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The conservation department is taking steps to remove dinghies, kayaks, and small craft from salt marshes and other areas around Great Pond. First step will be to post signs. Next step will be boater education before further enforcement actions are taken.

Selectmen, who discussed the problem of small boats damaging wetlands with the conservation administrator this week, were careful to take a sensitive approach. When Selectman Douglas H. Jones suggested the conservation staff affix educational stickers to the small craft, but Selectman Douglas C. Brown said that would be like giving the boat owners a ticket.

Times have changed.

But the problem hasn’t. In 1990 the conservation department cracked down on the owners of dinghies around West Falmouth Harbor. The plan then was to impound the boats. The conservation commission, however, voted to give the owners a reprieve, and instead notices were affixed to the dinghies ordering their removal or the owners would be fined $100. Tough enforcement was to be extended to all parts of town.

Needless to say, that enforcement strategy did not go over well—not with boat owners or anyone else. It was educational, though, and the practice of leaving dinghies on eelgrass along the shore diminished for a while.

Now the conservation department is revisiting the issue. And rightly so; leaving dinghies, kayaks or anything on the shore can damage eelgrass and other important wetland plants. It is a fragile ecology and should be protected.

On the other hand, quick and easy access to the water is important to boaters. We live in a beautiful place and boaters tend to want to spend as much time on the water as they can and spend less time getting to the water.

The conservation administrator offered the best solution, which would be for the town or neighborhood associations to build boat racks along the shore. The money would somehow have to be found, but boat racks would protect the fragile environment and give boat owners easy access to an equally precious resource.

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