With the crowds of July and August in the rearview mirror, it would be easy for Islanders to sit back and exhale with relief. The peak season has come and gone with no serious accidents. It’s only a few weeks a year. Let’s enjoy our months of peace before we deal with all that again.

But summer traffic is just one thread in a big, messy tangle of issues involving growth, development and quality of life on Martha’s Vineyard that right now are being discussed and decided piecemeal. How many visitors are too many? How will we sustain the workforce to service the tourist economy? What is being done to address the very real problem of tick-borne illness? At what point will the Island lose the attributes that are the basis of its popularity?

At various times in the Island’s history, thoughtful people have come together to take the long view about where our community is headed. Another such colloquy is overdue.

Consider a few facts:

A little over ten years ago Islanders voted overwhelmingly in a nonbinding referendum to limit traffic on ferries to 1995 levels.

Last week, numbers released by the Steamship Authority painted an alarming picture: more cars and trucks were carried on the Vineyard ferry route this summer than any summer on record. In August alone, ferries carried more than 57,000 vehicles to and from the Island — about 3,000 more than the previous August.

In 2000, the year after the current airport terminal was built, the Martha’s Vineyard Airport recorded its peak traffic: just over 71,000 passengers. Last year, airport statistics show, there were 49,767 passenger boardings, even as airport officials began planning for a $39 million project to double the size of the terminal.

Airport commissioners this month endorsed a plan to add nine acres to the industrial park to create new space for Island businesses, even as the success of some existing businesses hang in the balance.

Meanwhile, deer continue to proliferate on the Island, spreading new varieties of ticks carrying more types of serious disease. With few resources directed toward addressing the tick threat, the Island’s reputation as an outdoor paradise could soon be in jeopardy.

Though the Gazette is sometimes accused of nostalgia for a bygone era, there is value in remembering what attracted visitors to the Island to begin with.

Inexorably and inevitably, Martha’s Vineyard has evolved from the quaint cluster of communities popularized by longtime Gazette publisher Henry Beetle Hough in his 1940 book Country Editor, a volume that came out long before Chappaquiddick put Martha’s Vineyard on the national map. The village concept, where the post office, grocery store, pharmacy and hardware store are within walking or biking distance from people’s homes is mostly gone now, replaced by a more suburban way of life with shopping centers situated outside downtown areas.

On an Island, there is a hard limit to suburban sprawl, one that will change the character of the Island forever. And while no one would advocate ripping up the streets and going back to the old ways, more can be done to consider the long-term effects of incremental change.

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission may be the best hope, but it will require commissioners to show more backbone than they have in the recent past. With an able new traffic planner and a new a grant to improve its traffic counting methods around the Island, a start could be made by examining carrying capacity and traffic congestion before next summer rolls around.

If not the commission, who? If not now, when?