Edgartown selectmen agree on new harbor regulations
Edgartown selectmen approved harbor regulations that will provide temporary dock space for charter boats and impose a $200 seasonal fee per vessel.
In other watery affairs handled Monday, selectmen nixed a proposal for a float-in movie event that would have seated patrons in inner tubes to view the Island classic, Jaws, on State Beach.
The board members heard a range of opinions regarding the future of Edgartown Harbor and the possible reopening of Katama Bay.
Discussion surrounded a memo the Edgartown Board of Trade recently sent to the town's marine advisory committee, which advises the board of selectmen. The letter expressed the merchant group's interest in efforts to re-open Katama Bay to anchorage, add additional moorings to the inner and outer harbor, and instill consistent hours and dates of operation at the fuel dock, all in an effort to reinvigorate tourism.
"It is the intent of our board of trade to assist the town in improving the harbor front by creating a more viable, visitor-friendly gateway into Edgartown and her merchants," the letter read.
Ted Morgan, a former Edgartown selectman, who spoke on behalf of the board of trade, said they wanted to make sure the harbor stayed open to visitors, and did not become a "closed bay."
Harbormaster Charlie Blair, who wrote a counter letter, said that although he wants to encourage tourism, shellfishing is his main concern. "We're all for visitors," he said. "But we don't want to lose our shellfish. If we lose that, it's something we can't get back."
According to the new regulations, the finger piers will now be used as the loading and unloading zone for charter vessels. Overnight dockage will be prohibited, and all boats must be manned while in the slip. The board said they would evaluate how the new set of rules works this season, and revisit the list of regulations in the fall.
There was much discussion of the fact that the state has not set a numerical limit of how many boats are legally allowed in the harbor. Selectman Michael Donaroma said that without specified numbers, state officials could fly over the harbor at any time and determine it was too full.
"We're going to see if we can push the state a bit to find out a specific number of boats," Mr. Donaroma said. "Then we can move forward from there."
Amidst the debate over plans for the harbor, Mr. Donaroma said the board's position is always to guard the health of the harbor waters. "The harbor is a big, complicated organism that we need to keep healthy and alive," he said.
Some worried that if the harbor becomes overused and packed with boats, the current cleanliness could be compromised.
Mr. Blair said he is not concerned with the sanitation of that harbor, declaring, "I swim in the harbor all the time. We have a great pump-out program. It's probably the best thing our department does."
Between the people who want to open the harbor to more tourism, preserve it for shellfishing purposes, or keep it a quiet, neighborhood area, Mr. Donaroma said the board is trying to find a compromise. "We are trying to take all the different factions and make a balance," he said.
In other business, the board evaluated the work of town treasurer Sharon Willoughby, and approved the removal of 10 shade trees for the expansion of the bike path on Herring Creek Road in Katama.
As for the Jaws proposal, which was put forward by Alamo Cinema, Town officials were quite vocal in discussing the idea of showing the shark classic to floating viewers at night. "The bottom line is, no," chief of police Paul Condlin said Monday at the meeting.
Alamo wanted to install a 45-foot tall blow-up screen on the beach for the evening, and distribute inner tubes for patrons to view the movie while floating just offshore.
"I don't want anybody in the water at night," Mr. Blair said, who was not concerned by the film's namesake toothy terrors, but rather the dangers of alcohol. The selectmen, in agreement with the harbormaster and chief of police, voted to halt the event before it came to fruition.