Chilmark lowers the boom on creek spiles

Selectmen give Brian Vanderhoop notice wooden spiles near his creek cannot accommodate a second boat.

Updated 5:15 pm, Wednesday *

Through a letter sent to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and to Aquinnah harbormaster Brian “Chip” Vanderhoop, a creek lot holder and charter fisherman, Chilmark selectmen banned the use of the Chilmark side of three spiles (or pilings) in Menemsha Creek near Vanderhoop’s creek shack and dock.

In January of 2018, outgoing Chilmark harbormaster Dennis Jason sparred with Vanderhoop over the spiles, which Jason described as “a menace to navigation” that should be removed. At the time, Vanderhoop, who could not be reached for comment for this story, said the spiles posed no such menace, and that Chilmark was subjecting him to prejudicial sanctions.

“It seems all of a sudden, since I have it, now [they’re] a menace,” Vanderhoop said after taking over the spot. “That’s borderline discrimination between a Chilmarker and an Aquinnah person. The lessee has changed, and now it’s a menace, but for 40 years it hasn’t been. Can you understand where I’m coming from?”

At Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting, chairman Jim Malkin, the board’s harbor liaison, explained his interpretation of the letter’s content.

“I received a call from a surveyor employed by Mr. Vanderhoop wanting me to clarify what it meant by me saying no additional boat could be affixed on the outside of the pilings in Chilmark waters,” he said. “I clarified that what it meant a second boat shall not be affixed to those pilings in Chilmark waters. Chip can certainly keep his boat between the dock and the pilings but a second boat cannot be affixed to the outside of the pilings. The surveyor said, ‘Well, he’d only be there in bad weather.’ I said the boat has been there in good and bad weather and that’s where it’s been kept.”

In the letter, written by town administrator Tim Carroll, the board asked DEP to back Chilmark’s position by adding language to the special waterways conditions governing the area: “No vessels will be allowed to moor on the outside (east side) of the three spiles in Chilmark waters without written authorization of the Menemsha harbormaster.” The letter went on to say, “the selectmen voted to write DEP and Mr. Vanderhoop that no vessels shall be affixed to the outside [of] the three pilings in Chilmark waters.”

Malkin said newly sworn in harbormaster Ryan Rossi is onboard with the spile stance. “Nobody is going to be tied there, and the new harbormaster is very aware of this,” Malkin said.

*Updated to clarify chairman Jim Malkin’s remarks.