Kids circumvent fence to crab in restricted Crab Corner

Kids were spotted within the restricted area of Crab Corner on Sunday. —Rich Saltzberg

Despite stark warning signs and a cordon of snow fence, children could be seen hunting crabs in the shallow waters of Crab Corner Sunday evening.

Chilmark selectmen ordered the area sealed off at their July 11 meeting after people reported electric current in the water there, and after tests indicated stray marine voltage was present. Though the suspected cause of the stray voltage has been repaired, the harbor advisory committee voted last week to recommend to the selectmen that Crab Corner stay closed until additional electrical dangers can be ruled out. The committee also recommended it remain closed until a legal opinion can be reached as to whether Crab Corner is in compliance with state boating law, given its proximity to the town’s transient dock. If it’s not compliant, the board wants to know what changes are necessary.

Town lifeguards guard the entrance to Crab Corner, beach committee chairman Clarissa Allen told The Times. In particular, the lifeguard on adjacent Menemsha Beach whose chair is nearest to Crab Corner is charged with keeping folks out, she said. Ms. Allen said she hasn’t heard any reports of people entering Crab Corner after it became restricted, but noted that once the lifeguards leave for the day, enforcement of the closure belongs to the police department.

One lifeguard arrives at Menemsha Beach at 9 am and remains until 5 pm, beach superintendent Martina Mastromonaco said. A second lifeguard arrives at 11 am and also remains until 5 pm. The two lifeguards alternate between the main lifeguard chair and the secondary one by Crab Corner, where Ms. Mastromonaco said the lifeguard need but look over his or her shoulder to observe Crab Corner. Aside from a few stray kids trying to fish from the transient dock, Ms. Mastromonaco said that once a fence sealed off the area, swimming stopped.

Chilmark police have no officer assigned to Crab Corner, nor have they been specifically requested by the town to enforce the closure, Police Chief Jonathan Klaren told The Times. However, Chilmark officers would certainly instruct people they saw in the water there to leave, he said. Chief Klaren said only one instance came to mind where his officers were called to intervene at Crab Corner — two adults refused to exit after a lifeguard caught them wading, he said. They’d left Crab Corner by the time his police arrived, he said. Nevertheless, the police found the people elsewhere in Menemsha, and advised them not to reenter Crab Corner.

Chilmark selectmen are scheduled to discuss the issue of Crab Corner Tuesday. Parents have urged the board to reopen Crab Corner, an area enjoyed by generations of visitors to Menemsha.