Private Use of Public Space

The use of prominent public places in Oak Bluffs for private profit is legitimate cause for concern.

The most serious example is the shanghaiing of Ocean Park, the oceanfront jewel among town parks, for a privately backed performance of the Boston Pops.

Without a doubt, last summer’s concert was a thrilling, enjoyable experience for thousands of Vineyard residents and visitors. But the concert came at a cost: not only the admission charged to come to an otherwise free and public place, but the suspension of parking along Sea View avenue on one of the busiest weekends of the summer.

Now event promoters want to put up barricades to block people from watching the concert for free from outside the park.

And unlike last summer, when promoters donated part of the proceeds to the renovation of the Ocean Park bandstand and the expansion of Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, they have no plans to make similar gifts this year. Instead, they will sell tickets at face value to nonprofit organizations who would charge the public even more.

Also at issue is the takeover of Sunset Park by the Martha’s Vineyard Monster Shark Tournament. A large tent used by the tournament effectively closes much of the park for hours to public use.

Public spaces, such as Ocean and Sunset parks, are just that: public. While they offer the scale of space that makes large concerts possible, closing them and their surroundings even temporarily to unfettered use by adults and children is an uncomfortable slap at the reason they exist. Promoters should pay dearly for the use of public space — and keep their restrictions of such space and time to an absolute minimum.