In what promises to be an interesting and perhaps emotional doubleheader, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission on Thursday will review both a plan to expand the baseball park at Veira Park in Oak Bluffs and another to designate five ancient pathways in Edgartown into a special protection zone that might limit their use and future development.
To accommodate what is expected to be a capacity crowd, the commission last week agreed to move the meeting to the Oak Bluffs senior center at 21 Wamsutta avenue. The hearing to protect the five Edgartown roadways is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.; the hearing to expand the baseball facilities at Veira Park is at 8:45 p.m.
The Edgartown planning board earlier this summer unanimously voted to nominate the five ancient ways for inclusion into the town’s existing special ways district, which falls under the regulatory umbrella of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission Island Road District of Critical Planning Concern (DCPC).
The Island Road district was established in 1975 and was one of three original Island wide DCPCs nominated and designated by the early commissioners.
Last month, the commission unanimously agreed to nominate the five ancient ways in Edgartown for inclusion into the special ways district, citing a need to preserve a valuable link to the Island’s past.
The term ancient ways is used to describe roads that date back to colonial times that have not evolved to accommodate modern, daily use of motor vehicles as so many of the other roads driven daily. They experience very little, if any, motor vehicle traffic but usually are used by walkers, equestrians, and bicyclists.
The pathways nominated for protection include stretches of Ben Tom’s Road, Pennywise Path, Middle Line Path, Tar Kiln Road and Watcha Path. Each date back to the 1600s and 1700s, and are believed to have been used as cart paths of that era.
In recent weeks, the commission has received letters both for and against the designation of the ancient ways.
A letter from the Edgartown Meadows Road Association urges the commission to act quickly to protect the roadways from development.
But an eight-page letter in opposition to the plan from Benjamin L. Hall Jr. — an Island attorney whose family owns land off Ben Tom’s Road — argues that the designation of the roads would create legal problems and deny his family their rights to develop their property.
The proposal to expand the baseball facilities at Veira Park has also proven to be divisive, but on a larger scale. Many of the neighbors around the park have raised concerns over noise, traffic and safety. Proponents of the expanded baseball park have argued that the improved park will provide young athletes with a safer, vastly improved and more aesthetically pleasing place to play their games.
Plans call for building a second baseball diamond, adding new seating for fans, and adding an unpaved parking area off the road with a picnic and play area. As of last week, the commission had received a total of 18 letters in opposition to the expansion of the baseball park, and 10 in favor.
The latest staff report from the commission says that a traffic mitigation study has found the crash history of the area does not indicate a problem; but adds low-cost safety measure that might improve traffic flow and enhance safety. Those would include installing a stop sign and stop bar at the South Circuit avenue approach to Wing Road, a crosswalk to provide pedestrians with guidance crossing and to alert drivers and a clearly designated drop off/pick up area to reduce the potential for player/vehicle conflicts.
The same report finds that the lack of traffic control devices in the area provides a setting for vehicle conflicts and potential collisions.