June 15, 2008

Breachway Parking Dispute Turns Nasty With Nail Traps

One angler calls it "vigilante vandalism:" concealing boards with 3-inch nails in the sand along a sandy road that fishermen use to drive to the western side of Quonochontaug Breachway.

Three vehicles have run over the nails and blew out their tires, but no one has been hurt.

Todd Fiske, a landowner there, says his sister Lisa drove her car over one of the hidden nail traps. "I'm just fortunate that my daughter didn't step on it," Lisa Fiske said.

Investigators found 10 boards with 3-inch nails concealed in the road, according to Lt. Michael P. Longtin of the Rhode Island Environmental Police.

"This was really aggressive and malicious," he said. "A kid could have stepped on one of these with 3-inch nails. Nasty."

The boards were 18-by-6-inch plywood, each with several 3-inch nails that appeared to have been driven with a nail gun, he said. They were spread along the length of the road.

The incident was revealed during a public hearing on a Department of Environmental Management proposal to ban parking on state land at the end of the road. Some of the landowners contend that drivers are trespassing on their property when they drive to the breachway on the disputed road.

Before any action is taken, however, Michael Lapisky, chief of the Division of Fish and Wildlife, says his agency is trying to resolve the access dispute in Westerly's Weekapaug neighborhood by getting landowners to negotiate and compromise. One of those owners is the Rhode Island Mobile Sportsmen, a club that has a piece of property near the state land.

Several members of the group attended the hearing Tuesday and testified against the proposed parking ban.

One of those members, Don Morris, has been fishing on the western side of the Breachway for 47 years. "Essentially, you're closing pubic access to that Breachway," he told Lapisky, "because you agree with the [Quonochontaug Beach Conservation Commission, a group of property owners] that that is private property and no one is allowed to trespass across it....

"You have stated that your goal is to allow public access to the waters of the state. How can you close access to the water that's been in use for a long time?"

James Milardo, president of Rhode Island Mobile Sportsmen, another landowner on the road, testified against the proposed parking ban. However, he and the club's lawyer, R. Daniel Prentiss, said they would negotiate with other landowners toward a compromise, rather than go to court.

Anyone who has information about the nail traps should call the Rhode Island Environmental Police at (401) 222-3070.

Small boy, big fish

The catch of the week had to be Matthew Jarbeau's 46.3-pound striper at Block Island last Sunday. His father, Kevin Jarbeau, explains: "He is 11 years old and a seasoned fisherman. His previous best was 38 pounds. I myself have never broken 40. The fish took an eel. It was weighed at Snug Harbor Marina."

A photo of father and son is on HotBytes at www.projo.com.

Easing gas pains

As power-boating becomes more expensive, Boat U.S. spokesman Mike Walker offers advice about saving fuel. Here are a few of his tips:

"Leave the extra 'junk' home: Don't load the boat up with weight you don't need. Do a little spring cleaning -- unused equipment that has been collecting mildew in the bottom of lockers for years should be taken home.

"Water weight: At 8.33 pounds per gallon, why keep the water in the tank topped off if you're only going out for the afternoon?

"Tune her up: An engine tune-up is an excellent investment and should easily pay for itself over the summer.

"Tune your prop: If your boat goes 30 mph with a like-new prop and only 27 mph with a prop that's dinged and out of pitch, that's a 10-percent loss in fuel economy, or, you're wasting one out of every ten gallons you put in your tank.

"Paint the boat's bottom: When boating in salt or brackish waters a fouled bottom is like a dull knife. It takes a lot more fuel to push your boat through the water.

"Keep the boat in trim: Using trim tabs or distributing weight evenly will help move your boat through the water with less effort - - and less fuel.

"Install a fuel-flow meter: A fuel-flow meter is like a heart monitor; when consumption starts to rise, it's an early warning that something is amiss. A fuel-flow meter also allows you to select a comfortable cruising speed that optimizes the amount of fuel being consumed."

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