Fishermen do not generally mind a little rain. So it was not surprising that Thursday morning’s light rainfall did little to diminish the enthusiasm among those gathered for the official ribbon cutting ceremony to welcome the new Oak Bluffs fishing pier.
A parade of state and local officials stepped to the podium to describe the cooperation among multiple agencies and the town of Oak Bluffs, and the benefits the pier would provide, now and in the future. Division of Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin did her best to thank all those involved in the decade long project.
Greg Coogan, chairman of the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen, thanked town leaders who had worked tirelessly over the years to support the project, and state and federal agencies that have invested heavily in the town’s coastal infrastructure.
“As a small town we don’t have the resources to address many of the challenges that face a coastal community, sometimes it’s all we can do to keep sand on the beach,” he said, drawing a laugh from those familiar with the town’s struggle to replenish the Inkwell beach.
“Through these partnerships we’ve accomplished great things. This fishing pier is a great addition to this community, and not just Oak Bluffs but the whole Island.”
Mr. Coogan said residents across the Island appreciate the many features that make Oak Bluffs accessible. He said the new pier will give “everyday citizens, young and old” direct access to a first class fishing resource, or just a spot to stroll.
Referencing future plans, Mr. Coogan said, “In an era where public access to the waterfront is often threatened, we’re expanding it. And this is only the beginning. By the fall, we expect to start construction on a new seawall, here to my right, and a pedestrian boardwalk that will protect us from storms and bring more and more people to this lovely place.”
Project construction was overseen by the Department of Fish and Game’s Office of Fishing and Boating Access with assistance from the Division of Marine Fisheries.
The new pier cost $1 million and is the largest recreational fishing pier in Massachusetts. About $188,000 of project funds came from Massachusetts recreational saltwater fishing permit sales. The $10 charge for individual permits, collected by DMF, along with donations and charter boat permit revenue accrued more than $1.2 million in Massachusetts in 2013 for fisheries research, conservation and public access projects, according to a press release.
Chuck Casella, a charter captain and chairman of the Marine Recreational Fisheries Development Panel, a citizen advisory group established to provide oversight over the Marine Recreational Fisheries Development Fund, spoke about the battle to create a saltwater fishing license.
“The saltwater license was created from the ground up and it one of only three dedicated funds in the state that is truly a user pay, user benefit fund,” he said.
Referencing the pier and fisheries programs, Mr. Casella said fishermen could be confident that all the monies collected for the license fee are well spent.
Speaking on behalf of local fishermen, Bob Lane of Oak Bluffs, former president of the Surfcasters Association, thanked those who conceived of the idea of a fishing pier and persisted, undaunted by the long permitting and funding hurdles. Mr. Lane singled out Walter Lisson and David Nash of Edgartown.
The Oak Bluffs Fishing Pier will complement improvements planned for the North Bluff sea wall and boardwalk, according to a press release. Energy and Environmental Affairs awarded the town of Oak Bluffs $3.6 million in January to repair the damaged North Bluff. That grant is part of a total of $8.5 million in outside funding for Oak Bluffs, a figure that includes $1.9 million in seaport improvement money from the state Seaport Advisory Council, and $2 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance.
To see a fine art slide show of the pier, by Island photographers Steve Myrick and Alison Shaw, among others, click here.