Updated March 29
Despite public opposition, the Tisbury Select Board unanimously approved an immediate and indefinite anchoring moratorium in Lake Tashmoo.
Since the meeting on Wednesday, March 22, Tisbury town administrator Grande told The Times he and the harbormaster discussed the possibility of implementing guest conservation moorings. Grande said if a program is developed and finalized by the harbormaster in consultation with the Tisbury waterways committee and the Tisbury water resources committee, it will be presented at a later board meeting.
The town first considered implementing an anchoring ban in February, with discussions continuing into this month. Whether anchoring would be allowed in Lake Tashmoo was a hot issue for people, evidenced by the letters submitted to the town, totaling a 92-page PDF file.
The discussion took place in a packed meeting room at the Tisbury Emergency Services Building, along with roughly 20 Zoom participants.
Tisbury harbormaster John Crocker was the first to speak, primarily repeating his points from a couple of weeks ago, when he said that a large number of boats gathered in Tashmoo during the summer weekends could be problematic, and he also raised the need to protect eelgrass. Eelgrass was a part of the conversation because of its ecological importance. According to the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group, eelgrass protects shallow areas from erosion, creates habitat for marine animals, and improves water conditions.
Crocker said an anchoring moratorium seemed reasonable to him. “In order to still allow some people to come from outside Tashmoo, and to protect the eelgrass and also give some relief to some of the homeowners in that area, I had recommended we place half a dozen pilings,” Crocker said. “They don’t have to be all clustered in one place. I think it would make sense to spread them out.”
Crocker said current regulations allow three boats per piling, so the recommendation would allow only 18 vessels in the body of water.
When asked by board member Abbe Burt, Crocker said there are around 290 moorings for Lake Tashmoo, with roughly 60 vessels on a waiting list for one. According to Crocker, there are no town-owned transient moorings, although there are some leased for commercial fishermen.
Mike Hobart spoke both as a member of the Tisbury waterways committee and as an individual. Hobart said his committee recommended following Crocker’s suggestion while keeping the far end of Tashmoo, near Doug’s Cove, open to anchoring. Hobart said this was to keep balance between maintaining a boating community and addressing abutters’ concerns. However, Hobart was against the moratorium as a resident and a boater. “I feel it’s a very small window of time that we have people in there anchoring,” he said. “I feel that’s an extreme measure.”
Hobart said if an anchoring moratorium was deemed necessary, it should be limited to the times of the year when there are a large number of vessels in Lake Tashmoo. Regarding eelgrass concerns, he also felt it was “disingenuous” to blame boaters when there are other damaging materials, like runoff from septic tanks and fertilizers on lawns, that can affect eelgrass. He added that the eelgrass has seen a “slow but steady stabilization” in its amount.
Meeting attendee Mac Schilcher spoke up against the pilings. He pointed out that pilings can be “navigational hazards,” compared with vessels that move around, and would need reflective tape for foggy nights.
“I just think it’s really irresponsible for such a small place to put pilings there,” Schilcher said, suggesting a small anchoring yard in a sandy area instead.
Schilcher also pointed out that many of the issues regarding Tashmoo were management problems, and a moratorium without proper procedure, like a public hearing, could become a bigger problem. He suggested the formation of a committee to create a report about Lake Tashmoo so a better solution could be considered.
Meeting attendee Lynne Fraker said the Lake Tashmoo management issues have grown over the years. Fraker also suggested the formation of a committee to look into the lake’s issues. Additionally, she advocated keeping Tashmoo open to people as a public area. One possibility Fraker mentioned to balance the number of boats while allowing access was an anchoring permit.
Louise Paciello, who purchased a home on the east side of Lake Tashmoo a couple of years ago, said the main way to enjoy this body of water before he bought the property was with anchoring. He said the drastic reduction from allowing around 290 boats to 18 boats was very restrictive. Paciello advocated for the town to figure out a solution that would not limit access to the lake.
“A lot of Island people — I’m here to speak on their behalf because most of them are still out working right now — only really enjoy their boat on the weekend in July and August,” he said.
Not everyone was against limiting the number of boats in Tashmoo. Tisbury Waterways president Melinda Loberg said although Tashmoo is loved by many, the number of boats should be reduced, and conservation moorings, which are designed to minimize damage to marine plants, should be used to protect the lake’s environment.
After hearing more public comments, the board deliberated on the matter.
Board member John Cahill supported the moratorium, viewing it as both a “quality of life” issue and an environmental issue. He said adopting the moratorium would send the “right message” to other Cape and islands towns with similar water quality issues, such as nitrogen level concerns.
“Tashmoo is one of those sacred areas, as we pointed out, on Martha’s Vineyard,” Cahill said. “Everybody knows where Tashmoo is on this Island. It’s iconic, it’s pastoral, and it’s a gem. So we need to take care, and take immediate action, to preserve it.”
The town already began taking steps to protect Lake Tashmoo by approving funding for a targeted watershed management plan in February, Cahill said. Meanwhile, he said, Dukes County and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission are cooperating to give around $1.5 million to Island towns for new nitrogen-reducing septic systems. “These things are coming, and they’re coming faster than you think,” Cahill said.
