All things related to recreating in and around the fair shores of Mattapoisett were discussed when the Board of Selectmen met on June 4.
During his report Town Administrator Mike Gagne said that, given the uptick in questions to town hall about whether or not the beach and parking area at the end of Reservation Road was public or private, he wanted to give an explanation of the agreement set years ago between the town and the private golf club.
While Gagne went into detail for the benefit of the public, including past agreements and more recent agreements made to accommodate the easements needed for bike path construction, the explanation was rather simple.
The parking area and beach at the end of Reservation Road is private property owned by the club. During the months of June, July, and August, only card-carrying club members are allowed to park at that location or use the beach. Gagne said the club has been gracious in allowing the public to walk into the parking lot and down the dirt road to the Eel Pond breach where a small triangle of beach is owned by the town.
Gagne said that people can park at Depot Street and walk down Goodspeed Island Road to Goodspeed Island Beach, which is public. Cars are not allowed to park at the beach and the roadway is restricted to residents and town vehicles.
“We need to respect their private property,” Gagne said of the parking and beach area on the club side of the breach.
Coming before the selectmen was Harbormaster Jill Simmons who has been writing a new set of regulations for boaters with permits at slip and skiff spaces. Selectman Jordan Collyer said it was important for the town to do its due diligence on the matter of liability insurance. The issue of insurance becomes greater as the size of the boat gets larger. Thus, dinghies would not be required to be insured nor would smaller vessels. These items are most often covered by homeowner insurance, Simmons added. But larger boats mean larger investments with the potential for greater losses in the event that something goes wrong. She said that marinas have instituted insurance requirements for their customers, but that the amount of coverage was “all over the place.”
Gagne said that boatowners were responsible for any and all damages done to town-owned assets, even in the event of storms. He also said that they are working on a document that boaters with permits issued from town hall would have to agree to sign. That document is a release that would keep the town from liability in the event someone is injured on town wharf ladders, docks, floats, and other waterside equipment. They plan to send out the release forms with permit renewals in November.
While the language has yet to be finalized, both Collyer and Selectman Paul Silva, along with Gagne, were very pleased with the document Simmons developed and with the work she had done on the matter of insurance. The selectmen agreed to have both line items placed on an upcoming agenda for completion of review and acceptance for 2020 implementation.
Another marine-related matter Simmons has been working on is the rewriting of rules and regulations for shellfish aquaculture. She said, “When I got here, I found a 30-page document!” She said those outdated pages were now winnowed down to five concise pages. “They are pretty simple, pretty basic, [and] they look out for the farmers and the community,” she stated. She said that much of the text had come from “the laws of the Commonwealth.”
Gagne said that Simmons had worked closely with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries in developing the new regulations. He said that the public would have a chance to weigh-in on the town’s requirements. The document will be uploaded to the town website where public comment could be made for a period of 21 days.
Collyer asked that Home Rule language be added to the regulations. Gagne said that there were 1,200 acres of aquaculture space in the entire Commonwealth with Mattapoisett playing host to the largest at 100 acres.
In an unrelated but harborside matter, Silva inquired when the new pump-out boat would be ready to service the public. Simmons confirmed that the boat should be ready by the end of next week.
In other matters, Gagne said that after much dialog with Verizon by the town’s representative, William Hewing of KP Law, the best deal the town can hope to achieve with the utility is a 5-year program. Silva thought that Verizon was preparing for getting out of the cable television business. The town had hoped to reach an agreement for a locked-in price for 10 years, but that was not to be unless the town was willing to grant Verizon the option of backing out at any time. In the end, the selectmen agreed a 5-year contract, which was most likely the best they could get.
Gagne asked and received permission to move ahead with a request for a formal review of all utility poles along neighboring beach roads. He said that in some areas, such as Aucoot Road, the poles were leaning dangerously.
Highway Superintendent Barry Denham asked permission to install “no parking” signs along grassed areas near the Tripp Mill Brook near Tinkham Pond and at The Bogs. He said that these spaces had been seeded and grass was growing, but had been heavily damaged by cars parking in undesignated areas.
Collyer also asked what could be done with cars parking along Mattapoisett Neck Road near the entrance to the bike path. He expressed deep concern for pedestrians trying to walk along the shoulder. Collyer asked Gagne to send a letter to the Police Department to step-up ticketing in the no parking zones along the roadway.
Earlier in the evening the selectman gave retiring librarian Anne Benard a certificate of appreciation for her 26-years of service to the community. Library director Susan Pizzolato said of Benard, “She’s been a model employee, a great colleague, and all-round collaborator.” Pizzolato presented Benard with an enormous hanging plant.
At the close of the meeting the selectmen were unable to decide when the July meeting would be held. Melody Pacheco, administrative assistant to the board, said she would contact the media when a date was determined.
Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen
By Marilou Newell