Tisbury split on Lake Tashmoo anchoring

The discussion will continue on March 22. 

Lake Tashmoo — The MV Times

Updated March 10

There are mixed reactions to implementing a moratorium on anchoring boats in Tashmoo Lake, a popular destination for boaters. The town is potentially proposing an anchoring moratorium to improve the quality of life for residents in the area, and to protect the lake. The moratorium was brought up during a Tisbury Select Board meeting in February, an idea that was met with some pushback. 

Although no decision was made during the board meeting on Wednesday, March 8, there was a discussion on how to better inform the public. 

Tisbury Harbormaster John Crocker began the conversation by showing an aerial photograph of Lake Tashmoo dotted with numerous boats on the water. “That is a fairly typical scene [on] a nice weekend day in the summertime,” Crocker said. Crocker said the “great majority” of Lake Tashmoo boaters come from Falmouth, and most of them leave by the end of the day.

Crocker said several years ago, the Tisbury Select Board, which had different membership then, decided vessels shouldn’t anchor in areas with eelgrass, and two areas of the lake were designated for anchoring. 

The harbormaster said that in the past, an individual wanted to develop an aquaculture site in the main anchoring area, and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries discovered eelgrass. The town contacted the division, and they analyzed the area in the summer of 2021. 

“They did a side-scan sonar of, not all of it, but a big chunk of Tashmoo, and they used something they called a ground truthing camera to take actual pictures to verify what they were seeing, and there’s quite a bit of eelgrass in Tashmoo,” Crocker said, although the amount varied in different parts of the lake. 

The eelgrass brings about a “conundrum” regarding anchoring, and there’s been “pushback” on the number of vessels in the main anchoring area, according to Crocker. According to the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group, eelgrass is ecologically important because it protects shallow areas from erosion, creates habitat for marine animals, and improves water conditions. 

“I think the majority of us are in agreement there needs to be some kind of management of this issue,” he said, like a moratorium, or implementing guest moorings as a possibility. 

After the presentation, the public and board asked questions, and made comments about the situation. 

Tisbury waterways committee member Roger Moffat, who spoke as an individual, pointed out eelgrass continued to grow in Tashmoo despite boats anchoring there. “Would it be possible to say then that despite the anchoring, the eelgrass hasn’t been harmed all that much?” he asked. Crocker said he did not know the answer to that. 

Board chair Roy Cutrer said he viewed the people using Tashmoo as two different groups: people who come in to boat for the day, and leave without contributing anything to the town, and others, who anchor closer to the Lake Street landing, who actually come ashore to interact with town residents and to shop. 

When Cutrer asked if this was the right way to view the situation, Crocker said, “You can look at it any way you want.” Crocker then brought up his concern regarding the lack of space in the anchoring areas, and that opening up other parts to it would bring in many boats near each other. Crocker said this was a safety concern because swimmers are harder to see, and there may be difficulties when bringing in a patrol boat, which is a larger vessel than most boats there. “There’s more users than there is space,” Crocker said regarding anchoring. 

Tisbury shellfish constable Danielle Ewart favored the anchoring moratorium. “I believe this is a noble cause to eliminate anchoring in Tashmoo,” she read from a letter she wrote in support. “If we do this, we will see a reduction in boats overall in the pond, we will eliminate the amount of eelgrass being pulled up by anchors, and we’ll see efforts to reduce the boats, people, the amount of urine, noise, and partying that happens on Tashmoo currently.” 

Meeting attendee Lynne Fraker, who was a part of a committee that looked into the eelgrass issue, said the boats were not the main issue in Tashmoo, and pointed out that problems found in the lake were also in other bodies of water, like Lagoon Pond or other great ponds on the Island, that have very little to no anchoring. Fraker argued that visiting families should be able to enjoy Lake Tashmoo. 

“I don’t think anchored boats are the problem here, and I don’t think boats anchored in this little area are a problem,” she said. “They are not hurting the environment. There are other reasons to manage that, because there are too many. It hasn’t been managed in years and years and years and years, and it just got exponential. I think you have to be very careful to get the facts all straight.” 

Meeting attendee Mac Schilcher, who was also against the moratorium, asked Grande to clarify the quality-of-life issues of Tashmoo. Grande said there is a lack of pumpout facilities at the lake, and it’s too heavily used, which he said could affect Tisbury residents living around the area. Additionally, there is a lack of knowledge on where people are boating from, a problem some other Island towns are experiencing, such as Chilmark with its heavy usage of Menemsha Pond. 

“I believe we need to manage this more directly,” Grande said, adding that enforcement has been an issue at Tashmoo. “We have those types of challenges, we are a resort community. We are very popular, and we have some beautiful locations, and we need to protect them from overuse just as anything else.” 

Grande also said he felt the board took the right step with the comprehensive targeted watershed plan for Lake Tashmoo, which the town is trying to fund. “I think we need to deal with the now, not the past, and the now is too many users,” he said. “We need to come up with a way of managing that better. I don’t think we should put Tashmoo at risk while we’re sorting that out internally. Until such time is sorted out, I would support a temporary moratorium.” 

Rick Homans, who lives on Lake Tashmoo, said he was personally not bothered that much by the weekend boaters during the summer, although he could understand the disturbances and music bothering someone who lived closer to where the activity was. However, he said his “No. 1” concern was the eelgrass in the area that might be affected by elevated nitrogen levels and could potentially be ripped up by anchors. Homans said he was in favor of implementing some moorings in the area, which he felt was a good compromise. 

Board member John Cahill said Lake Tashmoo is one of the only bodies of water that the town can do a “great job” with. “I think we have to make a good, solid decision that we can do a great job. I think we need to make a good, solid decision we can live with for years to come,” he said.

The anchor moratorium discussion will continue on March 22, per the recommendation of the Tisbury waterways committee. 

The town also received correspondence, both positive and negative, regarding the anchoring moratorium. Grande said these will be available online, and read into the record during the meeting later in the month. 

Anyone who wants their letters to be read into the record should submit them to the Tisbury Select Board office by Friday, March 17.

A previous version of this story misspelled Rick Homans’ name. 


  1. A moratorium on anchoring is a concerning over reach. Been anchoring in there from time to time over the years and have never “pulled up a chunk or eel grass”, we don’t “disturb” the neighbors and you can’t be serious about issue of “extra nitrogen” it’s the ocean! Pretty soon there will be no place to drop an anchor and relax.
    As a resident of Vineyard Haven & boat owner this is a very disturbing. If you are going to install public moorings how would it be managed?

  2. At what point do people begin to understand that it is sustainability that counts? Tashmoo and the Lagoon are finite, their ecology is finite. It is also important (in this instance) to be aware of the land development from about Franklin St to Kuhens Way, that all the septic systems, rain water, car pollution, etc, drains towards Tashmoo and contributes to its water quality too.

Comments are closed.