, Newburyport, MA


May 20, 2013

A 'welcome' sign on Plum Island

To the editor:

Just back from a walk on Plum Island Beach, I want everyone to know about the delightful signs that now line the half-mile from the center to the reserve.

Though they are metal and of a shape, size and font that make them look like town or state signs, the red and white color scheme is a most attractive presentation.

And what says “Hello Neighbor” or “Welcome Visitor” better than No Trespassing?

A little blue might have added to the subtle patriotic message conveyed by Private Property, but times are tight and the property owners who paid for all the rocks and boulders and sand, scraped and mined, needed to cut costs somewhere.

Oh, silly me! I forgot that the ocean provides the blue, which reaches the signs at high tide, turning each of them into a visual echo of the equally joyous Welcome to Plum Island sign along the turnpike.

And what could be more welcoming than Violators Will Be Prosecuted?

Still, there’s a problem with the signs: The Atlantic Ocean cannot read English!

Basic American law is that nothing up to the high water mark can be privately owned, and the ocean — not any zoning board, real estate agency or member of the Property-Rights-R-Us crowd — decides where that is.

To solve this, I hereby volunteer to translate those signs into Oceanese, which I have taught here at Plum Island Special School since I gained my certificate from Water Bong Community College back in the mid- or late 60s, whichever came first.

Just trying to be helpful — while preventing any cod or clam from trespassing on what is now, in effect, a private beach.

Jack Garvey

Plum Island

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