Far from the Island’s shoreline lies a harbor in the woods. Edgartown’s innermost harbor has all the elements of a waterfront, minus the water, the swift-moving currents and high-priced real estate.
They call it Fishermen’s Depot, the area where Clevelandtown Road merges with Meshacket and the long-ago site of the town landfill. On a cold, snowy January morning, the scene is quiet at the depot, which is stacked with fishing gear, floating docks and shellfish nursery rafts, all high and dry for the winter.
Much of the gear is handmade; the scene is like one out of Menemsha, minus the briny smells of the harbor and the sounds of clanging buoys. Well-crafted conch pots are stacked amid the tall oaks on the town-owned property. There are buoys of every description, from the small ones used for lobster pots to the large ones used on day boats. This is the working waterfront in hibernation. The harbor is a mile away.
A rabbit and a squirrel are the depot’s wharfingers.
There are more than a dozen lots at the depot. Each lot is maintained by a leaseholder. Dockworkers and commercial fishermen are among those who use the lots.
The depot is partly the town’s answer to changing mores.
“Many subdivisions in town have covenants that don’t allow the residents the opportunity to store fishing gear in their backyard,” said Edgartown harbor master Charlie Blair, who uses the depot himself. “Edgartown has always provided the commercial fishermen with cheap user fees, either for space to tie up their boats at Memorial Wharf or for moorings and stakes,” he added.
Michael Donaroma, a town selectman who owns a successful nursery and landscape business, said the depot provides an important year-round service for people who eke out their living on the water. “Time and time again, the people, the voters have been in favor of giving their support to the local fishermen. We know they are struggling. Fishing has been in the town’s roots forever and I think that is why we do it,” Mr. Donaroma said. He continued:
“As selectmen, we’ve taken some heat. Carpenters would like to have the same kind of space to store their lumber. Plumbers would like a place to store their pipes. Landscapers need more places to park. It is getting more and more difficult for those in the trades. We can all agree it is harder for the fishermen. It is a more difficult trade.”
Mr. Blair agreed. “With the price of land skyrocketing, fishermen can’t afford to buy a lot,” he said.
The depot site is not without challenges. “The fishermen police themselves. Everybody makes an effort to keep the lots clean. When there is a big mess, I get forced to take abandoned stuff,” Mr. Blair said. “They may be competitive on the water, but they are neighbors in the innermost harbor. They have a committee that oversees the use and upkeep of the lots.
A lot in the depot costs $300 a year. Each tenant must provide his own insurance, which comes to around $300 a year, Mr. Blair said.
Roy Scheffer, 62, is a commercial fisherman who farms oysters and goes bay scalloping. He uses his lot at the depot to store his gear. “It makes the neighbors happier. They don’t know what it is. They see it as junk,” he said.
“I am grateful to the town for setting this up. The town can be commended for it.”