South Beach should not be a mess

South Beach should not be a mess

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To the Editor:

One of the reasons I love living on the Vineyard is that almost every Sunday morning, I get up at dawn and go walk on the beach. We have such a variety of different beaches on this Island, and I think they are all beautiful. Enjoying this beauty, being in the silence of early morning, listening to the birds, the sound of the sea, the wind, and watching whatever is on (or in) the water, is a time of renewal and peace, which makes it possible to face the rest of my week.

Last Sunday, because of the heat, I decided to go to South Beach in Edgartown, where there is always a breeze on the warmest days. As I walked from the parking area, I met a man coming off the beach with his dog. He walked right past the sign saying No dogs. Okay, I thought, maybe he didn’t see the sign. Or, maybe the man can’t read. Or, maybe he thinks one dog doesn’t count? (The sign says no dogs, plural.)

I did not want to think he was one of those people who feel they should be allowed to do whatever they want wherever they are, while the rest of us are the ones the rules were made for. I put that thought out of my head. After all, he was just leaving.

At the entrance to the beach there were overflowing trash barrels, with debris all over the place. Again the optimist, I thought, okay, at least people are trying to put their trash in appropriate places, and I hope the beach patrol will come by and empty this later today, which they did.

Finally, I walked down near the water. Usually this beach is interesting in terms of what washes up. Besides the usual shells, I have found bird skulls, fossils, strips of birch bark, even a few bits of china and sea glass. There are always lots of bits of wampum and usually some driftwood. Unfortunately, this week I found a huge variety of other things. In fact, until I got all the way to the breach, I did not find one 10-foot stretch of beach which was not littered with human garbage.

I do not take issue with the many pieces of rope, the buoys, the heavy rubber gloves, the single flippers, even the tennis balls, rubber balls, pails and shovels, or the baby doll I found. These were not things which people dumped on the beach on purpose because they were too lazy or too irresponsible to bother to dispose of them properly. In fact, quite the opposite, I would imagine all of these things were left with regret.

But, here are some of the other things I found lying in the seaweed – many bits of balloons, lots of ribbon, lots of plastic snack packaging, bottle tops, beer bottles, a few cans, plastic bags, lollypop sticks, popsicle sticks, cigarette butts, empty cigarette packages, plastic ends from cigars, bits of Styrofoam, newspaper, cardboard, lots and lots of unidentified small plastic pieces, and of course condoms.

All of these things can harm fish and birds, not to mention interfering with the quiet enjoyment of every person who comes to the beach.

Please think about why you go to the beach and make sure to put your garbage in an appropriate receptacle. If the trash barrels are overflowing, take it someplace else, but don’t leave a mess for someone else to have to clean up. All I am asking you to do is to clean up after yourself. Is that too much to ask? I have seen properly brought up toddlers do that. Don’t tell me you don’t have the sense of responsibility and consideration of a two-year-old.

And, if you are one of the two women I saw walking off the beach with your hands full of other people’s droppings, again, I thank you.

Ellen T. MillerVineyard Haven


  1. thank you Ellen. I was at at State Beach yesterday at about 5:30 pm. Even at that hour, there were hundreds of people still there with small children. Two men were there with their dog throwing a filthy tennis ball around and in the water. the dog was swimming near children and shaking his wet fur all over the place when he got out. These two guys were sitting on a picnic bench right next to the lifeguard tower with the sign that says “NO DOGS”. I wanted to tell them that they should not have their dog on the beach, but I didn’t want to be a jerk…. or get shot. I didn’t want to go swimming with someone else’s wet, slobbering dog. So I sat there and said nothing. I was really P.O’d. Next time I will say something if I know I’m not the only one who feels like this.

    1. The thing about oceans is that they are really big. I should think you could avoid their dog if you wanted, beach regulations notwithstanding.

        1. I find your response to the dog and to others enjoying the same beach that you hypocritically want to use to be a huge overreaction. I am sorry that consorting with the plebeian masses and their harmless pets offends your sensibilities.

          Perhaps if there were more public beaches and less private beaches, there would be less issues with crowding? Just a thought!

          1. I know all the dog people out there think their dogs are cute and would never hurt anyone, but if youve been chased and bitten by a loose dog, you would understand why some of us dont want to see loose dogs running around a public beach with small children. Not to mention the piles of dog crap thats left behind. Its completely selfish to impose your dog on other people. They are most certainly not harmless, they are animals and are unpredictable. Ive had a dog, I loved my dog, but I would never have been so self absorbed as to bring her to a public beach and let her run around unleashed.

          2. Dogs love running around on the beach, and it’s pretty ridiculous that there is literally no way for their owners to allow that except to obtain access to some richie rich beach. Share the beach.

          3. When I was about 10 was fishing on a river and a black lab came from out of nowhere, bit me on the calf. I whacked him with my metal tackle box and he ran off. The rabies shots I had to endure were not pleasant.

