A hearty yes to the fish pier


Unless there is lurking somewhere a great white shark of an argument against constructing a fishing pier off the North Bluff shore of Oak Bluffs, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, considering the proposal as a development of regional impact (DRI), ought to approve enthusiastically.

Contrary to the general run of DRIs, whose regional impact is often undetectable, here’s one whose regional impact is unmistakable, immense, and wholly beneficial.

The Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game’s office of fishing and boating access has proposed to build the public fishing pier off Sea View Avenue extension. Goals include maximum accessibility and a long service life for the pier.

The proposed L-shaped pier would be 16 feet wide and 317 feet long. The width would give access for wheelchairs, according to the plan submitted by CLE Engineering of Marion. It would be located about 200 feet north of the new Steamship dock. At various times during the fishing season, the area attracts striped bass, scup, fluke, bonito, and false albacore.

Among the benefits, this is a state-funded project that will be a boon to Islanders all, and to their summer neighbors and guests. It mirrors a pastime with a congenial history — namely the habit of fishing from the Steamship Authority wharf, a pleasant activity overwhelmed and ultimately foreclosed by accumulating human activity, the aging of the structure, and the dread of liability. (Add to this loss the loss for so many youngsters of the chance to cadge a few dollars from ferry passengers by swimming around the old boatline dock, singing “How about a coin,” and diving for the quarters tossed to them.)

In addition, the planned fish pier will be a complement to the planned improvements along the Oak Bluffs shore, from the harbor entrance to the Inkwell. Taken together, spectacular Ocean Park and its surrounding houses, the handsome new Steamship Authority wharf, the thoughtfully designed improvements to the shore, including a strolling path below the bluffs — the result will be a revived splendor that Oak Bluffs deserves.

Cavils by opponents of the pier, that it will be noisy or the focus of wild and pesky activities by young people, that it will attract too many more folks to an area already busy, seem inconsequential by comparison to the broad value of the proposal, which by any reasonable measure enhances rather than detracts from the North Bluff scene. Also unpersuasive, but astonishing in the extreme, is the strenuous participation in opposition of Paul Foley, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission planner who is in charge of managing development of regional impact applications before the commission. Not a decider, Mr. Foley, who may have stepped aside from his professional role on this occasion, is nevertheless presumed to be a nonpartisan fact-finder and data-minder, depended upon by the commission members and influential within the commission’s councils.

Here’s a decision on a development of legitimate regional impact, with extensive and obvious regional benefits, tailor-made for a yes by commissioners, who will be commended for their good sense in saying so.