Aquinnah selectmen voted to increase the parking capacity at the town lot from 70 cars to 90 cars, in order to better utilize the free space available in that area.
Selectman Gary Haley said there is plenty of space for 20 more cars to park, with more-than-adequate space between vehicles. Haley said that because the lot has been limited to only 70 cars, some people are parking along the entrance to the lot, and waiting to get a spot.
“There is a huge area that is unused, and there have been about 10 or 12 cars waiting to get in,” Haley said. “The beach only appears to be about half-full, and doesn’t seem to be anywhere near capacity as it has in past years.”
Board of selectmen chair Jim Newman asked if there will be ample space between cars, so people aren’t forced into close proximity with each other when they are entering and exiting their vehicles. Haley explained that there is a large row of parking spots facing the beach path immediately upon entering the lot, then a large space between that row and the next one.
“There is a wide-open space near the bathrooms; we could put another row there, no problem,” Haley said.
Currently, the town is charging $30 per car for the day, which means that by adding another 20 spots, the town will receive an additional $600 in daily parking lot revenue, which serves as the town’s largest revenue generator.
Selectman Juli Vanderhoop said she agrees with adding 20 spaces, and said the town would monitor adherence to parking regulations and policing of the municipal lot.
Aquinnah Police Chief Randhi Belain said adding spaces to the lot would reduce the number of cars that park out by the entrance to wait. He said that when people begin to park on the street, an officer is usually assigned to that area.
“If we don’t have anything going on, that’s OK, but it does mean one less officer,” Belain said. “When people are waiting in line outside of the lot, we have to explain to them why there is a big empty space.”
Town administrator Jeff Madison said he doesn’t want to lose sight of why the town wanted to lessen the amount of cars in the lot at one time.
“Obviously, we knew 90 cars could fit there. But the reason we lowered it was to make it easier for people to social distance on the beach,” Madison said.
Newman said he has heard concerns from people when they walk down the beach path to Philbin and have to pass close by other people coming in the opposite direction. “It was suggested that the walkway down to the beach be a one-way, then a trail can be cleared going back up the other way,” Newman said.
But Madison said that clearing the existing sandy path along the dunes would add to erosion.
Vanderhoop wondered whether people could be courteous and allow people already on the Philbin Beach path to have the right of way, then enter the path when it’s all clear.
Aquinnah works toward green energy
After being granted the status of a Green Community, Aquinnah is working toward meeting some of its energy-efficiency goals with an initial $127,000 grant. The town is working on installing an electric vehicle charging station at the town offices, and a proposal to use the grant money for a number of energy-efficiency improvements has been accepted by the state.
In order to receive the grant, town officials had to first submit a comprehensive budget and cost-projection plan that includes future initiatives to reduce the overall energy footprint, and establish cost-effective strategies for lowering annual kilowatt-hour usage.
According to Bill Lake of the Aquinnah energy and climate committee, the town is now free to go ahead with installing mini-split heat pumps at the town hall and the fire station, and more insulation at the town hall, along with heat pump water heaters at the town hall, the fire station, and the cultural center.
He also said the town is working to upgrade the lighting at the fire station and public restrooms to LED lighting. Work on the charging station is ongoing, and documents have been drafted for developers to install a solar canopy in front of the fire station, along with rooftop solar panels on the main town buildings.