Over a long life I have spent a lot of time — many happy hours — in Menemsha. I have witnessed many unusual things while experiencing many stages in the life of our iconic fishing port.

The first time I saw a gasoline engine blow up was when I was very young and it made a profound impression about the need for proper ventilation of bilges where fuel vapors settle, before starting up.

The memory of watching an immense swordfish — well more than six or 700 pounds — being hoisted out of a hold is as clear as are memories of the devastation caused by winter gales (bad) and summer hurricanes (far, far worse).

I can also remember summer fleets of fishing boats — local boats like Papoose, Bozo, Christine and Dan, and the Gertrude D — rafted out eight or nine abreast — with boats from Point Judith and Galilee (Natator), and the New England and Mildred and Mya from Stonington, Conn. along with visiting yachts that summered here, such as Seer and Anna L or Lobo.

While the latter boats were technically yachts, they always rigged out for swordfishing with a tall mast, harpoons, a dory or two and a bow pulpit “just in case a fish was spotted.”

Even in the winter, small inshore draggers such as Little Lady and Margie O would be fishing under shortened rigs for yellow tail in Vineyard Sound.

Many frequently unloaded fish and shellfish, such as sea scallops, for the fish processing plant that was on Basin Road. In its heyday almost 50 Islanders were employed there at least part time.

There were various businesses and a seasonal post office and store, a good choice of eateries, a well-stocked chandlery, a highly-regarded antique shop, a gift shop, several busy fish shacks, plus a gas station and two fish markets that still remain. More recently we have had clothing shops, an art gallery, Copperworks and a small book shop (mine — now closed). Further we still have the Coast Guard boathouse and station.

Children have dangled lines for crabs off the dock and fish from the jetty since time immemorial. Families out for a quick and easy supper or older couples out for a Sunday drive would stop to ramble along the dock, looking at all the boats and catching up on fishing stories and catching a whiff of lobster bait barrels before settling for a lobster salad roll, a dozen cherrystones or a bowl of chowder followed by an ice cream cone or sandwich.

Menemsha was a happening place and a great fishing port. It was a real destination on a summer cruise and a great place for Island families to spend some time as well.

Recently several local owners have made very impressive, well-designed and planned improvements to their facilities. All have been very well received. However, and very sadly, slowly the stuffing has dribbled out of the scene and we have just the remnants of what Menemsha once was. In fact we have a faux fishery. The emphasis now is on an Island economy based entirely on tourism and short-term rentals as well as high-end construction — and the “new” Menemsha panders to this.

Witness the new parking plan that is heavily weighted toward the rental real estate market with a free beach and parking option. Although the gas station and the fish markets do benefit, the new economy caters to the beachgoing short-term renters and to visiting stink pots and hideous multi-hulls along with faux yachtsmen.

Despite careful thought by the park and rec committee that drafted the new parking plan, the real working waterfront has been shunted down and marginalized on the list of priorities. The day-to-day employees — most working long hours — will have to depend upon the VTA, which is no longer as reliable because of erratic schedules and insufficient drivers, to get from a place to park to the harbor. Ditto fishermen and crews.

Meanwhile, considerable space — much, if not all — of the available parking space is now allocated for transient beachgoers. All this changes in late afternoon when the “sunset people” roll up to watch the sun sink below the horizon. Then Menemsha is really crowded and the roadside signs advising no parking extend back to the intersection of North Road and the Cross Roads.

I have no solutions except to suggest that “first come, first served” should work better. It always has. But the beachgoers, many who are renters, complained and/or abused the system. Really the town or, better yet, the patrons, could and should pay a small fee to help defray costs of the service, and run a frequent shuttle bus so that beachgoers can park in the landfill lot. Traffic cops should stop allowing folks to circle by the beach, which happens all the time, and instead send them to the lot once they let off their passengers.

The harbor is a multi-use resource which needs to be administered for the benefit of all but particularly for those who work hard to keep it as a somewhat viable working waterfront. Unfortunately, the new plan falls far short of that goal.

I fear that it will inevitably result in the ultimate sunset for Menemsha.

Virginia C. Jones lives in West Tisbury.