Cape Poge kiteboarding will continue

Selectmen call for review of commercial, recreational use later this year.

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Kiteboarding in Cape Poge will continue this season, but selectmen want to look at regulating overcrowding in the fall. — Carl Treyz

Kiteboarding in Cape Poge will continue, but Edgartown selectmen want a deeper look into potential regulations for the popular marine recreation area.

Last week, selectmen received a recommendation from the marine advisory committee to not renew or issue any commercial licenses this year.

Selectmen heard from Mark Begle, certified kiteboarding instructor and owner of Skyhigh Kiteboarding, who said he was surprised at the committee’s recommendation, and that he depends on his kiteboarding business to support his family.

At Monday’s selectmen’s meeting, committee member Bruce McIntosh said the town’s harbor management plan specifically states the waters are to be protected for “managed shellfish production.”

During several meetings last fall and earlier this year, the town shellfish department, Trustees of Reservations, and other stakeholders expressed concerns about interference with nesting bird habitats and overuse in Cape Poge, specifically with regard to boating, charter picnics, and kiteboarding.

“Cape Poge, it’s one of the natural wonders of the world. Its primary purpose is for shellfishing, and it’s our duty to protect that,” McIntosh said. “While I acknowledge that this is largely threatened by overuse from boating, which should be addressed separately, I have concerns that if we allow certain groups to use the area for commercial — it’s a slippery slope.”

McIntosh said the recommendation to not grant any licenses for commercial activity in Cape Poge does not apply to recreational kiteboarding, but to schools that profit from the use of the areas.

Martin (“Skip”) Tommassian, another committee member, said there needed to be a closer look at recreational uses, which were becoming a problem. He said there was hope that recreational kiteboarders would police themselves, but several have not.

Cape Poge property owner Edward Self voiced his support for Begle, and said he is the last person who should have restrictions put on him. He also said the issue is with recreational users, not those learning safety through Begle’s school.

“The majority of the bad behavior, if not all the bad behavior, has nothing to do with Mr. Begle and Skyhigh Kiteboarding,” Self said. “He has his captain’s license, he’s insured, and he is a [Professional Air Sports Association]-certified instructor.”

“To be picked on individually doesn’t seem very fair at this moment,” Begle said.

Selectman Michael Donaroma said further review of the overcrowding needs to be addressed, but said the town shouldn’t zero in on one business.

“I think we should let this season go. I think Mr. Begle has certainly heard our concerns,” he said. “I think we revisit this in the fall.”

Selectmen allowed Begle to continue his business, and plan to revisit regulations and management of Cape Poge in the fall, with a larger committee that includes marine advisory as well as others.

In other business, harbormaster Charlie Blair informed selectmen of the successful recovery of a missing kayaker over the weekend.

On Sunday, a kayaker was reported missing in Edgartown Great Pond, but was found and returned home safely.

According to a Edgartown Police report, Alec Hill was reported missing by his friend Sam Vanderpol. Vanderpol told dispatch Hill was disoriented by dense fog that rolled in over the pond while he was kayaking. 

Hill was in and out of communication with Vanderpol via cell phone for more than an hour before Hill said his phone was losing battery. Vanderpol took his skiff out to search for Hill, to no avail. Close to 15 minutes after Vanderpol went out searching, Hill called him and said he had paddled to shore, got a ride from occupants of a house there, and was back at home.

“It was the best setup search and finish — happily — that I’ve ever seen take place,” Blair said, praising the support of the Edgartown fire and police departments. “The equipment worked, and it was resolved on the good side. I was proud to even be a part of their group yesterday; it was really well coordinated. We’ve done a lot of searches in Great Pond over the past 25 years. This was absolutely the best-coordinated thing.”

Blair also said Saturday was one of the busiest days he’s seen on the harbor. “Saturday we’ve had more boats than I’ve ever seen in my whole career,” Blair said.