Chilmark selectmen put the brakes on a preliminary plan to build a shared-use bike path on North Road, amid a sea of criticism from town residents Tuesday.

The outpouring of disapproval came at the selectmen’s meeting, after a letter recently went out to frontage property owners on the rural road sketching the preliminary concept for the path. Drafted by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and brought before the West Tisbury and Chilmark planning boards in September, the preliminary plan calls for creating a shared walking and cycling path along the six-mile bucolic road that runs from State Road on the West Tisbury end to Menemsha.

On Tuesday, selectmen said they had been inundated with correspondence, all of it condemning the idea in the strongest terms.

“I’ve gotten 20 emails in the past two days about this topic,” said selectman Warren Doty. “I attended the planning board meeting where this was presented. I heard universal opposition to the idea . . . And I just think the idea of changing North Road and expanding it or widening it in any way is just a nonstarter, the people of Chilmark are not going to go for it.”

The project, though still very much in its nascency, would become part of a network of bike paths connecting the Island towns — from downtown Vineyard Haven through Chilmark and Aquinnah. Early study showed North Road as the most suitable option for the up-Island portion of the path, commission representatives said.

On Tuesday, Dan Doyle, special projects planner at the MVC who is spearheading the project with commission member Jim Vercruysse, said no concrete plans have been drawn, and among other things, mapping the placement of the project’s 50-foot right of way on the narrow road remains undetermined. The project also would require town approval, Mr. Doyle said.

“We don’t want to propose anything tangible, until we really know we’re up against and we don’t know what we’re up against,” Mr. Doyle said. “We’re trying to promote safety and it just seems the deck really stacked against pedestrians and cyclists on any of those three [Chilmark] roads.”

Residents had a different view.

“I’d just like to register our total objection to this. It’s a destructive idea,” said North Road property owner Rich Parker, who was among the first of about 12 residents to speak. “It will destroy the tall trees, the walls and all kinds of natural beauty on North Road.”

Deborah Hancock opposed the use of town tax dollars to fund a project that would alter Chilmark’s pastoral landscape.

“At this juncture, we still have the option to preserve beauty and not turn Martha’s Vineyard into the Hamptons. This may be our last chance,” said Ms. Hancock, evoking the founding conservation mission of MVC. “Up-Island we’ve managed to hold back the urban spread largely because of the power of town government. To create an SUP on North Road would destroy the very thing we have to date, the ability to protect.”

Others raised environmental concerns.

“The countless old-growth native grapevines would need to be destroyed, no longer available to remove carbon out of our atmosphere via photosynthesis,” said resident Carrie Fyler. “I think we might all be horrified if we actually calculated the number of acres that we might have to be clear cut and the native habitat that would then be destroyed for our birds and mammals.”

Mr. Vercruysse pushed back lightly. “Things change over time and I just hope you can keep an open mind and promote connectivity on the Island,” he said.

But with clear opposition from the town, the selectmen sided with their constituents, voting unanimously to oppose the concept of an SUP on North Road. Instead, selectman endorsed a “share the road” campaign to improve bike safety.

Mr. Doty said the commission could “continue to plan for improved bicycle safety, including pedestrian access . . . but we really do not want the nature of North Road changed,” he said.

In other business Tuesday, selectmen invited police chief Jonathan Klaren and Tri-Town ambulance chief Ben Retmier to discuss possibly mandating the Covid vaccine for all public safety staff.

Speaking for their teams, both chief Jonathan Klaren and chief Retmier expressed ethical concern over enforcing vaccinations for unwilling force members.

“I think we all feel that if there was a magic vaccine that we all took and then the virus couldn’t spread anymore go away and that’d be a great thing,” said Chief Klaren. “But when it comes down to specifically speaking for the Chilmark police department, it becomes a lot more complicated when you have a job that is mandated and you have employees who wish not to take the vaccine.”

Selectmen agreed to encourage and recommend the use of a vaccine but not mandate it.

The board voted unanimously to approve changes to cemetery regulations, including keeping eligibility criteria for cemetery lots for five consecutive years and minimizing lot sizes to conserve cemetery land.

Also Monday, selectmen moved forward with plans to install solar panels on the two public safety buildings soon to be renovated. Selectmen plan to send a letter of intent to the electric cooperative CVEC, requesting inclusion in their network for the project.