Beaches need places for users to go


To the Editor:

The following is an email sent to officials in Edgartown and Dukes County.

The purpose of this email is to alert you all to the dangerous situation that exists on the county beach, between Bend in the Road and Little Bridge. Dangerous to the health and safety of beach users and the environment in Sengekontacket Pond and the Atlantic Ocean.

By my count in 2019, 500-plus cars were parked each day in summer on the stretch of county highway extending from Bend in the Road in Edgartown to Little Bridge in Oak Bluffs, which translates, conservatively, to more than 1,000 people using the beach daily without the availability of any nearby restrooms, causing men, women, and children to urinate into the ocean and defecate where they can, which is often in the dunes along Sengekontacket Pond. I observed this over 20 years ago, wrote letters to the editors of the Gazette and MV Times, and was relieved when Edgartown put porta-johns at Katama, a state beach, but horrified when no porta-johns were put on Sylvia Beach in Edgartown or Oak Bluffs.

The logical place for porta-johns is at Bend in the Road, Big Bridge, Little Bridge, with a handicap-accessible porta-john at Camp Jabberwocky’s parking area if they need it, the number and location to be decided in each spot. 

As we well know, liquids are necessary for people spending all day at the beach, and lunch and/or snacks are vital to young children and adults, but when people eat and drink, if their alimentary systems work properly, the urge to urinate and defecate follows. There is no provision at Sylvia Beach, otherwise known as State Beach, between Little Bridge and Bend in the Road, to allow beachgoers to relieve themselves. The result is very damaging to people and the environment.

My hope is that the Dukes County Advisory Board will take up this issue. I have spoken with Tristan Israel, chairman of the Dukes County Commissioners, and he is in agreement with me that porta-johns are needed in the aforesaid areas. I spoke with the president of the Friends of Sengekontacket, who also concurs on the need to reduce effluent into the pond. I plan to send copies of this email to the parks departments, conservation commissions, boards of health in both Edgartown and Oak Bluffs, and the county commissioners, among others, to see if some positive movement can be made in the direction Edgartown has already taken at South Beach/Katama.

Today’s email contains these questions: 

  • When and how are our elected officials going to do something about putting porta-johns in place before May 30, 2021? 
  • A related question: Is there anything positive about denying the public access to restrooms? 
  • If there is a huge problem with the public using the ocean, pond, and dunes to urinate and defecate in (which there is), why not fix the problem? The sooner, the better. 

Norma Norton Holmes