Some moorings opening up

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 4:45pm
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The waiting period for a residential mooring in the Great Salt Pond may have gotten shorter, at least for a few people.

Harbormaster Steve Land told the members of the Harbors Committee at their meeting on Nov. 15 that five individuals have relinquished their moorings. At the time of the meeting, three of those moorings had been taken, but Land said the deadline for filing paperwork and paying for residential moorings is Friday, Dec. 15, so it is possible that additional moorings will open up.

There may be other opportunities for boaters in the future, as well: outhaul moorings. The Harbors Committee has been pursuing the idea of installing outhaul moorings at Ball O’Brien Park as a component of a boaters’ welcome center that would include a harbormaster’s office, showers, laundry facilities, a dinghy dock, and a boat ramp. 

It’s a dream that hasn’t gotten off the drawing board, but at the meeting, member Gary Pollard suggested developing an access road at the park first, so that outhauls on the beach could be accessed, and “if feasible, add a boat ramp with parking.”

Pollard said that no actual buildings would be included in the plan and he felt a working title for the project could be “Community Boating Center.”

“I can’t envision where a ramp would be on that property,” said member Charles Gustafson, adding that they could take action on the outhaul idea first.

Pollard said that an access road would be needed in order to get to the outhauls.

Member Patrick Evans reminded those present that last spring Town Manager Ed Roberge had asked the committee “to hold off” for a time.

Roberge was new to the island at that time, and with the addition of the new public dinghy dock between Payne’s Dock and Dead Eye Dick’s restaurant, he wished to take a look at the uses of the entire New Harbor area.

“The minimum is access to that beach, which is hidden to the public,” said Pollard.

“Have you talked to Ed about this?” asked Arlene Tunney, who was chairing the meeting in Denny Heinz’s absence.

Land said to install a boat ramp at Ball O’Brien, with a turnaround space, would require excavating down 20 feet to level the area. “It isn’t anything but money,” he said. “Start with one project, like the access road.”

Pollard said he did talk to Roberge about having a survey done, but indicated that the town did not want to do that.

Land said of the idea: “I like that it’s for locals.”

“That’s why I used (the phrase) community boating center,” said Pollard.

“Back to outhauls,” said Evans. “Are you sold on that location?”

“The advantage is that Ball O’Brien is owned by the town,” said Land.

“We kind of need a master plan,” said Evans, detailing how many outhauls among other things.

The committee decided it made sense to separate the plans and crafted a motion — which passed unanimously by the four members present — to create a community boating center with access to outhauls, a possible boat ramp, and storage for boats on the beach.

A welcome center for visiting boaters would be pursued later.

There is some urgency to finding a location for a Harbormaster’s office somewhere close to the Great Salt Pond. For years, the office was located at the Boat Basin, but this past summer, operations were conducted out of Town Hall. 

That worked out fine for selling shellfish licenses, but Land said he also needed a place to conduct morning roll calls for his staff. 

Although Land has been utilizing the Coast Guard Station, which is also town-owned, for boat and equipment maintenance, it is too remote for an office, and there is a lack of parking. One alternative Land has been considering is Champlin’s Marina, but there is a possibility that there could be a return to the Boat Basin.

The Boat Basin is slated to be under new management next summer and Land said he is “waiting for the dust to settle,” before talking to them.

Just as he did at the Shellfish Commission’s last meeting, Land brought up the subject of finding a spot for oyster farmers that was open for shell-fishing year-round so that they could avoid the annual transfer of their product from the inner ponds, which are closed to shell-fishing in the summer.

“Why do the inner ponds close in the summer?” asked Gustafson.

Land said that the state of Rhode Island has jurisdiction and “was not interested in opening it year-round.”

One issue is water quality, which Land said, is generally excellent, but could fluctuate in the summer. Another problem is that if the inner ponds were open to shell-fishing the “clams would be decimated in one season.” 

Gustafson asked: “Could you go to the state and ask if the water could be open to only the farmers?”

“It’s worth it to ask,” said Evans.

Land said it was a matter of balancing the interests of the general public, “versus the interests of a few. We try to have multiple uses [in the pond]. It’s not just for boating. It’s not just for moorings… it’s for everyone to use — even people walking around it.”