The Mashpee selectmen voted 4-1 on Monday, August 31, to recommend that October Town Meeting pass an article to prohibit the use of jet skis on Ashumet Pond.
The 203-acre kettle hole pond lies along the Mashpee/Falmouth town line. Falmouth has long had a prohibition on the use of jet skis on the pond. Without a similar rule in Mashpee, however, the ability to enforce the prohibition is negligible in the town.
Ashley Fisher, Mashpee’s director of natural resources, told the selectmen that Falmouth adopted the jet ski ban after a 1989 study prepared for both Mashpee and Falmouth found that jet skis affect water quality in the pond.
“[Ashumet Pond] is pretty shallow—it affects water quality because of the sediment being stirred up,” Ms. Fisher said.
The decades-old study also cited various instances of jet skis riding through swimming areas near the beach and causing conflicts with others using lower-speed watercraft for fishing and recreating on the pond.
“I have actually gone around the lake and talked to multiple residents,” Ms. Fisher said. “I could not find a positive quote from anybody. The people who live on the lake are unhappy with the way that there is just complete disregard for any of the regulations.”
Jet skis have been known to tow people on tubes in the pond, have been operated by children under the age of 16, and been seen jumping from their own wake, she said.
The Massachusetts Environmental Police have an “extensive call log” with most of the violations reported by residents near the pond, Ms. Fisher said. She has requested a full log of violations from the environmental police.
Selectman Thomas O’Hara, the lone “no” vote against recommending the passage of the article at Town Meeting, said he felt uncomfortable recommending the article because residents near the pond may have bought their property with the intent to use jet skis.
Mr. O’Hara noted that more residents live on the Mashpee side of the pond than on the Falmouth side and before a version of the ban was tabled at Town Meeting last year, some residents near the pond spoke against the proposed ban.
“They spoke very confidently [at Town Meeting] and were very upset that they were not notified of the possible loss of use of a jet ski on a pond that they specifically moved to to use their jet skis,” he said.
The article was tabled at Town Meeting in October last year because of language that could be interpreted to ban not just jet skis but all motorized watercraft.
Mr. O’Hara said the misuse of jet skis at the pond makes him think that there “is more of an enforcement issue of the use of the vehicles and not so much the environmental issue.”
Ms. Fisher responded that because of jurisdiction being divided between Falmouth and Mashpee, it is not always easy to enforce existing regulations at the pond.
Selectman Andrew R. Gottlieb noted that the pond is smaller than many other ponds in Mashpee.
“It’s a small enough pond,” Mr. Gottlieb said. “It becomes obnoxious and impacts other passive uses like fishing, canoeing, paddleboarding and the like.”
Speed is part of the “nature of operating” a jet ski, he said. “At some point a small enough pond makes it pretty impossible for all those uses to coexist at one time.”
“If you’re going to kind of sympathize with the jet skis,” selectman David W. Weeden said, “we should sympathize with the people out in canoes or kayaks that are fishing or minding their own business and somebody comes racing by them every two seconds.”
Mr. O’Hara said he voted “no” to recommending the article because “I want the voters to make the choice.”