Tisbury selectmen unhappy with park access

Boch representative says liability is an issue.

The plans call for beautiful gardens and landscaping on the Boch property on Beach Rod, but public access remains a thorn for selectmen. — Stacey Rupolo

They like the idea of a new look for a timeworn piece of property on the water, but the Vineyard Haven board of selectmen expressed displeasure with the uncertainty over public access to the park proposed by Ernie Boch Jr. at 20 Beach Road.

“It’s just a little bit disappointing to me,” selectman Tristan Israel said after learning during Tuesday’s meeting that the Boch family isn’t sure how often the public will get inside the wrought iron gates of the park. “I don’t know where this changed in the process.”

Early discussions of the park seemed to indicate the public would be welcome, he said. “Again, it’s your property, you can do what you want,” Mr. Israel said, a refrain he repeated several times.

Dan Clemmey, who has ushered the plans through the conservation commission and other town boards, said the Bochs plan to make the park available to nonprofits for events. A portion of the park near the beach, including a boardwalk with benches, will be open all of the time, he said.

“We don’t want to leave it open,” Mr. Clemmey said, noting issues with trash and liability. “It is private property. It’s not public.”

The plans call for robust flower gardens, a massive patio with a compass rose, and restored dunes closer to the beach. Mr. Boch told The Times in an earlier interview that he may erect a statue to his late father, Ernie Boch Sr., founder of the family’s auto empire.

Selectman Melinda Loberg said she is worried about a rowing club that will lose access to a storage shed that Gannon & Benjamin, a neighboring business, lets them use.

Mr. Clemmey said he’s had talks with representatives of the club that are ongoing, but their hands may be tied by wetlands regulations. The property line of the park comes within a foot of the building, he said.

Despite her concerns over access, Ms. Loberg praised the plans overall. “It’s a huge improvement over what we’ve been looking at over the years,” she said.

When Mr. Israel broached the subject of possibly having the town provide maintenance in exchange for public access, selectmen chairman Larry Gomez bristled. “For us to maintain, I don’t know about that,” Mr. Gomez said. “We don’t have enough money to maintain our own parks.”

At one point, Mr. Gomez asked the Bochs to donate the finished park to the town, but there was no response from Mr. Clemmey.

Asked by town finance director Jon Snyder how long it would remain a park, Mr. Clemmey noted the amount of investment the Bochs are putting into the park. Several times Mr. Clemmey made the point that the property would be landscaped on a weekly basis.

Also at issue with the park is an easement for town sewer.

Robert Sawyer, a neighboring property owner, told selectmen he wanted to make sure his property isn’t cut off from the sewer once the line is moved. Part of his sewer is in Boch land, DPW director Ray Tattersall said.

Selectmen must ultimately sign off on a licensing agreement to move the easement.

Town administrator Jay Grande said Tuesday’s discussion would be brought to the attention of the lawyers hammering out the details of the agreement.

In other business, the board unanimously accepted a donation of $10,500 from the Friends of Owen Park. This is the third year in a row the town has gotten the funds, which will be used to improve the town park on the Vineyard Haven waterfront.

“This is just a big boost in the arm to get things done,” Mr. Grande said.

The planning board will be looking at what’s next for the park this fall, planning board chairman Ben Robinson told the board.

The board continued a public hearing on an all-alcohol license for the Black Dog Bakery and Cafe, this time because of a medical reason. “Someone is having a baby so I can’t argue with that one,” Mr. Israel said.

The two sides have been at odds over how alcohol should be served in the restaurant. The board says it must be ordered from and served at a table, but Black Dog officials say the business model in the cafe is for patrons to order at a counter and be served at a table.

The continued hearing was scheduled for Sept. 12 at 6 pm.

Selectmen also approved seeking a $10,000 transfer from the finance committee to continue the town’s consulting relationship with Strategic Partners, a firm hired to review policies and procedures with regard to hiring and discipline in the police department.

The company went over its travel allotment and the amount for a previous report, Mr. Grande said. He also wants to hire them to finalize a revamped discipline and review process estimated at $5,000, he said, though he’d like a cushion.

“I don’t want to be coming back incrementally,” he said.


  1. So Mr Gomez balks when the Boch’s ask about the town maintaining the property in exchange for public access because there’s no money to maintain the parks we already have, but thinks the Boch’s should donate it to the town after they’ve fixed it up.
    I’m confused by this. Wouldn’t that make the town responsible for maintenance? And also remove a valuable piece of land from the tax roles?
    Government at it’s finest I guess….

  2. I knew Ernie Boch and thought he was a decent guy, but if you put up a statue of him make sure the bolts are high quality and easily removed.

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