The following letter was sent to Tisbury town officials.

As landowners and residents on the west side of Lake Tashmoo we have become increasingly alarmed by the degradation of the health of the lake. Although the town has insisted over the years that visiting boaters are not the cause of this degradation, we have observed otherwise and have continually raised our concerns at town meetings over the years.

At the end of summer weekends in which a hundred or more visiting motorboats, many probably without heads, fill areas of the lake with noise, speeding boats and loud partying, we regularly find bushels of detached eelgrass on our beach and water that is far less clean than the previous week. We have seen jet skis and speeding boats, both of which are supposed to be prohibited on Lake Tashmoo, and we have had strangers with dogs on our beach. One such visitor, when questioned about his presence on our private beach, said: “Everyone knows that anything goes on Lake Tashmoo!”

Years ago, Tisbury’s former shellfish constable, Derek Cimeno, said the town would have to choose between motorboats and shellfish at Lake Tashmoo. Having lived on the lake for 80 years, I can remember a quieter and much healthier time when shellfish and fish and crabs were to be found in Lake Tashmoo in abundance. We often caught flounder for dinner, as well as steamers and quahaugs. In early evenings, my father often brought in blueclaw crabs from the lake in front of our house. Boat traffic was modest in those days, motorboats were small, and rowing and sailing were the wonderfully peaceful major pursuits. I remember scallops and mussels, and our family shell collection shows that oysters were once to be found in Tashmoo. Recently, however, a biologist friend visited and observed: “There’s not much life to be found in this lake.”

Lake Tashmoo at its best is a rather miraculous combination of its original fresh water springs and salt water introduced after the hurricane of 1938, which opened the lake to the waters of Vineyard Sound. When my parents came to build their lakeside cottage in 1940, the water was still so brackish that their request for a modest construction loan from a local bank was denied. But the lake’s water quality soon changed for the better (as they knew it would). As I grew up I knew such clean water that we children dove underwater keeping our eyes open to see all the marine life that was there. This natural balance has been increasingly eroded over the years, especially when visiting motorboats overwhelm this small lake on summer weekends, threatening to ruin it for those of us who love it and who are frustrated that little is being done to save it.

Lastly, but importantly, we find that we have to turn our backs on the lake on weekends, or even go away entirely from it to avoid the raucous music and noise that destroys the peace on crowded Saturdays and Sundays. We despair that our town is doing nothing to stop or reduce an intrusion that is doing terrible damage to one of its finest natural resources. The town of Tisbury owes no special services to these weekend visitors and it receives nothing from them in compensation. Tisbury can learn from the Cape Pogue experiment that has ended anchoring there, and it can do the same for Lake Tashmoo. Perhaps only a ban on casual anchoring, accompanied by a full-time police presence to enforce it, will encourage visitors to protect the lake.

Let’s let the shellfish and eelgrass regenerate on Lake Tashmoo. With modest protection, the lake will become much healthier. We owe it to ourselves and to the preservation efforts of the Tisbury community to stop casual weekend anchoring altogether: no other stopgap measures will give Tashmoo reliable results. Such strong efforts now, before it is too late to save Lake Tashmoo, will also encourage more peaceful recreational activities that are better suited to the lake and more in harmony with its natural resources.

Susan and Peter Grilli

Vineyard Haven