Spring arrives next week. The days are getting longer and warmer. The fishing and boating season won't be far behind. So it was a relief to many locals when the Town Council voted recently to keep the East Ferry wood pile pier open for fishing.
The pier is an excellent example of the changing nature of our island's shoreline. The original 167-foot section was constructed with federal funds in 1974 to be used for "public outdoor recreation." Most have interpreted that to mean fishermen, transient recreational boaters, and people who just want to walk down the dock.
In the 1980s the town added 140 feet to the pier with no limits on the types of uses. In the 1990s the touch-n-go float was added with town, state, and commercial funding.
The shared usage of the wood pile pier has been an uneasy truce over the years. There have been reports about the fishermen blocking boaters from the touchn go float and leaving a mess. People complain that the commercial lobster boats block the dock with their traps and smelly bait barrels. There has been mention in the past of doing away with the fishing and commercial uses of the pier.
On the flip side, the fishermen and commercial guys argue that the casual strollers get in their way.
Last year's rules for the pier seemed to work well. Swimming and diving from the pier were banned. Nighttime fishing was allowed. Island police added the pier to their nightly patrols. Rest rooms were opened and refuse receptacles were provided.
It has been proposed that the pier be lengthened so everyone has more space. Whether or not that ever happens, we should strive to maintain the pier as it is - shared waterfront for everyone. East Ferry should remain a working waterfront.
- Jeff McDonough