Chappy Path

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I write in response to the editorial in the August 11 issue of the Vineyard Gazette as well the two follow-up letters that were printed in the August 14 edition.

It is unclear to me why Chappaquiddick, which is a neighborhood of Edgartown, should be asked to come to a consensus on our own. I question the notion that because the Chappy people are “independent and self-sufficient,” that we should be capable of arriving at such a consensus. This is an issue that has divided people for more than 30 years and I think both sides would agree that mediation is unlikely to bring about consensus. Paying town taxes and electing town officials makes Chappy as much a part of Edgartown as any other neighborhood and it seemed logical for the Chappy Path Committee to enlist the town’s infrastructure to help move this issue into the public domain and follow an established political process.

The follow-up letters to the editorial had misinformation that I feel must be corrected. First, our committee was formed in July of 2008. We sent out a brief e-mail survey to approximately 380 people on August 13, 2008. The goal of the survey was to gauge whether there was enough community support for our committee to continue working toward our goal. We opted for an e-mail survey as opposed to a summer meeting because we believed we would get a higher response rate (since not everybody is here at the same time). Seventy per cent of more than 200 respondents favored the concept of a bicycling/walking path and this seemed like more than enough to move forward. All of this occurred in the summer of 2008.

In the fall of 2008, the plan taken to town officials was an application to the Community Preservation Committee. The proposal requested funds for an engineering design study of a mixed-use pedestrian/bicycle path and for construction of a demonstration section of the path on the Gardner property. Faced with a litany of reasons of why it was impossible to put a path on Chappy (telephone poles, wetlands, etc.), we believed that having a current survey of the road would give us an accurate picture of the road and enable us to discuss what was and was not possible. The rationale behind applying for funds for the demonstration path was to show people that there is a way to make a path fit with the rural character of the island. We agree with our opponents that it would be nice to avoid adding more paved surfaces if possible and have supported the idea of a hard packed surface.

As for the computer survey‚ I am curious as to when this was sent out and what the questions were. My name is on a list of people in favor, but I don’t recall filling out a survey or submitting my name to the Web site. When scanning the lists (against and in favor), I notice that there are duplicate names on the against side, as well as numerous people (some from our committee) missing from the in favor side. The point is that it is challenging to get accurate survey results and this is all the more reason to bring the issue before the town for a fair and public vote.

As for the debate over two-way paths versus bike lanes, I cannot cite statistics or quote from the reports. Our committee made a conscientious and wholehearted attempt to demonstrate how a multi-use path could be designed on Chappy. Less pavement and maintaining the rural character of the island (concerns of our opponents), as well as separating cars from bikers and walkers were main factors in opting for a two-way path along one side of the road. However, we are not the experts and this may not be the only solution. We would be more than happy to enlist the support of experts to design a smart solution that enables bikers, walkers and automobile drivers to travel safely from the ferry to East Beach. The current situation is unsafe and it is only a matter of time before there is an accident. The problem has clearly been identified, evaluated and it is time for a solution.

Melissa Kagan


Plea: No Bike Path

Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The following letter was sent August 11 to the Edgartown selectmen:

I write this letter with a heavy heart in opposition to the proposal for funding of paved Chappaquiddick bike paths. Heavy because I strongly suspect that this project is already a “done deal,” and no amount of importuning from the many, many opponents will change your vote on the matter. Commercial interests and those wishing to “modernize” Chappaquiddick have reportedly won over the board of selectmen, and the voices of those who love Chappaquiddick as the unique and special place it is will be ignored.

Your vote purports to be about a seemingly innocent proposal to build a little bike path adjacent to the road on Chappaquiddick. The reality, however, is quite different. That’s not the real the issue, and that’s not what is behind the sincere and passionate opposition to the project. What is really at stake here is nothing less than the future of Chappaquiddick; whether it will remain the bucolic, quiet, peaceful, gentle place it has always been, or whether the forces of development will ultimately pave and widen the roads, bring hundreds of bike tourists to the island on a daily basis, affect the pace and civility that now exists on the island and along its single macadam road, create the opportunity for commercial services (portable toilets, ice cream and soda stands, etc.), cause even more congestion and longer lines on the over-extended ferry, and generally change the delicate fabric of this little island that is so unusual in this age of fast cars and fast money.

“If you build it they will come.” That, of course, is the classic line from the 1989 film Field of Dreams, and it is as true of paved bike paths on Chappquiddick as it was of the fictional baseball field in Iowa. Paved bike paths are magnets. They draw bicyclists like bees to honey. Hundreds of high-speed bikers competing with walkers and skate boarders for space on bike paths do not improve safety. (This was borne out to me again just last week when I biked from Edgartown to Oak Bluffs and was nearly hit on the bike path by a speedster coming in my direction.) As I’m sure you know, there has never been a collision between a car and a bicyclist on Chappy’s roads.

Laying an asphalt bike path on Chappaquiddick will, in a single stroke, destroy the rural pace of life that makes our little island so different in this frenetic day and age, and so wonderful. I plead with you — without any real hope that you will listen — not to approve this project.

Timothy Leland

Chappaquiddick and Boston