County hikes annual Norton Point vehicle permit fees

A recent aerial view of Norton Point beach looking west towards Katama. — Photo by Skip Bettencourt

The Dukes County Commissioners approved substantial increases in non-resident and resident annual over-sand vehicle permits for Norton Point Beach at their meeting on April 23, but they postponed action on the cost of day passes pending a new proposal from The Trustees of the Reservations (TTOR) which manages Norton Point Beach under contract with Dukes County, which owns the approximately two-mile barrier beach.

TTOR requires approval from county commissioners to increase fees by more than 20 percent. Chris Kennedy, TTOR Martha’s Vineyard superintendent, asked the commissioners to hike the cost of an annual resident permit 29 percent, from $70 to $90, and an annual non-resident permit 17 percent, from $120 to $140. He also asked to raise combination permits, which allow vehicles to drive on all TTOR managed properties on Chappaquiddick as well as Norton Point from $285 to $300 for non-residents, and $235 to $250 for residents.

Commissioners Christine Todd and Tom Hallahan of Oak Bluffs, Leon Braithwaite of West Tisbury, and Melinda Loberg of Tisbury voted in favor of the increases. Commissioners Lenny Jason of Chilmark and Tristan Israel of Tisbury voted against the increases. John Alley of West Tisbury did not attend the meeting.

The commissioners asked Mr. Kennedy to rework a proposal to increase day beach passes.

Mr. Kennedy asked to increase day passes from $24 to $50 for residents and $35 to $60 for non-residents. “The initial reason for having a day pass was to introduce the experience of driving on the beach,” Mr. Kennedy said. “It was never intended to be a bargain day at the beach. We’re finding increased lewd and lascivious behavior, potential drug use, alcohol use, and it inevitably involves the day pass people.”

Mr. Kennedy estimated that the price hikes would bring an addition $31,000 in revenue to TTOR, which would in turn trigger an increase in payments to Dukes County, from $50,000 to $60,000.

Mr. Jason questioned the increased revenue estimates, as well as the proposed daily price hike for Island residents.

“The local working guy is going to spend $50 to take his family to the beach,” Mr. Jason said. “I think we’re making a terrible mistake. I think the residents are taking it on the chin.”

The commissioners asked Mr. Kennedy to present a new proposal at the next commission meeting.