The Public Park that Never Happened

For two decades, so-called Boch Park on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven has sat in a limbo made of court battles and subsequent, drawn-out negotiations between the Boch family and the town of Tisbury.

The scruffy condition of the parcel, which overlooks Vineyard Haven harbor, is a sad and continuing testament to a failure to reach resolution on what could be one of the bright spots of the town waterfront.

The Tisbury planning board has pinpointed the parcel as offering a number of potential uses, including a waterfront park, a stopping point on a harbor walkway, an outdoor market area and a partial solution for the Five Corners traffic nightmare.

The late Ernest Boch Sr., who bought the parcel in nineteen eighty seven, saw its potential for parking in a village center where spaces are hard to come by, although the lot is not zoned for commercial parking

In nineteen ninety three, the Tisbury planning board denied Mr. Boch’s application for a special permit to operate a valet parking lot. After a continuing tussle in the courts, the town finally won a definitive victory in two thousand to ban the valet parking lot.

Following Mr. Boch’s death in two thousand three, the town renewed discussions of the property with his son Ernest Boch Jr.

Tristan Israel, chairman of the Tisbury selectmen, said Mr. Boch wanted to work with the town to see if a plan could be put together to put the parcel into productive use. Possible ideas included the use of the Entwhistle building by a nonprofit organization and public access to the waterfront, tied to a lease of the property by the town from the Boch family.

The closed-door discussions have apparently been friendly. But the particular arrangement proposed by the Boch family posed complications for a town such as Tisbury, which would have to engage in a public bidding and town meeting process. The legal negotiations also have been moving at a snail’s pace.

With no end apparently near, Mr. Israel recently announced that the selectmen have decided against further pursuit of a deal.

Slim strands of hope remain. The Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank could consider buying the parcel for public waterfront access. Or the town could choose to take the property by eminent domain — an attractive option at this point. But the selectmen may be reluctant to consider a taking given the penny-pinching mood among town voters at the annual town meeting this past spring when they turned down a large capital spending project for a new public safety building.

In the end the Boch family may decide to develop the parcel, and if they do, hopefully any development would provide some sort of public access or water views.

While the twenty-year saga of the property has been disappointing, the potential remains undiminished. The future may yet hold a happy outcome for Boch Park.