  2. Is anyone surprised? The general public are slobs. Given the slightest opportunity they will gladly throw their trash wherever it is most convenient. Take a walk along Beach Road in OB. The shrubbery along the roadside is festooned with nip bottles and scratch tickets.
    Sorry Erik Albert, I support private beaches. There simply isn’t the detritus left behind by the people who are not stakeholders.
    Take note of the lack of trash at Lucy Vincent Beach.
    Hurray for private beaches!

    1. I have always assumed that most of those nip bottles and tickets were the result of a very dedicated subset of the population following a repeat route over time. No reason to let the few ruin it for the many.

    2. You’ve got Martina Mastromonaco and her hard-working crew to thank for the way Lucy Vincent beach looks.

    3. Private beaches on Martha’s Vineyard exemplify everything that is wrong with our islands political sub-divisions. Certain people in certain towns are allowed to have exclusive access to these beaches while other islanders are offered no further thought than a day-tripping tourist from New York might get.

      These beaches should be made open to all year round islanders. The idea that any town chooses to make it’s beaches exclusive to residents of that town undermines the unique and collective nature of life on Martha’s Vineyard and the challenges that island life presents. We are all on this island together. What wounds the residents of one of our towns wounds us all, as our burdens are more often shared than not. Yet when it’s time to act collectively we shrink from our obligations to our fellow islanders often justifying our reaction with the phrase “well that’s not my town.” Isn’t it time that we decided to move past these arbitrary divisions and work together to achieve island wide goals? Our collective efforts would be able to achieve true progress on far reaching island wide issues, and our collective bargaining power with companies like NSTAR, Comcast and even the Steamship Authority would be far greater.

      We live together, shop together, and send our children to high school together. We share the joys and burdens of island life together, shouldn’t we share these beaches as well?

      1. I couldn’t disagree more.
        You want to open all the beaches to all ‘year round islanders’? Why the distinction? Why not everyone who is a homeowner, or taxpayer or casual passersby? How about the tourists? Why not extend the privilege to them?
        Lucy Vincent is open to anyone living or renting in the town provided they pay the user fee and buy the sticker. I see nothing wrong with that.
        While there are certainly regional issues here they really have nothing to do with beach access.

        1. Islanders could mean:

          1. People who live here year round.
          2. Property owners.
          3. People born here.
          4. Anyone who is approved by a committee set up for this type of thing..?

          “How about the tourists? Why not extend the privilege to them?”

          There are already public beaches for the public. My point is that since we share common burdens we should enjoy each others fruit as well. I see nothing wrong with that.

          “Lucy Vincent is open to anyone living or renting in the town provided they pay the user fee and buy the sticker.”

          Indeed! And should the Town of Tisbury decide that 5 corners should only be open to residents of the town or anyone renting, is that acceptable as well? Tisbury shoulders the burden of our only major transportation link to the mainland yet her residents can’t sit on your beaches? Hypocracy.

    4. I think the worst of the worst slobs are cigarette smokers. hard to walk anywhere without seeing butts, empty packs and lighters.

  3. Remove the trashcan bins and the trash tends to disappear. Carry in, carry out. Make the signs, Edgartown uses their school children to make the signs, every town could.

  4. Ironic that this letter was placed right after the one praising the decision not to allow public access on conservation land. Maybe some places really do deserve protection from humans and their “enjoyment” of nature.

  5. This is an appalling display of blatant speciesism. Canine-Americans have rights, people! Elitism at it’s worst. It’s not like they’re cats or anything. I will be organizing a march to demand equal beach access – it’s going to have to be short, cuz it’s hot and my dog is old and his legs aren’t that long. Pavement is kinda hot. Maybe from Good Dog Goods to Ocean Park or so. Quick stop on the grass at Union Chapel en route.

    No Jack Russells – No Peace!

  6. I come to the vineyard with my family every year. We like to walk along the beach near gay head looking for ” treasure”. Along with” treasure” we find trash . My kids and I try to bring back as much trash as treasure just out of respect to this beautiful place and those who live here. Lets leave this place better than when we got here!

  7. If everyone would just leave with what they come with we wouldn’t be having this conversation. It’s that easy. If you had the energy to carry it in then carry it out. This is what makes the Vineyard beaches beautiful. They are unspoiled and clean.This is what separates them from other places. If everyone would do their part the beaches would remain as fantastic as they are. Please beach goers see the bigger picture. Do you like seeing trash thrown in your front yard?

  8. As far as I know, there are no public beaches on the Vineyard where dogs are allowed during the summer. Likely due to plover eggs, I think. Not due to weird, irrational fears that a single dog will somehow pollute an entire stretch of beach water, savage a child, or do anything other than chase tennis balls.

  9. Plover and nesting bird exclusions are temporary and they are clearly posted and roped off.

  10. Oh, then there is no good reason to exclude dogs from beaches for that time period. Thank you for this clarification.

  11. Anyone who thinks they can come up with a perfect solution to the “dog problem” is delusional.

  12. The “solution” is that rich people have access to private beaches where they can bring their pets, while the hoi polloi will make due with crowded, no-dogs-allowed beaches. Not that dogs have some kind of right to beach access, but bringing dogs to the beach is a thing that people might reasonably want to do.