An access point to Popponesset Bay off Daniel’s Island in southern Mashpee with a long history has a new addition: an approximately six-foot-high wooden fence with a gate. Directly in front of the gate sits an approximately three-foot-high boulder, which is not new, but makes entry through the gate difficult at best, and impossible at worst.
While some in the Mashpee community are irked with the loss of access, New Seabury officials have stated they built the fence to allow vegetation in the area to grow back after an overload of activity damaged much of the eelgrass and coastline.
“It was a mess,” said Joseph Colasuonno, president of New Seabury Properties, LLC.
Speaking of allowing access to the area, Mr. Colasuonno said, “It’s unfortunate, but we just can’t do it anymore.”
New Seabury Properties owns the Daniel’s Island property.
The Mashpee Conservation Department raised the issue of the destruction of the area, and the town’s conservation agent, Andrew R. McManus, got in touch with New Seabury. The storage of kayaks and other boats had destroyed eelgrass in the area; at one time, 36 kayaks and boats were stored there, Mr. Colasuonno said. Also, he said that people have dug holes and filled them with concrete to anchor their boats.
The 1.4-acre parcel—off Daniel’s Island Road and catty-corner to the New Seabury Marina—has a history, with neighbors of the property complaining about users of the access path as well. Mr. Colasuonno said that people were sleeping overnight in the area and engaging in other activities that caused disturbances.
Complicating the issue, however, is that the members of the Mashpee Wampanaog Tribe and other fishermen and shellfishermen have used the access point since at least the 1800s.
The Daniel’s Island site used to serve as a location for the Amos oyster shack, where the Amos family launched and operated a full-scale oyster grant and business. According to “Mashpee: Land of the Wampanoag,” the company was one of the most productive fisheries on the East Coast. A chapter in the book by Amelia G. Bingham discusses Horatio Amos, born in 1852, who started the oyster company.
An article in the June edition of the tribe’s Nashauonk Mittark states that the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council would look into the issue of the new fence.
Members of the Mashpee Shellfish Commission had also taken issue with a barricade of boulders placed in front of the access area during a meeting in November. The town had used an area off the Daniel’s Island path for family shellfishing. Following the November meeting, the director of Mashpee Department of Natural Resources, Richard H. York Jr., said the town has started a new family shellfishing area in Ockway Bay instead of off Daniel’s Island.
Mr. Colasuonno said that for a long time, New Seabury had no issues allowing access to the area but recently it had gotten out of control. He has concerns over liability as well because the company owns the property.
According to Chapter 91 of the Massachusetts General Laws, public access to the water over private property is a right when a permitted structure—such as a dock or pier—had been allowed by the state in the past. But Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Joseph M. Ferson said that no structure has been permitted by the state at the location.
The right to use similar access points over private property could be gained through an easement by the legal concept prescription, also called adverse possession. If someone can claim that they never received the permission from the property owner to use the access but did so for more than 20 years, they could go to land court using the prescription concept to legally establish the easement.
New Seabury still hopes to help those accessing the water with kayaks. Mr. Colasuonno said they have worked with a private company in the New Seabury Marina to find a safe area to launch from that would not destroy the landscape.