Bathers balk at new rules, fees at Lambert's Cove Beach
A controversy began to bubble in West Tisbury last week when new signs went up on Lambert's Cove Road near Uncle Seth's Pond and across the road from the Lambert's Cove beach. The new parking rules were on the selectmen's agenda yesterday, and police Chief Beth Toomey said that she was prepared to take some heat.
The heat was intense, and in response selectmen decided to remove the new signs (and with them the new, $50 fines and reduced parking) at the beach. They agreed that Chief Toomey would take whatever other steps she decided were necessary to ensure safety. The selectmen also said they would revisit the parking and safety issues at the beach after the season. The new signs and new rules will remain for Uncle Seth's Pond.
The selectmen approved the new, higher fines and other changes last fall, in response to a letter from Chief Toomey, in which she said, "The current fines appear not to deter some people from parking illegally."
The new signs prohibited parking on the grassy strip across the road from the Lambert's Cove beach parking lot, resulting in the loss of as many as eight legal parking spots for stickered beachgoers. Although Ms. Toomey and beach supervisor Joe Schroeder had agreed that a small number of legal spots might be retained, the highway department deemed the space insufficient for safe parking and installed the signs declaring the whole side of the road off-limits.
Chief Toomey told The Times that she accepts responsibility for that decision, even though that was not part of her original request to the selectmen. Mr. Schroeder, town administrator Jen Rand, and lifeguard Kaitlyn Maciel all agree that crossing the road on that blind curve is unsafe, especially for small children eager to get to the beach. Truck traffic to E. C. Cottle's lumber yard, and tourists unfamiliar with the road have combined to produce many close calls. Moreover, cars parked very close to the edge of that side of the road, or illegally with a wheel in the road, increase the danger to pedestrians.
While it has always been the case that some drivers with Lambert's Cove beach stickers are turned away from the parking lot, Mr. Schroeder says that it happens infrequently.
But, he admits, "If you've rented a house for a week and paid $50 for a beach sticker, getting turned away one day is not 'infrequent' to you."
West Tisbury residents can purchase a walk-on pass, which allows a family group of almost any size to arrive on foot, by bicycle, or on the #2 VTA bus and go to the beach.
Ms. Maciel says she does not think more parking is needed. "The spaces in the lot and on the beach side of the road, together with the walk-ons, are perfect for our beach. It's a family beach, and there's a lot of turnover every day. People come in the morning and leave in the afternoon."
All this will be reconsidered in the off-season, the selectmen agreed.
No changes were made in the limited parking at Uncle Seth's Pond. The fine for illegal parking there has also been increased to $50. These changes survive yesterday's selectmen's meeting.
Chief Toomey's plan was to meet with the highway department in June and place the signs before the beach opened, but the police department was unusually busy throughout June with a high volume of business more serious than No Parking signs.
"We've never been this busy," she said, "except maybe when Clinton was here." Ms. Toomey admitted that a change in midsummer has caused more controversy than she would like.
But Ms. Rand adds, "If it's a safety issue, it doesn't make sense to wait until fall just so people won't be angry. What if this is the year someone gets hit there?"