With the summer season approaching, the town of Aquinnah is looking to improve emergency access to Squibnocket Pond after a recent incident left responders with few options.
Emergency personnel from Aquinnah, West Tisbury and Chilmark responded to a distress call May 31 for two people in a canoe in the pond, Aquinnah fire chief Simon Bollin said at the selectmen’s meeting last week. The West Tisbury rescue boat was requested, but had difficulty launching.
“There’s nowhere to launch this boat in Squibnocket Pond,” the chief said. Instead, responders entered through the private Red Gate Farm in Aquinnah and sent kayakers out to respond to the canoe. The boaters were not in distress in the end, but Mr. Bollin said it was a teaching moment.
“If this was a true emergency it would not have been a good thing. We wouldn’t have been able to get into the water, and if they were really distressed it wouldn’t have been a good outcome,” he said.
“Those are lots of precious moments lost,” selectman Spencer Booker said.
Mr. Bollin is working with the caretaker of the property owned by the Kennedy family so the town has the ability to access the pond for emergencies.
Mr. Booker said the town has public access off of State Road on land currently owned by the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation. He suggested speaking with the foundation to widen the path for emergency vehicles.
“Historically, it’s always been wide enough for a vehicle and only recently has it not been,” he said. “I don’t want to see that scenario happen again.”
Access is also limited along Moshup Trail, where nearly all of the beaches are privately owned and gated, police chief Randhi Belain said.
“Any access along Moshup Trail is pretty nil,” police chief Randhi Belain said. “You can walk to get in there, but you’ll never get any sort of rescue equipment down there. It’s scary.”
In other business, town administrator Adam Wilson notified the board that one of the barges used for the construction of a new U.S. Coast Guard boathouse got loose over Memorial Day weekend, damaging part of the jetty. The tug barge in Menemsha harbor hit the Aquinnah side of the jetty in West Basin, he said.
“It’s not that the channel is unnavigable, but it’s definitely damaged,” he said. “There was slippage of rocks down here on our side of the jetty.”
The jetty will be repaired as part of a major U.S. Army Corps of Engineers repair project in the fall.
The selectmen also signed off on a preliminary management agreement for the Gay Head Light between the town and the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. The agreement comes after comments given to the town by the National Park Service in their application for ownership of the lighthouse. The museum currently leases the building and surrounding land from the U.S. Coast Guard, which owns the lighthouse.
Save the Gay Head Light committee member Jim Pickman said under the new agreement, the museum would manage the lighthouse and the town would be responsible for maintaining the grounds. Any wedding fees, for example, would now come to the town. If access to the lighthouse is needed for the event, those funds would go towards the museum.
The board unanimously approved the agreement. The final application is due back to the park service at the end of the week.