Chilmark selectmen approve a street license for John Tiernan to conduct historical Vineyard van tours

But only on approved routes, and no stops at Menemsha.

Jim Malkin and Bill Rossi. – Edie Prescott

Two Chilmark selectmen approved a street license after a public hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 21, for John Tiernan and Caleb Caldwell, his partner, to operate a tour business on town roads. Selectman Warren Doty and executive secretary Tim Carroll were not at attend the meeting.

Mr. Tiernan of Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Co. will use Ford E350 Econoline, 15-passenger vans to carry tourists on round trips along South Road from the West Tisbury town line to State Road, and then on State Road to the town line with Aquinnah. Passengers will not get out of the vans. There will be no stops at beaches.

“We got a letter from the (Martha’s Vineyard) Museum endorsing your new service, which evidently is going to be historical-oriented,” selectman Bill Rossi said.

“Sightseeing on the Vineyard is great, but everything is great here to look at,” Mr. Tiernan said. “A history tour is just a new take on what people have been offering. I want to tell you about the glacial tills, the rock walls – who built them, who the founding fathers are, the real history of it. I think that interested the MV Museum, and together we are going to work on a script, telling them about real history, and by default it’s going to be a sightseeing tour, because everything we drive by is going to be worth looking at.”

“I don’t plan on ever going into Menemsha,” Mr. Tiernan added.

“We would appreciate it if your intention turns into reality and you don’t go to Menemsha and you don’t go to Squibnocket,” selectman James Malkin said.

“Absolutely, I don’t think I have time to even do either one of those things,” Mr. Tiernan said.

Mr. Malkin wanted to know how Mr. Tiernan was going to learn about the history of Chilmark.  Mr. Tiernan said there were “a few people over at the museum” who are an “amazing” resource.

Then things turned entertaining.

“Would you like to meet the chairman of the historical commission?” Mr. Malkin asked.

“Sure, I’d love to,” Mr. Tiernan said.

“Well, she’s right there,” Mr. Malkin said, who then made formal introductions between Jane Slater and Mr. Tiernan.

“I would really love to work with you,” Ms. Slater said. “I certainly would want to know what you were going to say before you say it.  We have a very active commission and we’ll prepare something for you if that’s what you want.”

“Oh, that would be great! I would love that!” Mr. Tiernan said. “I don’t care where a celebrity dines, I truly want to do a history tour of Martha’s Vineyard.”

If Mr. Tiernan relates inaccurate information to his customers, Mr. Rossi warned, “Someone’s going to call you out on it, trust me.”

Mr. Tiernan owns the Dockside Inn, and his Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Co. partner Caleb Caldwell owns Nashua House and the Madison Inn.


In other business, selectmen interviewed five police chief candidates on Feb. 16. Mr. Rossi is checking references and doing employment verification on the three final candidates, who will be interviewed in public at a selectmen’s meeting on March 8.


Shellfish constable Isaiah Scheffer updated selectmen on his eelgrass project.

“Really, what it comes down to is trying to do it earlier, so the water temperature is cooler and will cause the eelgrass to be less stressed out,” Mr. Sheffer said.

“Looks like every time you try something new, you have a little more success,” Mr. Rossi said.

“I think we’re on the right track,” Mr. Sheffer said.

While Mr. Sheffer was present, selectmen approved a fundraising event for the MV Shellfish Group, at the Chilmark Community Center on April 15.

John Abrams of the Vineyard Housing Bank committee requested that the selectmen place a non-binding ballot question on the annual town meeting warrant. The committee is making the same request to selectmen of other towns.

The proposed question asks voters, “Are you in favor of establishing a regional housing bank, to address the critical housing needs on the Vineyard? The initial funding for this housing bank will come from a portion of each town’s existing Community Preservation Act (‘CPA’) funds.”

The towns of West Tisbury and Tisbury have approved the ballot question, but amended it to remove the reference to CPA funds.

“We just want to take the temperature of the Island,” Mr. Abrams said.

“The town of Chilmark has done a lot for affordable housing,” Mr. Malkin said. “I would be most comfortable in putting this on the ballot if you were to have an open meeting for interested townspeople to discuss this with them prior to the annual town meeting.”

“We would be happy to,” Mr. Abrams said.

The selectmen will not decide on the committee’s request until Mr. Doty’s return.