Early on Wednesday morning, Sidney called me from the charter school asking if I knew what had gone on last night while we were asleep. A car had driven off the Chappaquiddick ferry around 11 p.m. He had heard it from Claudia Ewing at the front desk, who’s married to Steve, who pulled the car out of the slip with his tow boat sometime after midnight.

The three people in the car escaped. The quick response of Brad Fligor (captain at the time), who called 911 immediately and helped haul the people out of the water onto the ferry, kept a bad situation from being worse. A huge number of firefighters, police, emergency medical technicians, divers and others arrived and stayed on the scene for more than three hours in the bitter cold until the car was successfully hauled out. This was a huge undertaking because of the current in the channel and weight of the car full of water. New ferry owner Peter Wells noted that, as happens in this kind of situation, “it brought out the best in people.”

Peter spent much of last weekend on the ferry handing out the first issue of his Chappaquiddick ferry newsletter. He plans to put out issues regularly to keep people informed about ferry matters. He feels communication is an important aspect of his service, and he’s been spending lots of time upgrading the ferry Web site:

There’s a new island off Chappaquiddick, unless it’s washed away by the time you’re reading this. The island is a section of Norton Point that has been separated from the Chappy side by another breach that looks as if it’s here to stay — as long as any of that stretch of sand stays, which doesn’t look like long. The island is completely flat with no dunes left, as a result of being washed over by the ocean. It’s hard to believe anyone was driving across there to town less than a year ago.

At the other end of the island are some man-made changes to the landscape. The land bank has cut back a patch of invasive species at the end of the Gardner property across from the beach club and along the road, and also around the little land bank parking area where the board walk leads to the beach. They cut down bittersweet, Russian olive and phragmites, and now there is a new view to the harbor as you drive to the ferry. They plan to continue cutting the area, as the invasives are quick to retaliate with more vines and stalks.

The land bank didn’t cut down the few bushes of European spindle tree that I’ve been watching for a couple of years to check on their progress as an invasive species. On one Web site I looked at, they are listed as a possible “noxious weed or invasive.” They are part of the same family as bittersweet and have interestingly shaped red seed cases in the fall.

Dave Belcher of The Trustees of Reservations has been here for a while working, and Cathy is due to arrive on April 2 from Florida. They plan to pack up their belongings, including the cats, and drive back to Florida on April 12. Dave will come back to work here until May and then make the permanent move to their house in Ponce Inlet, south of Daytona Beach. He plans to take the summer off and then look for part-time work in the fall. He says, “It’ll be nice to be the guy in the beach chair.”

A new pet-sitting business is starting up on Chappy. Gabrielle McElhinney Wilbur, age seven, and her mother Shelley Wilbur will be available to care for your pet. You can reach them at 508-627-8524

The next potluck at the community center will be on Wednesday, April 2 at 6 p.m. for appetizers and 6:30 for dinner. Donna Kelly will be hosting; all are welcome.

Joan Adibi wrote an article about recycling on the island for the next issue of the Chappaquiddick Island Association newsletter. She says right now most year-round residents take their trash to the dump and do their own separating into glass, tin, plastics, newspaper, cardboard and garden recyclables. Most summer residents pay $22 to $25 a week for either BFI or Bizzarro to pick up their trash.

According to the article, Edgartown’s percentages of recycled materials to total trash disposed of has been in the range of 24 to 30 per cent. By contrast, Nantucket’s ranges from 54 to 63 per cent. Nantucket uses clear plastic bags to ensure that no recycled materials are mixed in with the trash — and they do their own composting. 

As Joan points out, we already have a model of community participation with the hazardous waste collections that Terry Forde organizes on Chappy, and asks, “Can we pull together as an island to ensure that Chappy is more green, more sustainable?”

Community recycling bins have been proposed, as well as organizing to support a commercial trash hauler who commits to recycling, possibly with a separate truck. Joan would like people to share their other ideas and suggestions for how to proceed by e-mailing her at

Tomorrow, Saturday, March 29, is Electronic Disposal Day from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services on the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, a benefit for the agency. You can dispose of unwanted electronics (cell phones to refrigerators) for a small, tax-deductible fee. A limited number of pickups are available by calling 508-693-7900, extension 267.

In other sustainability news, Saturday is designated Lights Out Martha’s Vineyard, part of an hour-long world-wide event. Light some candles and turn out your lights between 8 and 9 p.m. to join other Vineyarders in raising awareness about energy conservation, or bring your flashlights to Felix Neck Wildlife Center at 7:30 p.m. for a night walk.