Trying to master Menemsha traffic

From left, James Malkin, chairman Warren Doty, and Bill Rossi. – Edie Prescott

Traffic, pedestrian safety, and parking problems are among the things being tackled in a master plan for Menemsha.

On Tuesday, Chilmark selectmen received an update from Janet Weidner, from the planning board subcommittee working on the Menemsha section of the update to the town’s master plan. She attended the meeting with Peter Cook, also on the subcommittee. The session on the 11-page report was for informational purposes only; the Martha’s Vineyard Commission that will review it and determine how the commission might help with a traffic specialist for summer woes.

Ms. Weidner reported how pleased her committee is that selectmen have been able to tackle the “low hanging fruit” that was recommended to them by the committee — including a quick face-lift of the Menemsha comfort station, and fixing up the Menemsha satellite parking with lights and a sitting area.

Ms. Weidner said the report is broken out into five sections, all to come up with a “master plan” for Menemsha. These areas include the traffic and pedestrian safety, limited parking, and vehicle flow; keeping Menemsha as a fishing seaport; commercial activities other than fishing, broader-level ideas, and other items.

The purpose is to see “where we see the problems and where we see the possibilities,” Ms. Weidner said. “Where do we want to be 20 years from now?”

“It seems to me it’s a really thorough inventory of issues at Menemsha,” selectman Bill Rossi said.

Selectmen considered the increased police presence for traffic issues during the summer season, saying that Menemsha already has officers available, but that perhaps someone could come up with a better way to utilize them.

In other business, cemetery commissioner John Flender was on hand to discuss the draft of cemetery regulations and policies. He said that “Green Burials” will now be allowed.

“Green, or natural burial, is a way of caring for the dead with minimal impact that aids in the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and/or preservation of habitat. Green burial necessitates the use of non-toxic and biodegradable materials, such as caskets, shrouds, and urns,” according to

“Green burials are getting a lot of attention and we have to move with the times,” Mr. Flender said.  There is a public hearing this Friday, and then the final decision will rest with selectmen on policy adoption.

There were also two representatives from the Martha’s Vineyard Fishermens Preservation Trust at the meeting, including John Keene of Keene Excavation, who is the group’s president. The current thought is to use the previously unusable 8-acre town-owned land next to the town dump (that was only slated for landfill and deemed unsuitable as buildable lots due to the land’s possible damage to local drinking water supply), and to split it up for several municipal purposes. There is a warrant article seeking $10,000 for the town to consider ways to repurpose the land.

The selectmen discussed sharing the space between the fire department for a training area and new fire department building, an area for highway department storage, and an area for Chilmark-resident fishermen to store gear.

Mr. Malkin made a rough draft of where things could possibly go, but admitted he was not a “land planner,” and selectmen said they felt they should get a certified land planner to “draw it up.”

One purpose of the project is to encourage younger fishermen, and to provide space to store things like traps and gear no longer being used, or to move gear that is deemed dangerous out of the public’s way.

The loose idea is to surround each lot with a 6-foot chain-link fence, and fishermen can either “lock it or not lock it.”