No clear answers for Menemsha concerns

Traffic, parking, and public safety are among the issues. 

Chilmark is considering options to alleviate concerns over Menemsha. — Eunki Seonwoo

Issues regarding Menemsha’s traffic and public safety continue to be a point of concern for Chilmark, and were mulled over during Tuesday’s select board meeting. 

Earlier this month, a discussion on what to do about traffic and safety at Menemsha, a popular summertime destination, took place during a joint meeting among the board, Chilmark park and recreation committee, and the harbormaster. No decision was made during that meeting. 

According to board chair Bill Rossi, there were disagreements on what approach to take. “There were differences in opinion on whether we should park at the fishing lots, the fishing lots should remain fishing lots always, some people didn’t want to spend any money, some people wanted more enforcement for parking rules in Menemsha,” he said. 

Board member Jim Malkin said despite the differences in thought, people recognized the traffic was in a “congested area.” 

“In the summer, it becomes a public safety issue. We have public safety people who have a plan in terms of the use of the fishermen’s lots for parking,” he said. “That’s something that we deferred to the park and rec committee, who have jurisdiction over the use of those lots.” 

Other considerations included responsibilities for traffic management, which is currently under the harbor department’s duties, staffing concerns, and whether the Shell comfort station lot could be used to help the situation. “I was pleased that the police and the harbor are going to work more closely together and have much better coordination this year,” Malkin said. 

Members of the public also voiced their concerns over the area. 

Meeting attendee Steven Larsen pointed out that people were concerned that parking was even brought up relating to the fishing lots. 

“From what I understood, everybody was in favor of leaving it open,” he said. “No matter how much parking you’re going to put in Menemsha, you’re always going to have more parking coming from other parts of the town.” 

Meeting attendee Deb Hancock said she also did not hear support for using fishing lots for parking for the public. “This whole thing about it being a public safety issue, Menemsha’s been a nightmare for years, so I think that’s a poor excuse for changing those fishermen’s lots into a parking area,” she said. 

Rossi agreed, saying it was an idea that was brought up and shot down. He continued by saying that the lines that form at Menemsha Galley during the summer constitute a safety concern. “I know everybody loves ice cream, but a lot of the time during the summer there’s a line right in the middle of the road and I personally had to beep my horn several times to get people to move,” he said, wondering if the onus of keeping the area safer could be placed on the business owner. 

Board clerk Warren Doty said it would be good for Chilmark Police Chief Sean Slavin to review safety requirements and practices with the Galley’s owner. 

Although parking is an issue that cannot be immediately solved, largely dependent on the committee’s discussion, Rossi said there will be assistance from the Chilmark Police Department which will have an officer present around sunset, which attracts many visitors during the summer. 

Doty said that using the satellite parking lot and encouraging use of bus services would be other ways to alleviate Menemsha problems. 

In other news, the new fire station is expected to be finished on May 15, and the ambulance building is anticipated to be completed by June 1. 

The Chilmark select board’s joint meeting with the West Tisbury select board regarding Howes House was suspended until March 21.