Paddleboard rentals begin at beach
Paddleboard rentals may begin one day a week at Mackerel Cove Town Beach, the Town Council decided last week.
Jamestown Outdoors, owned by islanders Jason and Beth Hatch, applied for an entertainment license to set up an umbrella and rent four boards on Saturdays in July and August.
“We’re looking for a simple setup,” said Jason Hatch. “Four boards and an umbrella on the side closest to Beavertail.”
Council President Kristine Trocki recused herself from the discussion and vote because she helped the rental company draw up business papers. In her stead, Vice President Mary Meagher ran the meeting and opened the discussion by clarifying the specific location where Jamestown Outdoors would rent paddleboards.
Meagher said there are a couple of “openings in the beach grass,” and she wanted to know if the couple planned to set up the umbrella near one of those.
“We’d like to be,” Jason Hatch replied.
Meagher went on to point out some open sections in the fence and said some appeared to be related to state crosswalks. However, no lifeguard monitored those areas of the beach, she said.
Beth Hatch replied that the plan was for the paddleboarders to stay out of the guarded area.
Meagher said she was looking at a location further west for the paddleboards.
Jason Hatch had some questions about where to plant the sandwich board, a two-sided chalkboard used to advertise the rentals.
Jill Goldstein, the rec department’s program director, said the sandwich board would be in the parking lot visible from Beavertail Road. However, Meagher said the paddleboard section was “a considerable way passed the parking lot” and close to a section where sticker parking is allowed.
“It would be great if we could have the board by the entrance,” Jason Hatch said. The couple wants to keep the paddleboards on the beach.
Councilor Eugene Mihaly suggested the sign could be in the parking lot with an arrow directing people to the rental stand.
Meagher asked if people could currently put paddleboards in the water at any time of day.
“Yes,” Goldstein replied.
Meagher wanted to know about other boats and crafts used at Mackerel Cove. Goldstein said no motorized boats are allowed on the beach.
Meagher also wanted to know if people “drag a dinghy across.” Goldstein replied she has never seen anyone do so.
The rental is an experiment, the Hatches told the council. If Jamestown Outdoors is successful, the couple would like to add an additional day of operations in the future.
The Hatches provided an aerial photograph showing the rentals would be restricted to the western end of the beach going toward the intersection of Beavertail and Fort Getty roads.
According to Town Administrator Bruce Keiser, the town already allows beachgoers to bring their own paddleboards and kayaks to that section of the beach.
Recreation Director Bill Piva previously indicated he supports paddleboard rentals. He said paddleboards do not interfere with swimmers or create safety problems.
Police Chief Ed Mello agreed, saying paddleboard rentals do not pose any threat to public safety.
However, the proposal drew objections from three residents who went on the record by sending letters to the councilors or to Keiser.
Christine Ariel, who copied the Jamestown Press, said that paddleboards and other boats used at the barrier beach are creating unsafe conditions for people who go to Mackerel Cove to swim. (Ariel’s letter was published in the July 3 edition of the Press.) In the past, she said, paddleboarders and kayakers deliberately nosed their crafts into her path when she was swimming parallel to the shoreline. She also indicated both adults and children could not handle their paddleboards, and added that lifeguards provided no control over the situation.
Resident Patience Cary sent the councilors a brief message to say she objects to any vendor-type activities at Mackerel Cove.
Finally, resident David Scanlon sent Keiser a request posing as the owner of a Jamaican company applying to sell beach toys and trinkets at the barrier beach.
Ultimately, the councilors decided 4-0 to grant the one-day entertainment license to Jamestown Outdoors for Saturdays in July and August.
Councilor Thomas Tighe initially came out against the rentals at the town beach but finally opted not to vote against the oneday license. Tighe said he was not against paddleboards, but felt the council should defer a decision until the study on the rec department was done. (Consultants were hired to evaluate town-operated recreational programs and facilities.)
Disagreeing with Tighe, Mihaly said, “This is a plus, plus, plus for the town.” The councilors, he said, should support local businesses when they are “doing things of value.”
According to Mihaly, Jamestown Outdoors seems to have figured out how to share the beach without interfering with swimmers.
Councilor Blake Dickinson said he favors “a conditional try” for the rentals but added, “There is a concern whether people are going to transit from the beach into Sheffield Cove.”
“I’m willing to give it a try, too,” Meagher said. “We obviously rent space to different people. This is not unlike yoga and Pilates.”
Meagher referenced Ariel’s letter. She is concerned about safety at the beach, but suggested the conditions would be safer now that the company has promised to provide a staff member to oversee the operation.