To the Editor:
I keep reading over the articles in the Gazette and The Times and wondering if everyone involved with the Coast Guard boathouse is missing the point altogether. We, the citizens, the selectmen, the Coast Guard, and the people in Washington who control the flow of our tax dollars should be asking what is best for the harbor.
I was as sorry as anyone to see the boathouse burn down, it was an iconic and lovely building like so many of the boathouses along the coast. But, and it is a big but, it stopped being used as a boathouse in the 1950s, because the Coast Guard stopped using wooden motor lifeboats that needed to be pulled out of the water between uses. For the past half century the Menemsha boathouse has been used like most garages, to hold little used junk and supply a place to work and play for the crew at the station — useful, but not necessary, and certainly not in the right place. Such a structure should be next to the station, not on a dock over the harbor subject to storm flooding.
I think the Coast Guard is great, and I am very glad they have kept a station in Menemsha, but that does not mean I embrace every decision they make. Their decision-making process is influenced by politics, economics, and many other factors.
Several years back, the Coast Guard installed a large underground fuel tank next to the boathouse — not because they needed it and not because it made sense to sink a tank below the high tide level but because the Coast Guard needed to spend funds in their budget before the end of that fiscal year. It was a dumb decision, and I do not think the thing ever worked.
Last year the Coast Guard, post-fire, rebuilt the entire length of the dock in order to again connect their lot with the floating dock in the middle of the harbor instead of just moving the float closer to the shore where it should be. The town and the Coast Guard were both in a hurry to make things right, but not a lot of common sense went into that decision. No one asked what would be best for the harbor.
The answer to the Coast Guard plans to rebuild the boathouse (plans inspired in large part by a mistaken idea that if the harbor looks like it did, all will be well) should be a loud “no thank you.” Perhaps a couple of well-planned parking spots but no more than that.
While you are at it, the Chilmark selectmen ought to consider asking the Coast Guard to move the floating dock alongside the fixed pier so the town can replace the third mooring that was removed when the float went in.