RETHINKING THE BOATHOUSE
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
The following letter was sent to the Chilmark selectmen:
I keep reading over the articles in the Gazette and the Times and wondering if everyone involved with the Coast Guard boathouse is missing the point altogether. We the citizens, the selectmen, the Coast Guard, and the people in Washington who control the flow of our tax dollars, should be asking what is best for the harbor.
I was as sorry as anyone to see the boathouse burn down; it was an iconic and lovely building like so many of the boathouses along the coast. But, and it is a big but, it stopped being used as a boathouse in the 1950s because the Coast Guard stopped using wooden motor lifeboats that needed to be pulled out of the water between uses. For the past half century, the Menemsha boathouse has been used like most garages to hold little-used junk and supply a place to work and play for the crew at the station — useful, but not necessary, and certainly not in the right place. Such a structure should be next to the station, not on a dock over the harbor subject to storm flooding.
I think the Coast Guard is great and I am very glad they have kept a station in Menemsha, but that does not mean I embrace every decision they make. Their decision-making process is influenced by politics, economics and many other factors.
Several years back the Coast Guard installed a large underground fuel tank next to the boathouse, not because they needed it and not because it made sense to sink a tank below the high tide level but because the Coast Guard needed to spend funds in their budget before the end of that fiscal year. It was a dumb decision and I do not think the thing ever worked.
Last year the Coast Guard, post fire, rebuilt the entire length of the dock in order to again connect their lot with the floating dock in the middle of the harbor instead of just moving the float closer to the shore where it should be. The town and the Coast Guard were both in a hurry to make things right but not a lot of common sense went into that decision; no one asked what would be best for the harbor.
The answer to the Coast Guard plans to rebuild the boathouse (plans inspired in large part by a mistaken idea that if the harbor looks like it did, all will be well) should be a loud “no thank you.”
Perhaps a couple of well-planned parking spots, but no more than that.
While you are at it, consider asking the Coast Guard to move the floating dock alongside the fixed pier so the town can replace the third mooring that was removed when the float went in.
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
There has been a lot of press recently about delinquent accounts and termination of a basic necessity of life, water to our homes. I have tried my best to conserve water, running full loads of laundry and dishes, letting my lawn go brown in the summer, flushing and showering as necessary and not needlessly. My meter reading for six months was 8,000 gallons. I’m told the commissioners voted to bill semi-annually at $210 for residential, which includes 20,000 gallons (40,000 gallons for the year). I would like to pay for the 8,000 gallons I used, and not for the 12,000 gallons I didn’t. If I have to pay for 20,000 gallons every six months, I may just water my lawn every day, wash my car frequently, someday maybe even install a pool. Economic times are tough these days; it doesn’t sit well with me to pay for what I do not use.
IN EVERY STEP
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
Oct. 7 was the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the war in Afghanistan. Many organizations have activities all month throughout the U.S. and in other countries, including, notably, Veterans for Peace, an official NGO represented at the United Nations whose members are U.S. veterans of the Spanish Civil War, World War II, Korea, Viet Nam, the Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other less well known U.S. wars.
In the same spirit, on Thursday a few members of the Martha’s Vineyard Peace Council stood at Five Corners with signs suggesting how passers-by could also do something to foster peace. The signs say things like “Want troops home now? Tell Congress”, “War is obsolete, Tell Congress”, “War is (still) not the answer”, “Pray for peace, act for peace” and “Have you made peace today?” Some signs provide the Web site of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (fcnl.org) as a source for phone numbers and e-mail addresses of senators and members of congress. (FCNL is a Quaker organization. Members of the peace and social concerns committee of our Quaker Meeting here on the Island are also members of the Peace Council.)
We few standing at Five Corners seemed to be preaching to the choir. Responses of Vineyarders and visitors alike were overwhelmingly positive. The critical comments were few. One passer-by thought it was illegal for us to be on post office property. (He was wrong. Signs, leaflets, etc. are fine, as long as we don’t block the town sidewalk or passage in and out of the post office. Objects that stand on or are fixed to the ground aren’t legal — objects like the 25-foot rat or like the military boots representing Massachusetts casualties.) One person thought that by advocating peace we were somehow protesting the commemoration of 9/11, and another thought that we should support the troops. We do support them, we want them home physically and psychologically intact, with civilian jobs and college support like the GI Bill. A young couple in their car laughingly declared that war isn’t obsolete, duh — apparently thinking that obsolete means extinct. I’m typing this on an obsolete computer. We no longer burn whale oil, but obsolete technology to burn up petroleum is very much with us, too much trouble and expense to replace, we are told, even as oil reserves run out, and the costs increase, and the wars to control what’s left go on and on.
