, with only 16 spots available, she said. Powers Landing has always had the slowest-moving waitlist, Thomas added. At Gull Pond, 176 boaters got in line for one of 80 rack spots. There were 44 people hoping for one of the 16 places at Indian Neck. At Mayo Beach, 60 hopefuls vied for 24 spots.
Attempts to add more racks have been hampered by competing needs for parking and by the desire to protect existing vegetation at the beaches, she said.
And so, the lottery system was launched last fall. It is open to all property owners. You must reapply every year.
For some, this development is a sudden and unexpected boon. For those who were fortunate enough to have a rack space year after year, not so much.
Linda Smith of Hingham and Wellfleet wrote to the Independent to say she recently got an email from the town telling her she had been bounced from her Gull Pond rack, which she has had for 10 years, “because my name was not picked in a lottery,” she wrote. “I was completely blindsided by holding a lottery for this purpose.”
She said the new policy “discriminates against seniors.” Smith did not return phone calls from the Independent seeking more information.
The beach department has had the whole thing explained on the town’s website since November, though apparently many people never saw it, Grout Thomas said.
Currently, the town website states, “On Feb. 1, 2022, all spaces on the town-owned canoe and kayak racks were distributed using a lottery. All current holders and those on the waiting lists as of January 1, 2022, were entered into a lottery for the spaces in 2022.”
Grout Thomas said both Eastham and Brewster use lottery systems to manage their boat rack demand. The systems are controlled by a randomized algorithm from the website random.org and give those entered in the lottery equal odds of winning waterfront vessel parking each year.
About 50 percent of the long-time rack holders did get lucky in this year’s lottery, Grout Thomas said. Many people tried to maximize their chances by applying for a rack at all four of the beaches. One applicant actually did win a spot at all four. But, in fact, you are eligible for only one rack spot. Grout Thomas had to make that four-time winner choose just one spot.
She said she took the opportunity to ask if the lucky applicant “would buy my lottery tickets.”