Two Ponds Share Common Theme

The images linger in the mind long after they first are glimpsed: the tranquil surface of Mill Pond at the entrance of West Tisbury, the dancing waters of Menemsha Pond a short distance away from narrow Menemsha harbor and the open expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.

But for all of their evocative imagery, the sights and sounds that touch the emotions of the people who experience them, the manmade Mill Pond and salty Menemsha Pond are shifting, evolving systems of biology and geology. Under their respective surfaces, the ponds evolve according to their own agenda.

Mill Pond, given to West Tisbury three generations ago by Donald R. Campbell, has been a steady source of headaches as well as pleasure. Selectman Dianne Powers observes that the manmade pond does what comes most naturally: it fills in. Mud builds up on the bottom. Freshwater grasses grow. Algae steadily and surely spreads across the surface of the pond.

Man, having made the pond, must intervene to preserve it. But environmental rules have grown more complex and restrictive since Manuel Silva spent less than one thousand dollars six decades ago to chain drag the pond. These days, the town is looking at a bill of fifty thousand dollars to clean the little pond.

Menemsha Pond, a natural body of water, also has been evolving into a more troubled state. Hollis Smith, who just received permission from the Aquinnah selectmen to begin a mussel farm there, notes that the pond has not been dredged since nineteen seventy one, and effectively has been dying for the past two decades.

While inadvertent or thoughtless actions and lack of attention by people has caused the problems at these and other Vineyard ponds, the same people also possess the intelligence, will and wherewithal to craft more enduring solutions to healthier ponds.

Mill Pond looms sufficiently large to the people of West Tisbury to merit extraordinary action: perhaps through the application of Community Preservation Act funding, the formation of a nonprofit group to pursue the pond’s enduring survival or both.

The plight of Menemsha Pond, meanwhile, has attracted the attention of the Aquinnah and Chilmark selectmen. A combined town effort likely would invite the interest of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), which in turn could bring the ample resources of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to bear on dredging the pond.

Laissez faire no longer will suffice for the ponds that grace the Vineyard. The need is clear for Islanders to take assertive yet sensitive steps to preserve and protect them.