Parking at Collins Beach is a perennial problem

Selectmen aren’t ready to require permits to restrict parking at the popular spot.

This parking lot at Collins Beach is a perennial issue, but selectmen aren't sure just what to do to correct it. —George Brennan

In the off-season, it’s a place for people to eat a sandwich by the water or to bring a dog to romp in the sand. But in the height of the summer season, Collins Beach, like most places with available parking, is a sought after by parking-starved tourists and workers.

The sandy lot is tucked away at the end of Cooke Street, next to the Reading Room.

Edgartown selectmen have been asked to consider ways to preserve parking spaces for commercial fishermen, while keeping one of the town’s few boat ramps for small boats available and accessible.

Chairman Arthur Smadbeck appeared to like the idea of a permit to park at the beach, but selectmen Margaret Serpa and Michael Donaroma were less enthusiastic about closing off access to what’s been a public beach since 1962, when the town acquired it.

Steve Ewing, a marine contractor, and Charlie Blair, Edgartown harbormaster, asked board members to consider some regulations to ease the parking crunch.eo

Mr. Ewing suggested parking by permit only during the prime season, from June 15 to Labor Day, and limiting parking to six or seven vehicles.

“All of our water access points are feeling this pressure,” he wrote in a letter handed to board members. “It is incumbent on the town, and the Island, to limit the number of vehicles crowding us out.”

Mr. Ewing suggested permit parking similar to the parking lot at the town visitors’ center, but Mr. Donaroma said there is a key difference.

“It isn’t on water, and hasn’t been public for [55] years,” he said. Mr. Donaroma suggested posting someone at the lot as a deterrent to parking there and walking into town to work or shop.

“What I’m against is turning it into a private parking area. It makes it favoritism to one group,” he said. “We’re going to be towing people all summer long; that’s not the town we want to be.”

Mr. Blair said signs are made and ready to be put up at the beach; he just needs some direction from town leaders. “That’s why I’m here; you make the rules, and I will find the enforcement,” he said.

The board agreed to take Mr. Ewing’s suggestions under advisement.

In other business, the board approved having a half-dozen police officers, including Chief David Rossi, deputized as assistant harbormasters. Mr. Blair explained that the police officers would be used in law enforcement situations on the water, and have been through a weeklong training along with marine units from Quincy, New Bedford, and Boston.

“They’ve had training; highly qualified and glad to have them,” Mr. Blair said of his new assistant harbormasters.

Mr. Blair said the Pied Piper ferry service from Falmouth to Edgartown is scheduled to begin operation on Friday.