2013-10-17 / Front Page

Harbor board mulls capping boat permits

Maple Avenue congestion caused by kayaks, dinghies
By Margo Sullivan

Fifty-seven small watercraft have permits to be stored on the beach at the end of Maple Avenue. Police Chief Ed Mello and Harbor Commissioner David Cain agree that the kayaks and dinghies are causing congestion. 
Photo by Tim Riel Fifty-seven small watercraft have permits to be stored on the beach at the end of Maple Avenue. Police Chief Ed Mello and Harbor Commissioner David Cain agree that the kayaks and dinghies are causing congestion. Photo by Tim Riel The Harbor Commission at its Oct. 10 meeting continued discussion about capping the number of beach permits, primarily to relieve congestion around Maple Avenue.

The harbor office has issued 57 permits to allow people to leave their small boats, paddleboards and kayaks on the beach at Maple Avenue. Police Chief Ed Mello has suggested capping the permits at 60.

Mello also suggested caps for beach permits at three other locations: Head’s Beach, Fort Getty and East Ferry. However, he has reported no problems with congestion at those beaches so far.

Commissioner David Cain, who is the commission’s point man on the permit problem, said he visited the site and agrees it’s crowded. He concluded that a solution would have to address both water access and public safety. To address the problem with water access, Cain suggested the commissioners should focus on providing “adequate storage for boats that seem to clutter access to the water.”

On his visit, Cain counted 52 boats, including dinghies, kayaks and paddleboards, and estimated he saw 30 of those crafts “lying on crates on the sand” and making passage to the water difficult.

“It seems to me a couple of these could be removed,” he said.

Cain said the commissioners could “easily satisfy the need for two dozen kayaks and paddleboards” by fitting in another boat rack. Moreover, he said it would be inexpensive.

“The other problem is congestion and a problem for safety and access by emergency vehicles,” he said.

According to Cain, parking restrictions would have to be considered to solve the problem.

The town has “no plans for new municipal parking” in the area, he said. Cain checked with the Planning Department to verify nothing is in the works. Therefore, the only places to park are in the lot next to the fire station on Narragansett Avenue and along the road. He suggested some limitations on parking “in the immediate area of water access.”

Mello disagreed with adding a new kayak rack.

“I don’t think that’s practical,” he said.

The rack would not help to relocate the boats sitting on pallets on the sand.

The only boats on the sand are supposed to be dinghies, Mello said. They’re allowed on the sand because the dinghies are typically too heavy to lift up on the racks and would otherwise end up in the marsh and become a conservation problem. Mello indicated he told the assistant harbormaster to monitor the use of pallets and make sure that only the dinghies, and not kayaks, are on the pallets.

“The kayaks go on raised racks,” he said.

Also, Mello thought adding a new rack might lead more people to use Maple Avenue.

“There’s a lot of use down there for such a small area,” he said.

As for parking restrictions, Mello said it would have to be reviewed. He anticipated some questions would come up on how to balance public access and public safety.

Cain replied he would review the photographs he took on his site visit to verify his impression about the number of kayaks lying on the beach.

“Half of those pallets had kayaks on them, not dinghies,” Cain said. “I still think add one rack.”

He also urged Mello to consider the parking restrictions.

“Maybe you could make an analysis,” Cain said. “We’re in a residential neighborhood, so the only tool is controlling parking in the area.”

Harbor Chairman Michael de Angeli asked Cain if the boat racks are being used efficiently.

Cain replied they were, and said the racks were all full.

Commissioner Chris Brown suggested one solution would be to encourage more people to use Fort Getty. Harbormaster Sam Paterson said those people aren’t going to Fort Getty because their moorings are closer to Maple Avenue.

The owners of bigger sailboats use Fort Getty, he said, but most Jamestown residents own small boats.

“Most of the residents,” he said, “we try to keep them close to Maple Avenue.”

According to de Angeli, a cap is “not a bad thing” as a way to solve the overcrowding.

“There are no easy answers,” he said.

“But we have a couple of months to work on it,” Cain replied.

In other business, the commissioners will meet with the Town Council on Monday to discuss the harbor budget and reopen the discussion about whether waterfront revenues should be tapped to pay for town infrastructure projects.

De Angeli said he also hoped to discuss the harbor ordinance, which was recently revised to incorporate requirements from the Coastal Resources Management Council. According to Mello, however, the edited documents would not be ready in time.

Mello said he would obtain a tentative agenda from the Town Council and forward the information to the harbor commissioners. At their Oct. 7 meeting, the councilors indicated they also wanted to discuss the proposed Conanicut Marine expansion.

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