Working Waterfront History

  • It is important to maintain the island’s legacy as a working waterfront. 
  • The island is in love with its past, but the harbor as it was in the past is gone. Less than 50 years ago, this was a hub of commercial fishing. The issue is not a lack of fish, but that people are being squeezed out of getting into the industry. 
  • We value the history of structures on Nantucket but we did not value the history of the working waterfront and what it meant to everyone and how it kept everyone alive. We need to bring the past back into the harbor as a working waterfront. 
  • The harbor is gentrified and more focused on transients. There are very few local, commercial users there. People working on the water care about it the most and know the most about it. 

Support Services for Commercial Users

  • Locations to launch/haul out, load gear, and get fuel and service are critical issues that significantly impact the industry. There is a need for more fueling facilities and reasonably priced fuel, as well as more access points and services. 
  • Clarity is needed on the current permitting requirements (CH91, Planning Board, etc.) at specific sites, particularly regarding services (e.g., fuel, fork lift, travel lift). There is a need to determine whether there is confusion about these requirements or if the requirements are not being met. 
  • General
    • Some commercial users find the facilities at other piers (e.g., Stage Harbor, Chatham; Bass River, Yarmouth) to be beautiful and efficient; tie-up is not too expensive; water, gas, and showers are available; and the harbormaster building and visitors’ center are nearby. In contrast, town pier employees do not have bathrooms on site. 
    • As a community that takes its harbor seriously, as well as a vacation community, it is important to provide high quality services, operation, and appearance. 
    • A process is in place to construct a new Harbormaster building at the current location. Construction was disrupted by the pandemic. 
  • Fuel 
    • There is only one fuel seller in town (Boat Basin, which is not open certain days of the week) and one in Madaket. There are no back-up facilities. 
    • Private supplier of diesel via truck at Great Harbor Yacht Club is not continuing service. 
    • Users are paying about $9/gallon for fuel when the price is $3+/gallon on the Cape, making it difficult to run a business. For a long time, the price was $1/gallon more on island. Commercial users sometimes go to the Cape for fuel due to the price difference. 
    • For a short time, there was a fuel truck at Children’s Beach. This stopped due to noise complaints about the back-up alarm. There needs to be a balance between residential and commercial use. 
  • Loading Gear and Launching/Hauling Out o Boats of a certain size need a travel lift to be hauled out. 
    • This is an emergency response concern where timing is critical. With only two means of egress, if all the boats needed to come out of the water today, it could not be done. 
    • Locations for loading gear are limited, which makes it difficult to get into a fishery where loading large amounts of gear is required. 

Access Points

  • The 2009 plan discussed making the Washington Street extension more usable. This location is very shallow at low tide and would need to be dredged. 
  • In Madaket, the Wood property on Tennessee Avenue (Land Bank) will become a public access launch point. 
  • Land Bank has property to the east of the barracks where there could be another access point. 
  • N-Grid property redevelopment: There are issues re: water-dependent use on the first floor. 
  • Opportunities for a commercial pier in the harbor: 
    • Petrol Landing
      • There is an opportunity for this location to be a great resource. Development of this property should be a priority for the plan. 
      •  This location was the site of a historic pier. The Town is looking to reinstate a working waterfront where there has always been one. Dredging is needed. 
      • It will be important to work with the Land Bank to discuss what they want to build and what fishmen would like to see. 
      • There have been some legal challenges that are close to being resolved, although a new dispute emerged recently.
    • South side of Great Harbor Yacht Club 
      • When the club was built, there was discussion about the club building a 60 ft solid fill pier, dredging it, and gifting it to the town. 
      • A pier still could be built there, although the permitting could be problematic. 
  • Potential locations for another boat ramp: 
    • Steamship Authority 
    • Easy Street Boat Basin (where Skipper used to be) 
    • Great Harbor Yacht Club (where the travel lift is) 
  • Maintenance and Improvement of Existing Access Points o Children’s Beach Boat Ramp: The decking extends past the pilings and causes damage.
    • Walter Barrett Pier (Madaket): Extend the floating dock 
    • Jackson Point: There is sharp angle change in the ramp which is an issue with a long trailer. The ramp also needs to be cleaned. 

Local Review Council

  • Any application for a new pier, ramp, etc. should be sent to a group of local users to make suggestions before permitting. 
  • Council members could receive a stipend for their time and effort and sharing their knowledge. 

Chapter 91

  • Compliance with CH91 permitting requirements is a big issue. 
  • MassDEP has limited staff and bandwidth to address enforcement concerns across the state. The Town wants the ability to enforce CH91 permit requirements. Many communities are experiencing this problem. Some communities have lobbied MassDEP to delegate enforcement authority. MassDEP does not have the authority to delegate enforcement authority to municipalities. Instead, other municipalities are including the same CH91 permit requirements into other local permits to allow local enforcement. 
  • Through the harbor planning update process, the town can include substitutions and amplifications for specific sites, while maintaining the same level of public rights provisions. This can create a lot of flexibility and guidance for CH91 licensing. 
  • Any requirements for a specific site based on local or state permitting should be included in the plan both to make it known to everyone and to help ensure people do not forget. 

Plan Structures, Priorities and Implementation

  • Prioritize both short-term and long-term recommendations, so there are small and large projects that can be done depending on the timeframe. 
  • Focus on the quick wins in addition to longer-term projects. 
  • Do not make the plan unnecessarily wordy and long. 


  • Grants 
    • There are several ongoing planning efforts. Where possible, include the same recommendation or initiative in multiple plans to show widespread town support, which will help when applying for grants. 
    • The Town needs a grant writer to increase bandwidth to apply for grants. 
  • Embarkation Fee 
    • Increase the embarkation fee as a funding mechanism to implement harbor plan recommendations. 
    • Confirm if the designated town departments (Natural Resources Department and the Harbormaster) receive the embarkation fee funds and in the correct amount. 

Residential Waterfront

  • The residential waterfront is also important and needs to be considered.