The time-honored Vineyard tradition of jumping off the Big Bridge into Sengekontacket Pond has now been joined by a yearly concern about the safety of jumpers — not for their daring leaps into the water below, but for the time they spend sitting and standing on the bridge as traffic whizzes by.
Low railings that divide pedestrians, including bridge jumpers, from Beach Road are the worry, and Oak Bluffs and Edgartown are taking steps to address the problem that they say ultimately should be dealt with by the state.
The state Department of Transportation oversees the bridge, which was rebuilt two years ago.
This week Oak Bluffs highway superintendent Richard Combra Jr. told selectmen that the two towns and the county are coordinating the installation of snow fencing on the bridge in the next few weeks, a measure that was also taken last year.
“[The situation] is so dangerous right now,” said selectman Walter Vail, who offered to call the state department of transportation himself to ask them to look into the issue.
In the past, the state has declined to act, saying that the bridge was not designed for jumping and swimming, and the towns should take steps to deter that activity.
But selectman Gail Barmakian said jumping is a reality that is not likely to change, and the towns will need to find their own solution to the problem.
The selectmen also delivered bad news to organizers from the Harlem Fine Arts Show, which was planned from August 9 to 12 under tents on the grounds of Hooked restaurant on Beach Road.
Selectmen said that the request should probably have come from the restaurant owners, and that, to their knowledge, tents are not allowed on the property.
“I don’t think it’s legal; I don’t think the request for tents should come from the people who want to have an event, it needs to come from people at the restaurant,” board chairman Kathy Burton said.
She added that even if the restaurant owners do seek permission for the event, an expansion of use issue would have to go before the zoning board of appeals and potentially the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.
A number of Harthaven residents were at the meeting objecting to the proposal, citing a lack of parking in the neighborhood and noise issues from past events.
Art show spokesman Clyde Allen told the selectmen that the show, which is billed as a showcase for “exhibiting modern and contemporary African Diasporic Art,” has been in the works since March, with plans to have 42 artists come from around the country. The organization would be in legal and financial trouble if they are not able to hold the event, he said.
Ms. Burton said she was sorry to be the bearer of bad news, and the selectmen suggested alternate locations on the Island.
In other business, Mr. Combra told the selectmen that power company NSTAR has requested storing six tractor-trailer size emergency generators on Oak Bluffs town property for a short period of time in case of emergency and to provide extra capacity during peak periods.
Mr. Combra said NSTAR will later seek approval to do so from the board of selectmen.
The selectmen approved an entertainment license for Dreamland, a new entertainment space above the Martha’s Vineyard Chowder Company. The board voted 3 to 1 in favor of the proposal, with Ms. Barmakian voting no and selectman Michael Santoro abstaining. The selectmen noted that the space had been soundproofed and a certificate of occupancy was issued by the building inspector.
“Sound stuff is very serious to us,” Martha’s Vineyard Chowder Company owner J.B. Blau told the selectmen, saying that being a good neighbor was important to him. “I guarantee you I’ll shut this place down before anybody has to. There’s not going to be any issues.”
The selectmen also concurred with the police department’s decision to deny two taxi driver permits. The hearings led to a further discussion about taxi safety.
“I’ve observed, particularly this year, reckless driving by many taxi drivers,” Ms. Barmakian said.
Ms. Burton concurred, saying she’d observed taxi behavior that she felt was inappropriate near the Island Queen, including language, aggressive driving, double parking and illegal parking.
Oak Bluffs police Sgt. Michael Marchand said residents who observe unsafe driving behavior by taxis — or any other vehicles — should take down the license plate, a vehicle description and the time, and share that information with the police department.