Tisbury keeps beaches open

Officials cancel and modify summer events and plan on outdoor town meeting.

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The Vineyard Haven band won't be performing in the usual manner this summer at Owen Park.

Tisbury selectmen decided at a meeting Tuesday night to tentatively keep town beaches open and planned to have Tisbury’s annual town meeting at the school playground.

The board also had to make decisions on how to deal with many of the town events that take place each summer.

Selectmen chair Melinda Loberg mentioned Gov. Charlie Baker’s extension of the stay-at-home order to May 18, and said that public works director Kirk Metell recently presented town health agent Maura Valley with a list of events that may have to be considered.

“Maura went through and made specific recommendations about what might need to be modified, postponed, or canceled,” Loberg said.

Included in the list of nine separate events to consider were the Vineyard Haven band concerts at Owen Park, the Tisbury Street Fair, and First Fridays. 

Selectman Jim Rogers said he was in favor of not allowing the band to play in the Owen Park bandstand, but selectman Jeff Kristal wondered if there could be an alternative way to provide live music.

“I am very hesitant to cancel the band entirely. I hope maybe we could find a way to provide that while maintaining safe social distancing,” Kristal said.

But Tisbury fire chief and band member John Schilling said the band is currently not planning on rehearsing because a vast majority of the musicians are in the susceptible age group.

“Regardless of whether the town decides to go forward with the band or not, we are not planning on performing at this time,” Schilling said.

Selectmen also decided to postpone the annual street fair past its planned date on July 2 to a date yet to be determined. 

Schilling noted that it would be difficult for Tisbury emergency services to pull together the resources for the street fair in a short time span, and said the efficacy of that would be based on whether other towns are willing and available to provide their services.

First Fridays, which are held beginning on the first Friday in May in Tisbury as a way to celebrate arts and the community, will be held virtually, according to Kristal.

How to deal with beaches and parks?

Officials are under the gun to decide how to deal with beaches in Tisbury, and made the tentative choice to keep the beaches open for the months of May and June.

Loberg questioned the issue of hiring lifeguards at Owen Park Beach, and how they could be kept safe while also keeping beachgoers safe.

“The liability to us as a town for not having lifeguards would be a concern,” Loberg said.

“We need to have lifeguards,” Kristal said. “We need to have people who can communicate what we are looking for, which is social distancing. No lying around in groups of 10 or 20.”

In the coming days, Loberg wondered whether the state might issue additional advisories regarding beaches, and said the town could always amend its plans at that time.

Officials were in agreement that closing one town beach would cause other town beaches to bear additional strain. 

“If one town closes beaches, and another town keeps beaches open, there will be more individuals crowding,” Loberg said.

And with beaches open, officials also had to address the availability of facilities, and how to stem the spread of the virus in those enclosed spaces.

“I am very concerned about porta potties,” Loberg said. “I am wondering whether we want to deploy them at all. If you have porta potties, people are going to stick around longer, and I think we are trying to discourage people from spending too much time in public places.”

But selectmen noted that, should lifeguards be hired, and should moorings be rented out overnight, some kind of public facilities would need to be available.

Loberg suggested keeping one of the restrooms at Owen Park open for lifeguards (which would be locked), and the other open to the public. 

“I think we are all in favor of identifying bathrooms for only staff use,” Loberg said. “It would be nice to make outdoor showers available to people. If we close our restrooms in town, people are going to migrate to other ones that are open.”

The board made the decision to restrict sports leagues in Veterans Park, and not execute any contracts for the summer season.

Rogers said the town can stop organized sports from playing in the park, but they cannot easily stop members of the public from using it.

“We are not going to limit the 12 kids who decide to play soccer in the afternoon. We need to provide guidance through signage initially, then follow up with frequent rounds to these areas where groups might congregate,” Rogers said.

Kristal suggested using this as an opportunity to close the park entirely and perform much-needed rehabilitation such as reseeding and aerating.

Town meeting gets taken outside

Town moderator Deborah Medders recommended to the selectmen the idea of having town meeting on Saturday, June 13, at 1 pm at the Tisbury School playground.

Town administrator Jay Grande said the school playground is an ideal space for a meeting, and is hoping for pleasant weather during that time.

“The parking lot is readily available with handicap access to the field. Logistically it is a good location because of an abundance of chairs right there in the gym,” Grande said. “If we act early, we can secure a tent that would provide adequate social distancing for around 100 people.”

Grande said if the town did rent a tent for town meeting, it would cost roughly $7,000 per day, and recommended utilizing the tent for a Tisbury School graduation. 

“That would be a win win if it all worked out in time,” Grande said.

Loberg said officials are trying to condense the warrant so that the meeting is as quick and efficient as possible, to limit the amount of time people are congregating. The town is also considering reducing the quorum down from 127 voters.

Kristal asked why the town doesn’t plan on holding town elections in the tent the day following town meeting, instead of having it in the Emergency Services Building.

“It seems to make a lot of sense to me. Why would we have it in the building where all our emergency workers are housed when we can do it outside?” Kristal asked.

1 COMMENT

  1. I’m not sure masks and social distancing is enough in Tisbury. There really needs to be a heartfelt discussion as to whether anyone in town can be allowed to exhale. For some it’s honestly a criminal offense. Actually considering some residents protests that their livelihood is at stake with these draconian measures it’s only prudent that all speech about liberty or freedom should also be curtailed. The Liberty Pole on Main St. must be dismantled in the name of public safety. It’s the safe thing to do.

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