Good deed stamped out by post office

Landscaper told to stop volunteer project in Vineyard Haven.

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Bryan Cimeno shows off his work at the Vineyard Haven Post Office. He's been ordered to stop the work. - Stacey Rupolo

Bryan Cimeno was in the process of a special delivery at the Vineyard Haven Post Office, but federal regulations have essentially stamped out his good deed.

“We were told to cease work,” the 22-year-old landscaper told The Times Tuesday, showing off the hydrangeas, butterfly bushes and other flowers planted in beds along the perimeter and within an island that separates parking spots. “We weren’t really given a clear cut reason why.”

Mr. Cimeno, 22, and his father, Bryan Cimeno Sr., own a landscaping and fence business on the Island. They picked the post office project as a way to give back and honor Derek Cimeno, a former shellfish constable in Tisbury, who died eight years ago.

The Cimenos said they had the blessing of postmaster Debbie Chickering, but late Monday they got a call from a postal supervisor telling them to stop the project and discontinue a GoFundMe they had set up to collect donations.

“I can’t talk about it,” Ms. Chickering told a Times reporter, referring questions to Steve Doherty, a post office spokesman.

“We’re prohibited by law from accepting gifts,” Mr. Doherty said, noting that he was working up a statement on the project.

The project was halted after the Cimenos and some volunteers had weeded the beds and were 75 percent of the way done planting.

“We did it with heart, for love,” the elder Mr. Cimeno told The Times. “We wanted people, when they get off the ferry, to say look at that beautiful post office.”

Last year, the Cimeno family dedicated a bench in honor of Derek Cimemo at the boat ramp near Lagoon Pond, he said. His uncle was always doing similar good deeds, like coaching Little League baseball teams and taking care of the herring run, Mr. Cimeno said.

“We wanted to do little projects to improve the Island in his memory,” he said.

Mr. Cimeno is working with his father, who is recently divorced. His father used to own All Island Fence, but now works with his son at Bryan Taylor Cimeno Fence and Landscaping. They’ve worked together, along with volunteers, on the post office project.

The idea was to plant low maintenance, drought resistant plants that could survive and beautify the post office, which is located at Five Corners.

The plants do need water initially and a neighbor of the post office at Island Color Center was allowing the Cimenos to use their hose to water the plants.

Jen Ingraham, owner of the paint store, said it was a worthwhile cause. “I have to look out my window at that everyday. It looks nice,” she said. “I understand the way the federal government works, but there has to be a way to get around it.”

The project being shut down has drawn an outpouring on the Islanders Talk Facebook page, including several people who say they want to finish the gardening despite the order to cease. Others have vowed to bring buckets of water to help the plants survive.

Mr. Cimeno said he’s encouraged by that outpouring and hopes it leads to more projects.

“It’s a way to give back to the community,” he said. “We were going to do this project and get others in the community involved.”

The GoFundMe page raised nearly $2,000 toward the $5,000 needed for the beautification project, according to the site. The elder Mr. Cimeno said the actual work was worth about five times that, but many Island businesses donated plants for the project.

Since getting shut down, Mr. Cimeno, who was born and raised on the Island and is living here full time as a young adult, said he is looking for his next project. He’s had some initial discussions with folks at Camp Jaberwocky about planting a garden there, he said.

A riled up Bryan Cimeno Sr. was upset about the decision to shut down the project. “They don’t stop people from throwing litter or putting beer bottles on the ground, but they stop us from making it beautiful?” he said, his arms emphasizing every syllable as he spoke. “All we wanted to do is make a difference for my brother and my son’s uncle who did so much for this Island.”