Cliff Hangers

From Gazette editions of August, 1986:

Oak Bluffs selectmen agreed Tuesday night to extend bars’ hours by an hour, allowing them to close at 1 a.m. on a trial basis. The decision came after the selectmen received a letter from the majority of bar owners, asking for the extension. Peter Williamson, police chief, said, “I have no problem with their closing at 1 a.m. Perhaps what this town should do is allow the bars to stay open until 4 a.m. I am tired of seeing the bars empty out at midnight. A thousand people on Circuit avenue is a dangerous situation.” Peter Martell, owner of the Lampost, a Circuit avenue bar, agreed. He said: “It is chaos. The basic customer at the bar is a working person, someone who wants some entertainment. If they leave the bar, they go buy a six-pack of beer and drive around throwing the bottles out the window. If they drink in a bar, there is an element of control.”

The issue of portable toilets in Edgartown erupted last Tuesday just one week after the selectmen approved a plan introduced by the board of trade and the capital programs committee to accommodate the town dock with temporary facilities. Pam Dolby, speaking for the board of health, and Susan Gamble, a parks department commissioner, expressed concern about the plan and asked for better representation in the decision-making process. Mrs. Gamble said portable toilets will be unattractive and hard to keep clean.

Tom Wallace, president of the board of trade, said he had contacted both boards. T. Curry Jones, representing the capital programs committee, said if the board of trade had not agreed to look at the public restroom problem, it would be 1990 before any action is taken.

Mr. Wallace told selectmen that police reported people using phone booths as toilets. He added that because the portable toilets will be temporary, “If you don’t like them you can pick them up and move them.”

Faced with complaints from residents and the traveling public, the Chilmark selectmen sharply criticized the state Department of Public Works for not clearing shrubbery along the state roads. Mary Larsen, executive secretary, told the selectmen the state did not reply to a letter she wrote in July which outlined the dangers to public safety caused by untended brush along the road. Mrs. Larsen said she sent a second letter to R.A. Smith in the Taunton district office. She wrote that the roadside areas are “extremely hazardous; is there anyway you could expedite this work?”

A.H. Raskin, a Chilmark summer resident, had written the selectmen: “At many points on both sides of State Road, there is no shoulder for pedestrians to take shelter when cars, buses or trucks come whizzing around the sharp curves on the hill. The volume of July traffic was appalling and August will certainly be worse. What with motorcycles, scooters and bikes prompting impatient motorists to pass where they shouldn’t, the blind spots shutting off a view of oncoming cars from the other direction, and the excessive speed which seems universal, walkers like us exchange congratulations every time we make the round trip safely.”

A Vineyard resident this week told the Gay Head selectmen the story of his rescue of an exhausted elderly couple at the Gay Head Cliffs, and complained that the town police officers seriously mishandled the situation. Tom Tate, manager of the American Youth Hostel, recounted how his lunch date on the deck of the Aquinnah Shop came to an abrupt end.

Mr. Tate said he noticed an elderly couple trapped in the thickets below the restaurant, called out to them to offer help, and then made his way to them with a rope after they yelled for assistance. He complained that the two officers who arrived on the scene came 20 minutes after they were notified of the situation. One officer ordered Mr. Tate and the couple, now tied together with the rope, to return to the beach and exit the area that way. Mr. Tate said that it would have taken five minutes to complete the climb. Instead it took 45 minutes to get the couple off the Cliffs.

Tisbury Selectman Suzan Custer said supporters of a new herring run between the upper and lower Lagoon Pond want another chance to ask voters for Tisbury’s share of the construction cost. Faced with a budget severely strained, Tisbury voters refused to put up $10,612 as Oak Bluffs had done, to match a federal grant. Without Tisbury’s participation, the federal money is lost. Harbor master and shellfish constable Donald King has advocated construction of the herring run as a means of enticing not only the fish but also species that prey upon it — including the striped bass — back to these waters.

Compiled by Cynthia Meisner