The MWRA is moving forward with its plans for a new fishing pier and a 20-space parking lot on Deer Island, despite the protest signs along Tafts Avenue and a petition calling for no pier.
Monday morning, the MWRA hosted a meeting of law enforcement officials at the site of the proposed pier to discuss security.
State Police, Environmental Police, Winthrop Police and Fire departments attended as did Town Council President Ron Vecchia who was also joined by MWRA head Fred Laskey, Deer Island Chief of Operations Dave Duest, and Deer Island Deputy Chief John Vetere.
“We are moving forward with a fishing pier funded by the revenue from the saltwater fishing licenses,” Laskey said.
The group walked to the area for the new pier and the area for the new parking lot.
Laskey said original plans for the parking lot had 40 spaces, but due to the community opposition only 20 spaces are planned.
“We had wanted to put in 40 spots to take some of the cars from parking on the street,” Laskey said, adding new security measures are also planned including blue call boxes, more cameras and increased patrols by the private security company used by the MWRA.
The project, under the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, on Boston land, could be started within four months and be completed in a year.
The idea for the pier first was discussed in 2015 at a MWRA community meeting.
“The room was full of people and it was unanimous in going forward for the grant and the funding. Over time, there have been certain modifications and a question of security here,” Laskey said. “And allegations that this is a place where gangs come and all of that stuff. So over time we have added more security to the project.”
Laskey cited the change in town government as bringing new individuals and concerns about the project.
“We’ve been getting some push back. There’s a councilor who is adamantly opposed,” he said.
Laskey said police logs for the last four to five years for Winthrop and the State Police show minimal crime such as calls for people locked out of cars, a dog bite, and similar calls.
“Myself and (Fire) Chief Flanagan walk Deer Island together at least three times a week,” Delehanty said. “We have seen little bonfires but there is no (gang) signaling going on back and forth.”
The gang reference comes from a recent trial of an alleged MS-13 gang member. During the trial it was stated that a murder weapon had been buried on Deer Island.
Delehanty urged people to call the police department anytime if they see something out of the norm. Delehanty said comments have been made about immigrants.
“I’m not here to enforce immigration law or from keeping the illegals from fishing,” Delehanty said, adding that all the police agencies involved do work with each other. “We’re not going to be used to monitor or enforce immigration law.”
Laskey said he wants to leave the fishermen alone. He noted that for many, fishing is a family affair and daylong activity. He added that Deer Island is so popular for fishing that it’s listed weekly in the Boston Globe as a great place to fish. Regular MBTA bus access also is utilized by some of the fishermen.
“And remember the fishermen fish with the tide so they are not here every night,” Laskey said.
The MWRA will hold a public forum about the project at Winthrop High School on June 28 starting at 7 p.m.