Mooring Regulations for Lake Tashmoo Dominate Tisbury Waterways Discussion

By MAX HART

Town waterway regulations were the topic of discussion on Tuesday night when members of the Tashmoo management committee, the harbor management committee and the general public met with the Tisbury selectmen.

In a special working session, the selectmen asked for public comment to clear up confusion over town mooring regulations, especially in Lake Tashmoo. The meeting was scheduled after a summer that saw several public disputes over increased rule enforcement at Lake Tashmoo.

The town employed a new grid system this year at Tashmoo, which harbors up to 275 boats during the summer months. The system sparked a wave of criticism from boat owners and business owners who said the strict enforcement is changing the character of Tashmoo.

"This is not about starting all over, but about clarifying ambiguity," selectman and board chairman Raymond LaPorte said at the outset on Tuesday night. "We are looking for constructive comments, not criticism, in finding ways to enhance and improve these regulations."

According to several members of the audience, the ambiguity lies in the definition of town moorings. Currently there are private, commercial, marine and business mooring classifications - too many, some said.

"The classifications for moorings need to be redone, and the rules need to be enforced," said Tashmoo management committee member Peter Strock, noting that the history of infractions has gone unchecked for too long. "Who enforces those rules? Who goes and says ‘you can't do that?' " he said.

"There are too many moorings," added Gene DeCosta, who owns Vineyard Marine Inc. "Let's narrow it down. If it's a commercial mooring, then it's a commercial mooring. Get rid of the business mooring. There is one step that shouldn't be there," he said.

Harbor management committee chairman James Lobdell said the recommendation from his group calls for doing away with the business category altogether.

"We approved the business mooring category because of extra large sailboats that didn't want to pay private mooring permit fees," selectman Thomas Pachico replied. "What are those two boats in the harbor with the dogs on them? What are they? Are they commercial or are they private?" he said, referring to the schooners Alabama and Shenandoah.

Concerned about the environment on the lake, Tashmoo resident Susan Grilli implored the selectmen to prohibit further commercial use, pointing to an unused barge docked in front of her home as an example of what should not be allowed in Tashmoo.

"I think the commercial use of Tashmoo in that way is totally inappropriate," she said. "We're talking about a very limited sized lake. We have seen a great decline in the amount of shellfish there and I am very concerned about that."

Later in the meeting town shellfish constable Derek Cimeno agreed that the fewer boats, the better for the health of the lake - as well as the lagoon - both of which harbor bay scallops.

Much of the discussion centered on a rule that prohibits renting out a mooring, or subletting one that is unused. Kim Baptiste, whose family has owned and operated the Tashmoo Boatyard for more than 30 years, vented his frustration at the sudden strict enforcement of the regulation. He said it has crippled his business this year.

"I've never had a problem in 30 years, and now they're making it impossible for me to run my business," he said. "Things have really changed in there for me, especially the harassment by the assistant harbor master."

Mr. Baptiste echoed Mr. Strock's suggestion to reclassify moorings. He said marine and commercial moorings should be the same and added that if he could not continue to rent out his moorings on a transient basis - a practice that has gone on for generations but is no longer allowed - then the town should award him more moorings.

"If I want to rent them out, I should be able to rent them out," Mr. Baptiste said. "It is a hardship on my business if I can't do that."

"Part of what we're going through is that the competition for moorings is much greater than it was 40 years ago," selectman Tristan Israel said. "I wish we could accommodate everybody, but it's a different world than it was 40 years ago. But we ought to be able to change things where we can," he said.

"That's the balancing act we're trying to strike here," Mr. LaPorte added.

Anchoring in Tashmoo was also a point of discussion. Harbor master John (Jay) Wilbur said he would like to see anchoring allowed in a designated area, arguing the town could monitor the number of boats that enter the lake by issuing permits. But concerns over enforcement as well as the environmental impacts on eel grass and shellfish were raised by several people, including Mr. Pachico and Tashmoo management committee chairman Melinda Loberg.

"We don't want to close the lake, but we do want to save it," she said.

The board set a tentative date of Nov. 22 to continue the discussion and pledged to find ways to incorporate the public comments into the regulations.

After the waterways meeting dissolved, another subject surfaced - traffic congestion at Five Corners and the ongoing dispute between the town and the Steamship Authority over who is responsible for traffic control. Mr. Pachico suggested the selectmen call a meeting with boat line representative to clear the air.

"Things are going the wrong way, as far as with us, the SSA and the perceptions regarding the traffic on Union street, and I think it's time we sat down with SSA management, we sat down with the terminal manager of the Steamship Authority and our representative - not only to the SSA, but to the Dukes County commission - and find out just what's going on," Mr. Pachico said, adding: "I'm tired of rocks being thrown over the fence. It's hard for us to plan our side of the problem if what's happening on the other side is not being taken care of."

Mr. Pachico also had sharp words for county commissioner Robert Sawyer, who recently backed Vineyard boat line governor Marc Hanover in his position that the town should use its ferry embarkation money to pay for police detail at Five Corners.

"And I take offense to Mr. Sawyer where he says he's met with all of us several times and had a lot of discussions with us - I haven't talked to the man in a couple of years regarding anything," Mr. Pachico said, adding: "For him to sit there and say he supports Mr. Hanover's way of looking at the embarkation fee, without ever having talked to us, I think he's doing a really lousy job of representing the town of Tisbury."

Mr. Pachico concluded: "It's time to sit down and lay the cards out on the table and fix the problem."