Editorial: Oak Bluffs fishing pier is a welcome Island addition

Editorial: Oak Bluffs fishing pier is a welcome Island addition

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This morning, Oak Bluffs town leaders and representatives of several state agencies, including the Office of Fishing and Boating Access and the Division of Marine Fisheries, are scheduled to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Oak Bluffs fishing pier. Islanders and visitors have already begun to make good use of the handsome structure, which expands on the town’s already inviting waterfront boardwalk and strolling opportunities.

The state picked up the cost of construction, about $1 million, using a combination of funding sources that included Mass saltwater license revenues and federal Wallop-Breaux Trust funds, money generated through excise taxes levied on sport fishing and boating equipment.

Under the terms of its agreement with the state, Oak Bluffs is responsible for day-to-day maintenance, public safety, and policing.

The idea for a fishing pier began with the rebuilding of the Oak Bluffs Steamship Authority terminal. The original idea was to incorporate a fishing platform into the pier. That plan disappeared after 9/11, due to security concerns, but not the idea.

For several years, a group of fishermen led by David Nash of Edgartown quietly pressed for a fishing pier. They found support among Oak Bluffs town leaders and in the Office of Fishing and Boating Access, led by longtime director Jack Sheppard, a man who has worked mightily over the years to provide public access to the state’s waterways for all citizens.

The fishing pier project ties in with efforts by Oak Bluffs leaders to revitalize the downtown area and generally enhance the town’s welcoming atmosphere. Work will soon begin on a multi-million dollar plan to rebuild the entire seawall and add a boardwalk at North Bluff.

In the years to come, Island fishermen will take advantage of the pier to introduce kids to the fun of catching a scup, lovers will stroll along its length in quiet conversation, and visitors will be able to sit on one of the many wooden benches and admire the view.

Today’s ceremony marks the end of a long navigation through a series of local, state, and federal permitting agencies. In all, the project took more than a decade, but the end result was well worth the effort. Oak Bluffs can take pride in the latest addition to its public projects and the entire Island will be the beneficiary.

A salute to Edson Rodgers

Islanders who attended the Flag Day concert by the members of the Navy Band Northeast from Newport, R.I., at the Tabernacle on Saturday night enjoyed quite a treat. The band performed a medley of tunes to the great delight of the audience, many of whom waved small American flags, purchased prior to the concert from entrepreneurial Boy Scouts.

American Legion Post 257 in Vineyard Haven organized the free concert as part of a celebration earlier in the day to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Veterans Memorial Park. The evening began with neighbors greeting neighbors and the excited chatter of children. It was a quintessential Island event that reflected the spirit and patriotism of our small community.

Wielding a conductor’s baton and smiling broadly, Lt. Commander Carl J. Gerhard stood erect in a finely tailored, white dress jacket and led the Navy band through its paces with the precision of an aircraft carrier takeoff. But the star of the show was retired Navy chief Edson Rodgers of Edgartown, who conceived of and organized the band’s Island visit.

It was no small task, given the logistics and paperwork involved. Navy Band Northeast is attached to the Naval War College at Naval Station Newport. The group performs over 500 engagements annually in an 11-state area. Band members travel in four 15-passenger vans and carry their equipment in a 26-foot truck.

Mr. Rodgers served with the Navy Band Northeast before he retired in 1987. Lt. Cdr. Gerhard, who will retire in two months, worked with Mr. Rodgers when he was one of the senior instructors at the Naval School of Music in Virginia. His affection for his former teacher was obvious when he invited Mr. Rodgers to bring his trumpet on stage and perform with the band.

At the conclusion of the performance of “My Way” — done “The Navy way,” Edson Rodgers said —  Mr. Rodgers received a standing ovation from the crowd and a salute from his former pupil. Both were well deserved.