Approval of a mussel farm permit this week may lead to a collegial effort to clean up Menemsha Pond.
In the process of approving Hollis Smith’s aquaculture permit request, conversation expanded to disclose informal discussions between Chilmark and Aquinnah town officials and Wampanoag tribal members to work together to clean the pond.
Menemsha Pond waters lie in both Chilmark and Aquinnah and have been separately maintained by each town historically. The pond has not been dredged since 1971 and “has been dying for 20 years,” Mr. Smith said.
The Aquinnah selectmen expressed strong interest in opening formal discussion, particularly after member James Newman explained the role of the Army Corps of Engineers in such a project.
“The Army Corps would be involved and their application for funding includes a box marked ‘Native American’ and they are dying to check that box,” Mr. Newman said.
Selectman Spencer Booker, a tribal member, was concise in his assessment. “The tribe needs to hear from both Chilmark and Aquinnah that both towns are willing to work together before the tribe gets on board,” likely a reference to popular perception of a cordial but arms-length relationship between the towns.
Town detente was not the only hot topic on the board agenda. Printed rules and regulations likely will be forthcoming after several residents attended the selectmen’s meeting to demand clear rules on bonfires and fireworks on Aquinnah beaches.
The contretemps occurred after the Aquinnah fire department shut down a resident’s catered bonfire and clambake on Labor Day weekend. Chief Walter Delaney explained that state law forbids fireworks generally, that open wood fires are not allowed, and no fires are allowed without verbal permission from his office.
Sparks flew briefly during a discussion between Chief Delaney and the exasperated resident who claimed he had called for permission for his party. Chief Delaney said he had not received such a call.
After several minutes of give and take between residents and Chief Delaney, Mr. Booker said, “Jeff (Burgoyne, town administrator) needs a piece of paper that he can hand out to people that clearly states the do’s and don’ts of this.”
Mr. Burgoyne will look into forms issued by other towns and organizations as a possible permit template.
Also, the selectmen welcomed and approved a new business application by Julie Vanderhoop to operate a farm stand on State Road. They also approved a Sept. 15 flea market fundraiser by the Aquinnah Conservation and Preservation Committee. Camille Rose, chairman of the selectmen, suggested the event be expanded to two days with booths inside town hall to encourage vendor participation.