Chain Saws and Shattered Faith

The trees — some of them large old oaks — have been cut down and they cannot be put back. But shame on the members of the Benjamin Hall family for their blatant, ridiculous and childish act of aggression on Middle Line and Watcha Paths over the past weekend. Seven days before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission was due to vote on a plan to place five Edgartown ancient ways under special protection, the Halls hired a company to fell trees along two of the five old byways. Horrified neighbors spent the entire weekend on the telephone to town officials, including the Edgartown selectmen; one neighbor recorded the environmental destruction with his camera.

The Halls, who want to preserve their right to develop property off Ben Tom’s Way, one of the paths designated for special protection, have cried foul in recent weeks about the protection plan, which is accompanied by a building moratorium. The Halls claim that they have been unfairly singled out and vilified in the press. They say that their intentions are widely misunderstood.

But there is no longer any misunderstanding. The Halls have placed their own personal interests ahead of the interests of the town and their neighbors, and their actions last weekend speak louder than any words.

The town has obtained a restraining order in court. The neighbors have intervened on the side of the town.

And last night the Martha’s Vineyard Commission took its vote, agreeing to add the five ancient ways to the special places district of critical planning concern and extending for one year a moratorium on any development on the paths.

So the paths will be protected, as they should be. And the Halls, who hopefully will now put away their chain saws, owe the town and the neighbors a sincere apology for their needless act of destruction.