Aquinnah restricts Philbin Beach parking to town residents

Lot attendant will have final say in maximum capacity and parking guidelines.

The Philbin Beach parking lot will be restricted to residents of Aquinnah. — MVT File Photo

Only Aquinnah residents will be allowed to park at the Philbin Beach parking lot this summer.

Town administrator Jeff Madison said during a selectmen’s meeting Monday that the town is taking this course of action in order to limit the amount of people in the parking lot and at the beach at one time.

Although residents with a resident parking permit are the only ones allowed to park at the beach, renters with a seasonal parking permit can drop off their passengers at the trailhead, then park in the lot at the Gay Head Cliffs. 

“They will be able to park for the duration of their parking permit at the cliff lot,” Madison said. The cliff lot is a short walk to the Philbin Beach parking lot. 

In order to avoid crowding in the parking lot, Madison said, a parking lot attendant will have final say on when the lot is full.

“I think we want to manage the physical distance between people on the beach and avoid crowding lots of cars into the parking lot, because it isn’t very big,” Madison said.

An attendant will direct beachgoers on where to park their vehicles, and have the ability to refuse entry to people when they deem the lot to be full.

“It’s going to be on a first-come, first-serve basis, just like it’s always been,” Madison said.

Selectmen chair Juli Vanderhoop said organizing the parking could be as simple as laying down chalk lines on the dirt to denote parking spaces that are properly distanced. But public works director Jay Smalley said that putting down chalk wouldn’t last long, with all the traffic going through the lot. “The first night someone goes in and does doughnuts in the parking lot, those lines will be gone,” Smalley said. 

As far as putting traffic cones down to delineate parking areas, Smalley said people often move the cones, or outright steal them. “They will disappear for sure,” he said.

Selectman Gary Haley agreed with Madison, that the parking lot attendant should manage parking, and be given the purview to feel out the situation, instead of setting a maximum occupancy for cars. 

Madison said he thinks the simplest and best course of action would be for the attendant to determine maximum occupancy. “I don’t think there should be a specific number. What if everyone shows up in a Volkswagen Bug? He [the lot attendant] has the authority. We are going to keep it to a reasonable number,” Madison said.

Vanderhoop said there should be signage asking people to comply with the guidance given by the attendant. The attendant will also request that beachgoers wear a mask when traversing the path to and from the beach.


  1. Where is our local advocate for ending beach apartheid ?
    You know, Eric, — west Tisbury is not the only town to restrict beach access.
    On this issue, Your silence would be their validation.
    I look forward to your thoughtful and rational comments.

    • Clearly you don’t really read my letters. Not only do you spell my name wrong you also don’t know what I advocate. I’ve never said that the parking lot at Lambert’s Cove can’t be residents only. The public has always been able to walk onto Philbin, you can’t walk on to Lambert’s Cove. I hope that is rational and thoughtful enough for you. I’ll wait for the part where you say “why don’t you ever bring up Chilmark?”

      • I read your letters and you said you’ve never tried to visit LC. Which is clear to me because I know soooo many supposedly forbidden people who go there at all times of day and year. They have yet to be thrown in the hoosegow or fined for it. Maybe others have. I dunno. Somehow, it doesn’t seem like a cause worthy of ten years of overreactions and insults, both explicit and implied.

  2. Lord this has trouble written all over it. Subjective? I’m guessing pissed off folks who will disagree with the poor attendant?
    And not quite getting renters can park up at the cliff lot? We are ok with that lot getting full but not the Philbin lot? Hmmm
    And it’s not a short walk from the cliff lot to Philbins for older folks and especially if the beach is covered with rocks.

  3. Typical MV course of action! Let’s make it difficult for all the tourists the Island totally relies on to thrive.

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