Gone fishin’: Islanders foul the nest

Lay the blame for a Sengekontacket boat and trailer dumping ground on those who call the Island home.

Photo by Ned Casey

Updated 2pm, Monday, Aug. 17

Vineyarders are proud of their Island, and take pride in its natural beauty. Fishermen in particular treasure the fact that our waters are generally clean, and that we are still able to harvest shellfish from our ponds and fish from the surrounding waters.

Martha’s Vineyard seasonal and year-round residents spend a lot of time working to protect the Island. We have well-funded organizations that are devoted to the environment, and volunteers who can be counted on to help when needed for projects that include beach cleanups.

Glossy magazines and special publications tout the specialness of it all. They feature photos of yeomen Islanders in fields of kale, fishermen holding bushels of oysters, and beach vistas where only beach plums are visible.

How about a photo of a fiberglass boat on a trailer missing its wheels resting on a beach? Or an overturned boat, gas tanks found floating in the water, piled on top of the hull? Concrete blocks dumped in the water in place of town-approved moorings?

None of that rates very high on the “aren’t we special” meter.

I suppose Islanders may not be responsible. But I would sooner believe in crop circles. It is unlikely that seasonal residents and vacationeers cart derelict boats to the Vineyard to dispose of junk at out-of-the-way locations.

So the question is, why would Islanders foul their own nest? Why would Islanders dump boats, trailers, gas tanks, and various other pieces of marine junk on the shoreline, where they have precious access to one of the Island’s salt ponds?

Is it the sense of entitlement that periodically creeps into arguments? “I’m an Islander” is the refrain. I have heard it in arguments over fishing spots. My daughter, who by the way was born here, heard it when some pouty Islander was challenged after she cut into line at Back Door Donuts.

This week the problem of Islanders dumping boating junk, generally being inconsiderate of their neighbors, and ignoring the rules came to a head at a remote spot off the Boulevard in the Ocean Heights section of Edgartown. The sandy beach is one of those neighborhood treasures.

Ned Casey, who lives nearby, told me Mansfield Grant donated it to the town to provide access for commercial fishermen, who continue to use it. Area residents also use it to swim and launch kayaks and small boats. But the neighbors have fought an uphill battle to police the area.

Ned and another neighbor, Dean Grant, are fed up, and have pressed for action. The kicker was a trailer missing a tire dragged to the beach. The boat was launched, and the trailer pushed up into the reeds. The town is now pushing back.

On Monday, Edgartown harbormaster Charlie Blair met Environmental Police Sergeant Patrick Moran at the landing to discuss the problem, and ask for his assistance in going after the owners of derelict boats. Charlie also sought the support of Edgartown selectmen. He said he is also fed up, he said, with people who have no respect for the town, the rules, or their community.

Monday night, selectmen signed two letters dated Aug. 10. One was addressed to Clinton Fisher. It ordered him “to remove his vessel and trailer from the town landing located at Sengekontacket Pond.” The letter also noted he has no mooring permit for the area, and there is no record his vessel is registered.

Selectmen also sent a letter to David Viera, ordering him to remove his vessel and trailer. “Your sunken vessel is moored to someone else’s mooring,” the letter said. “The harbormaster’s office has no record of you obtaining any mooring permits for this area. None of your vessels are registered in the commonwealth, and all are subject to vessel excise tax.”

Dean said it has been a frustrating experience. He is cautiously hopeful that the beach is going to get cleaned up.

I suppose the real test will be when a photo appears in a glossy magazine.

Correction: An earlier version of this column incorrectly identified Ralph Grant as the donor of the land used for a boat landing. The donor was his brother, Mansfield Grant.