The thing about progress is that it always seems greater than it is. — Nestroy

The recent initiative to grow MVY airport is misguided. In fact any further attempt to make travel to and from the Vineyard more convenient is not only misguided, but a threat to the Vineyard’s sense of place as well. I define sense of place as the notion that one place is unlike any other place, or the extent to which a certain place is called unique. The Vineyard’s unique sense of place is its most cherished quality. To further lessen the time, both literally and subjectively, it takes to travel to the Island is to threaten this cherished quality. Increasing “route development opportunities” and allowing “multiple domestic flights to operate simultaneously” will irreversibly shrink the perceived distance between the Vineyard and anywhere else that is not the Vineyard. Increased air traffic will not simply be a nuisance, but will continue the gradual shift to uniformity of place that franchise restaurants have already achieved with food, in which the famished traveler need not fret the finding of a quality meal because a little bit of home (McDonald’s, Chick-fil-a, Chili’s) is now everywhere.

In this particular example, the reasons provided by the airport director (“Major Terminal Expansion at Airport Would Cost Millions,” Vineyard Gazette, 8/13/18) and the chairman of the airport commission to enact this change (“Airport Leader Responds,” Vineyard Gazette, 8/16/18) are insufficient. Ann Richart, the airport director, has said of her letter of intent for an application to fund an expansion of the airport: “We have the opportunity to do this now. Building a new terminal is exciting, but also a lot of work.” And also: “The very quick timeline and letter of intent doesn’t obligate us to anything.”

To these remarks and subsequent coverage in the aforementioned Gazette article, airport commission chairman Bob Rosenbaum added: “It is the intent of this project to provide a safe, secure and reasonably comfortable experience for the traveling public.” Ms. Richart’s reasons convey a needless urgency (“now,” “exciting,” and “very quick”). Mr. Rosenbaum’s reasons are perfunctory appeals to our most basic desires (safety and comfort). I’d ask: What does it mean to be more safe, more secure and more comfortable?

Finally, there is an incongruity in the messages thus far delivered by the director and the commissioner. The former has loosely positioned the project as a development/commercial enterprise, while the latter maintains: “The size of the terminal building has no impact on the number of the people coming to the Island or the number or size of commercial flights.” In the strictest sense this is true, the literal square footage of a building has no say on the number of flights at the airport nor how many people will fill the building. It is after all just a building. But what this project does create is potential, potential for everything the commissioner maintains has nothing to do with the size of the terminal building, or the project, to come true.

And for that I would heed Ms. Richart and Mr. Rosenbaum: sometimes more is done by doing less.

Garri Saganenko