This article appeared in the Standard-Times of New Bedford, Massachusetts, on 6/6/02
Page A16, Opinion; Copyright 2002 by Beth David

Fairhaven should grab this waterfront gem

Hoppy's Landing sits on Buzzards Bay like a jewel. On the open ocean side of the West Island causeway, it provides direct access to some of the best fishing grounds in the world

I am flabbergasted at the generosity of Robert (Hoppy) Hobson's offer to sell this 6-plus acres of prime waterfront to the town for $500,000.

Besides the below-market offer, the town received two grants totalling $330,000 specifically to buy Hoppy's Landing. Fairhaven taxpayers need only contribute the remaining $180,000. (For the arithmetic mavens among you, the additional $10,000 covers sales-associated costs.)

But there's a buzz around town. Some people refuse to dip into the Stabilization Fund, even if it means acquiring a rare and dwindling treasure: public access to the waterfront.

This is classic penny-wise, pound-foolish thinking.

Hoppy's Landing provides one of the few places for the small, owner-operated boats to work out of.

If the town owned this property, we could preserve the steady flow of fresh lobsters we take for granted. But not only lobsterers use Hoppy's Landing, so do rod & reel sport fishers, quahoggers, pleasure boaters, and people who just watch the tide.

The array of characters that assemble there on any given day creates the kind of diversity that the Census Bureau cannot fathom.

And oh ... to watch a storm from that perch! Hoppy's Landing is the kind of place that makes Fairhaven be Fairhaven.

Anyone could buy this parcel, fence it off, and eliminate all water access.

Three people have already offered Hoppy more than $500,000. So far, they are offers he can refuse.

Maybe they want to put a 50-site campground on it. Maybe they want to put a trophy-mansion on it. Maybe they want to build an exclusive marina. Simply put, anyone could take this parcel and make it another place that we cannot go.

We have the chance to guarantee access to the public.

How about a public fishing pier; or benches facing the islands; maybe a permanent home for the upweller program, so Fairhaven can continue to grow quahogs from seed and transplant them for harvesting, which is so integral to the character of this town?

If only we have the sense to seize the moment. Hoppy's only restriction on the deed is that we can never lock the gate.

Hoppy will tell you that it annoys him (not exactly his expression) that you can't go to state-owned Fort Phoenix at sunset, drive up to the water and enjoy the view.

"I'm not selling to the state," says Hoppy with conviction. "I'm selling to the town."

I understand that dipping into the Stabilization Fund is not something we should do lightly. But, if we wait, we might lose $330,000 in grant money.

As a homeowner whose taxes went up a whopping 40 percent this year, I pay the increase hoping it supports forward thinking, not short-sightedness.

So, I beg with all my heart for Town Meeting members to take a ride by Hoppy's Landing. Drive in (they won't kick you out — yet).

Imagine strolling the shore at sunset, whenever you want to. Imagine how we will kick ourselves if we lose it.

Take my taxes, do the right thing. Route 6 does not Fairhaven make. Hoppy's Landing does.

Beth David is a freelance writer living in Fairhaven.