Cahill made a motion to implement an anchoring moratorium on all of Lake Tashmoo, but he said he would be open to modifications and exceptions “down the road” from other town officials and residents.
Before a vote was taken, Schilcher made a point of order, saying policy can’t be implemented without first undergoing a public hearing under town bylaws. Tisbury town administrator John Grande said town counsel’s legal opinion was that the harbormaster had the power and authority under state law to put the moratorium into effect.
Fraker disagreed, and said Tashmoo was a designated anchoring area from 2016, and needs a public hearing to un-designate it.
Burt was not in favor of a total moratorium, but also wanted to find ways to protect the lake.
After further discussion, the board unanimously approved the anchoring moratorium. Grande said town staff and committees will work on alternative solutions, although it will take time.
In other news, the board unanimously closed the warrant articles for both the annual and special town meetings, pending any input from town counsel.
This is so mean spirited when a reduced size anchorage with a process of permits could easily and quickly be established to see how that would work. Eelgrass will not grow until water quality improves. TWI claims to be the savior of every blade of eelgrass. TWI even submitted a letter asking the Select Board not listen to the Waterways Committee. That’s really low. Tashmoo does not belong to those that live there. Their lifestyle is in question? In fact, those homes are the real reason for water quality problems. Not boats. The lack of management of Tashmoo, in all areas, including the anchorage, by the Natural Resources Dept created a void, filled by TWI and their donors. Follow the money. The Select Board has given an opportunity to come up with a solid plan, quickly, based on suggestions presented to them, which may lift the moratorium. But the process to do this and who, is a question given to the Town Administrator, who has made his support of a moratorium clear. It’s not over yet.
Lake Tashmoo is a gem because we can use it. By excluding boaters who anchor is a huge blow to a lot of people. To assume “anchorers” are responsible for eel grass degradation, or excluding them will bring eel grass back, feels shallow. We need more access to public lands/ponds island wide, not less. I urge we address the roots of problems, not enact topical salves that check a box but do not advance us towards a desired outcome. I’m a huge proponent of protecting our waterways. I think most of us are. This tactic is heavy handed and, on the surface, protects property owners – not eel grass. I strongly urge more debate on this.
I live right on Tashmoo. I’ve watched neighbors clear cutting to the waterline, witnessed tons of fertilizer dumped on waterfront lawns and seen first hand the effects of thousands of gallons of street runoff that pour into the lake when it rains.
Of all the issues effecting the water quality, flora and fauna of Tashmoo, boaters anchoring on the weekend during the summer is distinctly not one of them.
This whole thing stinks of rich people money.
I AGREE 100% WITH MICHAEL !!!
I can sympathize with and appreciate some of the safety and environmental concerns that people are having regarding this issue, that goes without saying. But, I just want to invite those who support closure to look at it from another’s point of view. We all like to have fun, and no one can have 0% impact wherever they go. There is serious value in losing the joy and good times anchoring brings. The lure and magic of the vineyard is having fun and making memories. Tashmoo is a fantastic place that we all love for that reason. There was once was a time on Tashmoo when you could have fires on the beach and go water skiing. Maybe we are being a little too sensitive in this case. I agree there are bigger issues causing environmental impact. Just a thought.
What a croc of BS. What’s killing Tashmoo is all the manicured lawns and cesspools that surround it. A few boats dropping anchor for a few hours is not hurting the eel grass. Perhaps we need to ban the geese, ducks and swans all they do is swim around and poop.
Some real BS. Tisbury can’t get anything right.
It sure looks that way.
Cue backward-facing benches and elimination of loading area for businesses on Main Street.
Who’s in charge?
Tashmoo unlike other estuaries is not a natural salt pond. It was a fresh water pond that occasional was filled with salt water during hurricanes. Similar to James pond in West Tisbury. We as a town decided we wanted it to be a slat pond regardless of natures wishes. We asked for federal and state monies to dredge and construct the break waters. We have and continue to us state and federal funds to keep the pond open and to build and maintain our lake street dock and ramp facility. Some of this money is generated by boat registration fees.
Therefore in my mind Tashmoo in part belongs to every person in this country that pays taxes,
It is a pretty bold move exclude the people who help maintain the pond from the pond on the grounds of ” environmental concerns” when we do nothing to address the road run off that goes into the pond.
There is alot of science thrown around that can get bent and twisted in all directions. Let me ask you this, without any scientific evidence available, would you let your kids swim in a pool of road stormwater runoff or would you use road stormwater run off to water your vegetable garden. That’s about all the science you need to know that road runoff is not good for Tashmoo or any other pond.
John Crocker is the antithesis of a Harbormaster for the Vineyard waters. This yet another example of his inept leadership.
I know I am speaking for all islanders and boaters when I say that this type of decision directly contradicts the code of the water but also the mission of the Vineyard.
This type of decision erodes the future access of such an important body of island water that was once, both a perennial and accessible treasured destination for Vineyard boaters.
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