A final August vacation on Marthas Vineyard for a sitting president. An Island grappling with its own version of the heroin crisis. A tragic accident on a summer roadway revives an old debate over mopeds. A new ferry makes her grand debut. Two historians of presidential history speak out during an unprecedented election. A community rallies around the family of a young fisherman lost at sea.

These were a few of the headlines and major stories that engaged readers of the Vineyard Gazette in print and online in 2016. As the year draws to close, we take a look back at 10 top stories.

1. Final Vineyard Visit for President Obama

President Obama on the green at Mink Meadows. — Allen Green

President Obama and his family spent a 15-day summer vacation on the Island, the seventh and final trip during the Obama presidency.

The August vacation was quiet and low-key, with the President playing many rounds of golf and the family enjoying evenings out at restaurants, trips to a south shore beach, time at their rental home in Chilmark, and a visit to the annual Oak Bluffs fireworks show.



2. Accident on Barnes Road Renews Debate over Moped Rentals

Mopeds became subject of renewed debate after serious accident. — Timothy Johnson


Two young New Hampshire women sustained serious injuries in a July 30 moped accident Barnes Road. A 19-year-old college lacrosse player lost part of her leg in the accident, when the moped she was operating hit a dump truck. Her passenger, also 19, was injured less seriously.

The accident sparked renewed efforts to more strictly regulate or even outlaw mopeds. Selectmen in Oak Bluffs, where most moped rentals take place, pledged to take a closer look at moped bylaws. The largest moped dealer in town voluntarily retired its license.


3. Island Grapples with Heroin Crisis

Law enforcement, activists, recovering addicts, and others gathered in June for panel discussion about heroin addiction. — Mark Lovewell


Throughout the year the Vineyard community worked at addressing the ongoing heroin crisis and rise in drug overdoses. From an HBO documentary that looked at the heroin crisis on Cape Cod to a community forum that brought stakeholders together to discuss strategy and creating better networks, the issue remained at the forefront of concern among Islanders. The Vineyard hospital reports that on average someone arrives at the emergency room once a week in crisis with an opioid overdose. Often people are saved using the overdose-reversal drug naloxone.

Amid alarming statistics and community efforts, families and loved ones of those struggling with addiction are on the front lines. The family of Carter Berardi, who died in 2014 at age 23, told their story this year to the Gazette to keep his memory alive and help shatter stigmas surrounding addiction.


4. Film Festival’s Bid to Buy Property in West Tisbury Causes Flap


In May the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival announced plans to buy 12.5 acres off Old County Road in West Tisbury to develop a permanent home for the nonprofit organization. The news quickly drew strong public backlash as neighbors and town officials expressed concerns about what the development would mean for the rural residential neighborhood. The film festival later took ownership of the property but announced it would resell as quickly as possible. 


5. Concern over Lack of Affordable Housing Takes Center Stage


Affordable housing, a perennial issue on the Island, took center stage as efforts to address the issue continued. The all-Island planning board launched an initiative to create hundreds of affordable housing units over the next 10 years. In the fall, a series of workshops began in every Island town to discuss a roadmap to achieving affordable housing goals. Experts noted that there are considerable roadblocks to affordable housing for the Vineyard and other seasonal communities, which have low wages, expensive second-homes, and a seasonal economy.


6. Growing Threat of Tick-borne Illness Spurs New Actions

Concerns about Lyme disease lead to discussion about culling deer herd. — Mark Lovewell


The high rate of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illness is nothing new on the Vineyard, but this year saw action on various fronts. In January the American Red Cross announced it would begin blood screenings for babesiois, a lesser-known but potentially life-threatening disease. This summer the state legislature adopted a bill requiring insurance companies to cover long-term antiobiotic treatment of Lyme disease. Meanwhile on the Cape, surveys showed prevelance of powassan, a potentially fatal disease carried by deer ticks.

On the Island discussion turned to prevention, including reducing the abundance of ticks. One approach calls for culling the Island’s large deer herd; white-tailed deer are found in high numbers on the Island, and they are key parts of the life cycle of ticks. A Gazette survey found strong support for that approach. Island biologists are working with the community to discuss further action. 


Flowers left on Luke Gurney's fishing boat, No Regrets. — Steve Myrick

7. Accident At Sea Claims Life of Popular Fisherman


The Island community mourned the loss of commercial conch fisherman Luke Gurney, 48, who died June 20 in a fishing accident off Nantucket.

Flowers and a wreath were placed aboard his boat, No Regrets, when it was docked in Vineyard Haven harbor, and friends remembered him as an outgoing, passionate and generous person who lived life at full speed and was a devoted father to his two sons. Online fundraising and other Island benefits reflected an outpouring of community support.


8. Two Students of Presidential History Weigh in On Election Campaign

Presidential historians Evan Thomas and David McCullough in conversation. — Mark Lovewell


In the heat of the presidential election season, historians David McCullough and Evan Thomas sat down with the Gazette for a conversation about leadership and the race for the White House through a historic lens.

“We’ve been through rough times, again and again and again, and when I hear some people on talk shows, say, Oh you have to realize that was a simpler time. No it was not, there never was a simpler time,” Mr. McCullough said.

“I may be overly optimistic about this, but we have a long history of our being a government of laws and not men, and when executives abuse their power, one way or another, the system catches them,” Mr. Thomas said.


9. Ferry Woods Hole Makes Her Debut

All aboard new ferry Woods Hole. — Mark Lovewell


The Steamship Authority fleet welcomed a new addition in June, as the ferry Woods Hole began service to the Vineyard. The new 235-foot hybrid freight/passenger ferry was built in Louisiana and then made the trip north to begin service in June.

With festive bunting adorning her decks and a vintage steam whistle installed, the Woods Hole took a ceremonial maiden voyage to the Vineyard during a day of celebration on June 13. 


10. Island Theatre Declared Dangerous


Fate of Island Theatre is hot topic in Oak Bluffs. — Mark Lovewell

As the year ended Oak Bluffs officials were faced with tough decisions about the crumbling Island Theatre, a source of concern for years. The 101-year-old theatre at the base of Circuit avenue, vacant since 2012, was declared dangerous by a structural engineer in the spring, and in December a board of survey voted unanimously that they also found the building dangerous.

The building owners, the Hall family, have been ordered to repair the building several times. Building inspector Mark Barbadoro now has the authority under state law to order demolition. As the year ended, the matter remained before the selectmen, who ordered a report detailing costs to make the building safe.