Why is war obsolete? It doesn’t work. It’s too uncontrollable, with unpredictable results. It costs too much, we can’t afford it. It brings prosperity to a very few at dire cost to vastly many. It destroys what it touches and produces nothing — “nation-building” is an entirely different enterprise, best done without war. It can’t even satisfy the craving for retribution that some feel — those who attacked us are dead, but no one feels that the scales of justice are somehow balanced. War does not bring peace, it multiplies enemies. And such enemies! To snatch some scrap of meaning for their lives, young men and women and children, uneducated, facing a life of hunger and ill health, despairing of their bleak future, are persuaded by cynical manipulators to make bombs of their bodies. No, this is not General Sherman’s kind of war, not even when he burned Atlanta, but it is still hell. And our billions in weaponry (more than the rest of the world combined) is designed for wars of the past. Obsolete. Still all too much with us, but obsolete. Even today, 20 years after the end of the Cold War with its Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine, there are 26,000 nuclear weapons in the world, 95 per cent of them in the U.S. and Russia. Who can we possibly be thinking of aiming them at? Detonation of a small percentage of them would make the human species not obsolete, but extinct.
In September 2001, 3,000 people died horribly in the free-fall collapse of the World Trade Center towers. We will never forget them. On that same day, 35,000 children died of hunger, and again 35,000 more children died of hunger on Sept. 12, 35,000 more on Sept. 13, and every other day since. Shall we forget them? In October 2001, our government agreed to pay Lockheed $200 billion to build the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, just part of the military budget. According to U.N. studies, one fifth of that, $40 billion, would provide clean water for everyone on earth, reproductive health services for all women worldwide, provide everyone on the planet enough food to eat, basic health care and basic education. Hunger and despair can make anyone crazy. People who see themselves and their children and the people of their community healthy, fed, and educated do not make bombs of themselves.
Conflict just happens. All we need is thoughtlessness, and inevitably purposes cross. We know how to resolve conflict, we do it all the time. Even at Five Corners, traffic flows pretty smoothly. But we have to pay attention. It doesn’t just happen. Peace must be made. And remade. It’s like housework or home repairs, you only notice when it’s not done. But if you don’t do it, it’s not a nice place to live anymore.
What to do? Tell Congress: War is obsolete. And make peace wherever you can, with whomever you can. Start small, with your family, with your neighbor. Our elected legislators don’t seem to know how to do it. We have to show them, and tell them. Peace: like love, like bread, you gotta make it fresh. Let’s get on with it.
Our thanks and appreciation to Ann Hawksbee of Edgartown, also an employee of the Stop and Shop there, for her refreshing honesty.
On or about August 25, an extremely busy day for shoppers before a predicted hurricane, Mrs. Hawksbee’s car scratched my parked car. She paged my name in the store and stayed with the vehicle until I appeared, to alert me to the incident and to take responsibility.
I was touched by her sense of responsibility. It’s good to know that this high-caliber character works in the public and contributes to the sense of order in a community which is sometimes overwhelmed in summertime.
Paul and Jackee Ronan
MONEY WELL SPENT
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
Charles Kernick’s letter (Gazette, Oct. 7) suggests that $120 was better spent on lobsters, a book and some gasoline rather than on tuition for the Polly Hill Arboretum’s recent workshop on aster identification.
Mr. Kernick missed an excellent course. I would have considered the workshop a good value at three times the price. My 10 fellow students and I got 12 hours of classroom instruction and in-the-field guidance by a botanist of national reputation who came from Maine to lead the two-day course.
The aster workshop offered Vineyarders the chance to expand our knowledge of the Island’s unique environment. The attendees were not just weekend duffers like me. Professional staff members of the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, The Nature Conservancy and the Land Bank were also at the workshop honing their abilities to distinguish rough asters from smooth asters and New England asters from New York asters.
The arboretum deserves our thanks for offering such an unusual educational opportunity. I fear that the small fee didn’t even cover the arboretum’s costs.
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second-class citizens. Yet, in the mad rush to implement green energy policies, the state of Massachusetts is creating a second-class group of citizens through the poor siting of commercial wind turbines.
This is what happened in Mattapoisett as a result of the attempt to site a commercial wind turbine 650 feet from residential homes.
In 2004, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC), the quasi-public agency tasked with encouraging renewable energy technologies in the state of Massachusetts, gambled $5.28 million in public funds to purchase two new (at the time) Vestas V82 — 1.65-megawatt wind turbines. The collaborative’s plan was to sell the towers to municipalities in an effort to jump-start local public renewable projects.
Orleans was first approached but decided not to proceed with a project. With the turbines warehoused in Texas at a cost of $3,500 a month, MTC’s next stop was Mattapoisett. By this time, 2007, the warranty on the towers had expired and project was becoming politically embarrassing. MTC officials set out to persuade Mattapoisett to buy and build the unused turbines on 35 acres of town-owned land. They hired University of Massachusetts engineering students to prepare a report titled Wind Power in Mattapoisett, Marion and Rochester: Siting Considerations for a Met Tower and Fatal Flaws Analysis for a Wind Turbine. The 23- page document was filled with significant, fatal errors regarding project siting. For example: the report claimed there were no locations in the project area that were designated by Audubon Society as Important Bird Areas. The fact is that Ram Island in Mattapoisett, located less than three quarters of a mile from the proposed turbine site, is the chief nesting area of all the roseate terns in North America. The report failed to identify the substantial wetland areas in the area where the turbines would be built. It also assumed a town-owned right of way to the property where none existed. Our group in Mattapoisett, Concerned Citizens for Responsible Wind Power, was forced to hire experts at our own expense to counter the misinformation in the report.
