County commissioners consider charging for State Beach parking

Revenue from parking could fund facilities at Island beaches 

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Commissioner Christine Todd says paid parking at State Beach would provide a necessary revenue source for the Island. — Lucas Thors

Dukes County commissioners discussed the possibility of charging off-Island visitors a fee for parking at State Beach at a meeting held Wednesday, Oct. 2. 

Commissioner Christine Todd said revenue from paid parking at State Beach could be used to fund restroom facilities at various Island beaches.

Todd mentioned Eastville Beach and Inkwell Beach as locations that would benefit greatly from public restrooms. She said the Oak Bluffs parks committee did a one-day test with porta-potties in Waban Park, across from Inkwell Beach. “There were some benefits and some drawbacks to that test,” Todd said.

She said not only did abutters of Waban Park object to porta-potties anywhere within their line of sight, but she also said it would be nearly impossible to limit the use of facilities to only beachgoers.

“If you don’t have porta-potties in those areas, the alternative is to install more substantial facilities with running water that are tied into the wastewater system,” Todd said. 

She said making a significant investment in more advanced (and aesthetically pleasing) facilities would maintain the natural beauty of the Island and be a better long-term option for the Island.

“If we don’t want to take away from the aesthetics and natural integrity of Island beaches, we may need to make much more of an investment than just porta-potties,” Todd said. “It all boils down to money. Unless we are exploring new ways to generate revenue or reappropriating current revenue, this isn’t going anywhere.”

Todd said the Island is an outlier when it comes to not charging for beach parking, and that many other towns in the commonwealth implemented a pay-to-park system years ago. 

She said pay-to-park beaches in places like Provincetown and Rhode Island generate significant revenue, and are tailor-fitted to accommodate different populations from on-season to off-season. “Paid parking is common in other seaside communities,” Todd reiterated.

She said a year-round resident of the Vineyard could have a sticker for the entire year that exempts them from having to pay a parking meter. “These facilities would be serving a community that is really only here two months out of the year,” Todd said.

Commissioners did not decide the method by which paid parking would be implemented, but suggested metered parking, alongside stickers for either a full day, full season, or for year-round Island residents.

“I am in full agreement we should be charging for parking on State Beach,” commissioner Keith Chatinover said.

He agreed that Islanders should not have to pay, and should be able to get a free sticker.

“This could be a huge revenue source for not just the facilities at the beaches, but it will probably generate even more than that,” Chatinover said. “We shouldn’t make Islanders pay, because we aren’t the ones who are making the facilities necessary.”

Chatinover suggested working in concert with local officials in Provincetown to see how their methods might translate to the Vineyard community.

County manager Martina Thornton reminded the commission that State Beach is not county-owned property, but instead is a state-owned park that the county manages.

“We need to have that clarification about what point we can be imposing fees if there is already an established state structure we should be following,” Thornton said.

But Todd said both Provincetown beaches and beaches at Misquamicut in Rhode Island are state-owned, and they charge a fee.

Commissioner Tristan Israel said it is necessary to talk with the state about how the percentage of fee revenue might be divided between individual towns and the state.

“If we are going to charge, do we get all that money, or does the state take a cut? Let’s find that out first,” Israel said. “If the state gets all that money, then I don’t want to do it.”

Commission chair Gretchen Tucker-Underwood said the citizens of the Island need to be included in the conversation throughout the conceptual planning process.

“Not only that, but you will be legally required to hold a public hearing,” Thornton said. “Every time we are thinking of imposing a new fee, we have to hold a public hearing.”

Thornton said the commission can publicize the conversation at their next meeting, but before a public hearing the county must print the proposed rates in the newspaper.

She said setting a rate is only one technical aspect of charging for parking at State Beach.

“There are meters, administration costs, parking attendants — there are lots of different elements involved with this,” Thornton said.

Commissioner Leon Braithwaite also mentioned that if the town does impose a parking fee, fewer seasonal visitors will leave the beach throughout the day.

“Once you have stickers that let you park for the day, folks will stay the whole day instead of just staying for a few hours. You will have less of a flow of people coming and going,” Braithwaite said.

Whether or not the towns decide to build beachside facilities, Todd said charging for parking at State Beach would provide a necessary revenue stream for the Island, and would be in line with what other similar coastal communities are doing.

“This could be a huge benefit to the Island. Most other beach towns are doing it, so why can’t we?” Todd said.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Another dumb idea by an unnecessary bunch of bureaucrats. It better be a sticker for all property taxpayers or they will find themselves in another losing battle in court. Charge parking in Edgartown to put in bathrooms in Oak Bluffs? Keep dreaming. At least Edgartown has the forward thinking to provide for the beachgoers without this nonsense. And they probably spend plenty in town too. Just like the dumb idea in Gay head charging for bathrooms (i haven’t been up there in 20 years. so i dont know if they still do)

  2. NO NO NO NO NO NO NON NEE NA NANNI nahániri OHI LO NEM MBALE LEI NEEN HET ALWA NAEYUK HAYIR
    NEIN CHA AITA
    State beach is one of the last deals left on this island for tourists. We already have a bad rap as being overpriced.
    Want to make money? Do it in a fair way, rent chairs/umbrellas etc. or rent out a concession stand at “paybeach”.

  3. Maybe we should also consider putting up tolls on all our roads ( islanders travel free) and charging to use the ports potties? It would dovetail nicely with the new tax on short term rentals and the $20/day in season parking at the Steamship lots on Saturdays and Sundays. And shouldn’t we really grab a fee from anyone entering the ocean? Seems there’s plenty more room to gouge the tourists. We just need to get more creative.

  4. No big deal, very briefly – I am hoping Commission chair Gretchen Tucker-Underwood, Leon Braithwaite & Christine Todd all get replaced in 2021. They dont speak for us (CWS)
    I would run for a seat but I have more of a voice sitting in the audience!!!!

  5. You mention Misquamicut beach in RI charges a parking fee …. they also offer bathroom/changing facilities and a snack bar and ample monitored parking along with trash receptacle and beach cleaning. Considering the increased ferry costs, tax on rentals, and all around over the top costs on the island … this is just pure greed.

  6. This crew is worst than the Democrat congress. After just watching on MVTV their last couple DCC meetings it is totally shameful that these folks are running the show and speaking on our behalf!
    They dont really want to meet more than once a month, they whine, cry and stamp their feet that the meetings are to long as well as the agendas.
    Then they just want to add taxes on every possible thing! This is not funny one bit. I say we are better off with NO DCCC. Abolish it and send these clowns packing. I am sure they would all be happy then they will have no meetings or agenda’s to complain about. Plus they all seem that they dont even like each other!
    The only one who makes any sense is the new kid with the beard.
    Abolish County Government, what do we have to loose other than paying alot of $$$$$$$ for their staff etc etc.

  7. How clever –> Fielding Mellish, The answer is quite simple I have a much more powerful voice from the audience. I got your attention didnt I.
    Plus you have not been here long enough you are still wet. Actually John who I disagree quite often with is the only one who has any time in grade on this island then all the commissioners together. Although the new kid with the beard only being on the island for 7 years sees all the nonsense going on, However him being a devout Warren supporter makes me want to keep a very close eye on him also for sure as he is just trying to get his foot in the door like the rest, other than John like I said!
    Answer your question Mr. Mellish?

  8. @Vineyar Jane,first I’ve been here since 1963. Was born here,how about you? Secondly,you claim you can do more sitting in the audience. How? You also make claims the board doesn’t speak for us. Who exactly is us? You want the board to speak for us then take out papers and run for a seat. Knock off any of the people you mention.

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