Limited attendance at Menemsha sunsets, a drastically cut down book festival, carry-in carry-out at town beaches: the Chilmark selectmen and board of health took up an array of summer safety plans and guidelines this week.
“This summer is going to be a very busy summer and we are going to have the pressure of lots and lots of people showing up in Menemsha,” said selectman Warren Doty at a joint meeting of the two boards Wednesday.
Echoing last summer, selectmen and health agents voted unanimously to limit attendance at Menemsha sunsets by closing the park and ride and accompanying shuttle service for the season. Both boards also agreed to eliminate parking in the center of the Menemsha beach lot and on the southwest side of the road to the water.
Menemsha’s two fish markets will decide on takeout or in-store configurations independently but will likely remain in takeout form for the early summer, town officials said.
Larger summer events and programming also dominated the conversation.
Suellen Lazarus, founder and director of the Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival, came before the two boards with her proposal for an adapted book festival from August 6 to August 10 on the Community Center grounds. Ms. Lazarus had previously proposed the event to selectmen at a meeting last month.
According to Ms. Lazarus, the event would include 15 authors, with big-name guests like Elizabeth Kolbert, Ibram Kendi and possibly Elizabeth Warren. Ms. Lazarus said the festival would be restricted to 150 ticketed in-person guests with an option to attend virtually. She also requested attendance for up to 250 guests for the bigger authors, pending state expansion of outdoor capacity limits.
Selectmen and health board members pushed back on Ms. Lazarus’ request for 250 guests, voting instead to approve the event with a 150-person cap and an option to re-evaluate later in the summer.
Other summer programs received similar approval.
A request from Chilmark Community Center director Alexandrea London-Thompson to run pandemic versions of the center’s summer camp, tennis and indoor exercise programs was approved with the caveat that she write a positive-case procedure for the program.
Chilmark General Store owner Joel Glickman was granted permission to open in May with 12-person indoor capacity. The two boards signaled a willingness to hear plans for other prospective community events — including a version of the film festival — assuming they are Covid-appropriate.
In general, selectmen and health agents said they planned to follow state and CDC guidelines as closely as possible. Both boards also acknowledged the challenges of crafting safety policies in an ever-changing pandemic landscape, noting the likelihood of re-evaluating decisions and loosening restrictions later in the summer.
“The state is struggling like the rest of us to write guidelines quickly enough in response to all these changes,” said board of health member Matt Poole. He added that personal vaccination status should not affect adherence to town safety rules.
“Outside of people’s private property, your vaccination status is not factored into the dos and don’ts,” said Mr. Poole.
In other business, the board of health settled on a recommendation to adopt a carry-in and carry-home trash policy for beachgoers at Lucy Vincent and Squibnocket beaches this summer, with an exception for beach department-related trash.
Discussion of beach and harbor trash disposal in Menemsha, which presents larger challenges, will be ongoing through the spring and summer, town officials said.