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation was complicit in the process. Working with the MTC-Renewable Energy Trust Fund, the DCR issued a permit on Jan. 16, 2007, for a meteorological tower at Naskatucket Bay State Reservation. The DCR skirted the land use amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution by telling local residents the state-owned land and park was being used for educational purposes. The Naskatucket Bay State Reservation is immediately adjacent to the 35-acres commercial wind site in Mattapoisett.
The turbines proved a costly, divisive fight in Mattapoisett. Today, Mattapoisett is turbine free, but the town of Falmouth did not fare as well. Those same two turbines are now sited in Falmouth, less than 800 feet from residences. For over a year more than 50 Falmouth residents have complained about regulatory noise and human annoyance noise. Our fellow Massachusetts citizens now suffer from the noise and shadow flicker of the turbines.
The MTC, which now operates as part of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, takes renewable energy taxes from our electric bills and develops sloppy, poorly-defined turbine project proposals. And we are forced to pay again to protect our homes from their incompetence. The wind turbine fray is sparking class warfare. Time after time one section of town, usually the blue collar section, has been selected to lose their property rights for a perceived “good” of all the others in town. Even today, years later, negative and bitter feelings still exist between residents in Mattapoisett over the wind turbine. We feel bewildered and betrayed by our own government, which is maliciously trying to steal our land through the poor siting of commercial wind turbines. We have lost our democratic rights and have become second-class citizens, facing the theft of our land through regulation.
The siting of turbines to close to residential homes is making people sick and the turbines have been sited too close to schools.
The writer is a member of Concerned Citizens for Responsible Wind Power in Mattapoisett.
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
The Tisbury School celebrated its annual harvest festival last Sunday. A beautiful sunny day was the perfect setting to enjoy the fall festivities, which have become a tradition at our school for the past eight years. As always, this fun-filled family event hosted by the PTO is free of charge. This would not be possible without the generous support of so many in the Island community.
We appreciate and thank everyone who helped from teachers to community members to the school administrative team and their constant support of our community outreach programs and events.
The writer is harvest festival coordinator for the Tisbury School PTO.
GREAT HOSPITAL STAY
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
Our father/husband/grandfather was transferred to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital in late August for what would turn out to be two hospitalizations. He had been a patient at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston for three weeks and we were not sure what we would find at the tiny Island hospital. What we found was a beautiful, well-kept facility staffed by a wonderful team of health care professionals. The nursing staff, from the round-the-clock registered nurses to the delightful summer nursing students/aides, was timely, respectful, skilled and compassionate. The therapy staff, who spent hours with our family member, was demanding yet caring as they pushed and prodded to help the recovery process.
The food and nutrition staff at MVH were truly over and above as they served beautifully presented, tasteful and hot meals to our rather picky family member. In addition, they graciously had meals ready and available to other members of our family who were regularly present at mealtimes.
Lastly, the police and ambulance staff at both the Oak Bluffs and Tisbury EMS services need a commendation as well, as they were caring, professional and respectful in transporting our family member in need.
Whether you are a visitor or a resident of this beautiful Island, there is, in the John M. Wilbur Jr. family’s opinion, an additional reason to be grateful and that is for the quality of health care we have on this glorious Island in the sea.
Grand Junction, Colo.
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
This past weekend was the second annual Martha’s Vineyard Yoga Festival. We are grateful to the Martha’s Vineyard yoga community and the Island community at large.
We would not have been able to do any of this without the generosity and support of Sarah and Bob Nixon, owners of the Beach Plum Inn, which hosted the festival and housed the off-Island teachers. Whether it be a film that champions the health of our planet’s oceans, their support of the MV YMCA, hosting the Salt Water Challenge or a wedding at the Beach Plum Inn, sharing their homes with the visiting yoga teachers or making sure a meal at the Home Port is just so, they are profoundly invested in others’ happiness and well-being.
Buddhists place great importance on generosity and have many words for it. But our favorite is caga, which means, “a heart bent on giving.” And we cannot think of two people’s hearts who this word describes more than Bob and Sarah Nixon. Thank you both so much.
The weekend included 23 yoga classes, expert talks with a wide variety of holistic and alternative practitioners, a trunk show with yoga clothing, a kirtan with the Shala ladies and amazing food cooked by Robin Forte at the Beach Plum Inn.
Needless to say, dozens of people helped make this happen, and we thank them all, including the volunteers and Island yoga teachers who led classes.
And of course, thank you to all who attended. Your support made it a festival.
Kathy Bega and Mollie Doyle