Harbors and Waters Board discusses island name change, restroom predicament

A boat bobs on the surface of Marblehead Harbor. Photo by Libby O'Neill

The Marblehead Harbors and Waters Board assembled at the harbormaster’s office on Ferry Lane Monday night to discuss current events. Topics included the recent name change of Brown’s Island, the impact of the Fourth of July holiday on the harbor, and the lack of adequate parking for fishermen. However, the ongoing deterioration of the harbor’s restrooms ended up being the meeting’s main focus.

After Chair Gary Gregory called the meeting to order, he explained to his fellow members that they have not yet been reinstated for the next calendar year, but their current terms have been extended until the reappointment occurs. This comes as a result of the Select Board’s decision to put a hold on all volunteer board appointments until Nov. 1.

The board then reviewed and approved minutes from their last meeting on June 5 — the most noteworthy being a request from resident Eugene E. Record to have the name of Brown’s Island officially changed to Crowninshield Island. Harbormaster Mark Souza recapped the letter sent by Record explaining the reasoning for the new name.

“Why make the change? This local island in Dolliver’s Cove was originally sold by Mary Orne in 1797 to John Brown,” the letter said. “In 1918 the Browns sold the island (called Orne Island at that time) to Frank Crowninshield. The Crowninshields, who lived across from the island, planted the trees and plants we see today, as it had been barren rock until then. In 1955, Mrs. Crowninshield gave the island to The Trustees of Reservations, which is the oldest statewide land conservation organization in the country. This was to ensure that the island would remain undeveloped and open to the public forever. The Crowninshields have been active civic contributors to the North Shore community over their lifetime and accordingly deserve the honor of having the island bear their name.”

Gregory explained that the letter was originally brought before the Select Board, which approved the change and passed it along to the Harbors and Waters Board for final approval.

“It will probably take three generations of Marbleheaders before it is referred to as anything but Brown’s Island,” board member Jay Michaud said.

The board then pivoted to its most pressing internal issue, that being the public restrooms on the harbor.

“I feel like this bathroom issue is taking up a lot of time and resources,” board member Clarke Smith said. “I personally don’t know how you can justify spending boaters’ money to operate, clean, and heat all winter long when there’s no boaters there.”

Smith’s point was met with slight resistance from Michaud, who rebutted by saying he believes the restrooms should be open for the duration of the year.

Souza revealed findings from the restrooms that suggest recreational squid fishermen are not using them respectfully.

“We discovered buckets of squid feces in there, we found squid ink in the sink,” Souza said.

The board acknowledged that all other public restrooms in town fall under the jurisdiction of the Recreation and Parks Commission, and in their opinions so should the ones on the harbor.

“It’s one of those situations where we woke up one day and got told ‘you now own this thing,’” Gregory said. “Since the public complains to us and it looks like it should be ours, we just started fixing it … it’s out of the kindness of the harbormaster’s heart that they take it on.”

The board agreed to propose a “changing of the guard” of their facilities to the Select Board in the near future.