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Oak Bluffs harbor posts record income
Despite a soggy June that deterred many boaters from making early season cruises to the Island, the town of Oak Bluffs, which leases dock space and moorings to yachtsmen visiting its sheltered harbor, posted its seventh consecutive year of record income. According to a report by harbormaster Todd Alexander, harbor revenue totaled $907,719, slightly higher than last year.
Oak Bluffs harbormaster Todd Alexander used modern technology to give Islanders a sneak peak of his harbor beautification plan.
Despite three cruise ship cancellations due to poor weather, the vessels that did make it to the Island accounted for $22,000 in revenue. Mr. Alexander also estimated that up to $800,000 went to local business from passengers who spent afternoons shopping and eating in Oak Bluffs this summer.
"Any [business] before or after July and August is weekends, and if you don't have the weather, they just don't come. It's as simple as that," Mr. Alexander said.
Rates for seasonal moorings will be raised next year from $150 to $175 for a harbor mooring, and from $100 to $125 for moorings elsewhere.
Upgrades are planned for Oak Bluffs harbor, an annual money maker for the town. Photo by Susan Safford
Looking toward next year, Mr. Alexander sees changes in store for the harbor. Although no new structures or view-altering projects are proposed, the harbormaster does have plans for beautification.
Mr. Alexander said he will replace the steel portion of the bulkhead, swap the remaining plastic-covered power pedestals for metal ones, and work with the parking and traffic committee on a plan for the parking area where Seaview Avenue Extension and Circuit Avenue Extension meet next to the south jetty.
Replacing the bulkhead is the most important project facing the harbor at this time, Mr. Alexander said. The steel portion of the bulkhead, which runs from the Island Queen dock to the harbormaster's office, was built in the mid-1970s and was projected to have a 25-year lifespan. Mr. Alexander said the rest of the bulkhead was updated about 10 years ago, and this is the last bit of restoration the harbor needs to be stable.
"It's almost to where we want to be," Mr. Alexander said of the harbor. "We're also looking at the feasibility of rebuilding one side of the jetty, where it's sinking a bit."
The bulkhead project, including some work on the jetty, is estimated to cost nearly $2 million, according to town administrator Michael Dutton, who said that a matching grant from the state of up to $1 million is available until June 30, 2007. He said he will most likely ask for the rest of the money at the April town meeting, while searching for other sources of funding until then. The project's projected completion date is next fall.
When he interviewed for his current position in July, Mr. Dutton noted the bulkhead replacement project as one of the improvements he wanted to see approved. "We're really lucky there hasn't been a failure yet," he said in a recent conversation. "There are actually some holes in the metal pilings that could allow for spills into the harbor."
Replacing the plastic covering on the power pedestals - the units boats hook up to for electricity - has been an ongoing project, Mr. Alexander said. Replacement of the final 15 pedestal covers, which have either worn out or been vandalized, will be completed this winter. White painted aluminum coverings, which cost $800 each, will replace the plastic.
Mr. Alexander said while keeping the physical structure of the harbor up to date is important, the visual layout is also a priority.
"It is my opinion that beautification around the entire harbor is greatly needed," he said in the annual report. "This can be accomplished in stages and can be relatively inexpensive. Planting trees and bushes would enhance the harbor surroundings a great deal."
Mr. Alexander proposed lining the harbor boardwalk from the bathhouse towards Nancy's Snack Bar with 15-foot trees, planters, and grassy areas. He created a Google sketch, which allows users to grab an image from Google Earth - the search giant's satellite imagining system - to illustrate his improvement vision.
Twelve years in the making