Authors Posts by Tony Omer

Tony Omer

Tony Omer

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The Ag Hall is a popular Island venue for a variety of events. —File photo by Lynn Christoffers

At the West Tisbury selectmen’s meeting on October 29, selectman Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter asked the town zoning inspector to verify that the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society (MVAS) is not scheduling more events at the Agricultural Hall than current zoning allows.

The use of the large barn and the 23-acre grounds, the site of the annual Dukes County Fair, is limited by the town’s zoning bylaw and by an agricultural preservation restriction (APR) placed on the property when the previous owners, Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Newhall Woods, sold the land to the MVAS in 1991.

“I do believe they rent it beyond the number of uses they are permitted,” said Mr. Manter, a lifetime member of the Ag Society who resigned from the Ag Society’s board of directors a year ago for personal reasons. “I do not believe they are in violation of the APR, but I believe zoning should be looked at. I do not think they are doing what they agreed to do.”

Selectman Richard Knabel pointed out that town counsel Ronald Rappaport clearly stated the use conditions in a July 1998 letter to selectmen.

“Maybe we could use this opportunity to review the zoning and move it forward,” selectman Cynthia Mitchell said, “to see if the zoning should be amended or changed.”

Turning people away

The Ag Hall is a popular venue for a variety of activities, including weddings, parties, craft fairs, memorial services, dances, dinners, and lectures.

Ag Society board president Dale McClure told The Times in a phone call that Mr. Manter was the group’s use watchdog before he resigned from the board. “I think he is still doing that job now as selectman,” he said.

Mr. McClure said that Mr. Manter’s request could spark a redefinition of how the property is used. “We really want to get the zoning changed to accommodate the needs of the society,” he said. “When we built the place we never dreamed the old story ‘build it and they will come.’ We built it and they are coming. It’s not really a West Tisbury institution. It’s a Vineyard institution. Its like a community center and everybody wants to use it.”

Mr. McClure said one option is to seek a zoning change at town meeting in order to accommodate the MVAS and the town. He added that he would like to see the town create a special zoning district for nonprofits, including the adjacent Polly Hill Arboretum. He agreed that a reinterpretation of the APR may also be required.

“We feel like we are always on the fence,” he said. “We are turning people away we don’t want to turn away.”

The APR limits use of the property to the “full-range” of non-profit and educational activities MVAS “has historically pursued,” as well as limited commercial activities that “relate directly to the non-profit and educational function of MVAS.”

A sharp increase in the number of requests to rent the Agricultural Hall prompted a discussion among the selectmen and Ag Society officials on June 15, 2011, about the possibility of expanding both the number and the types of events allowed.

The Times reported that town officials leaned heavily on a July 8, 1998, legal opinion that Mr. Rappaport provided to Lenny Jason, the acting town zoning officer at the time. Mr. Rappaport concluded that the use of the property is limited by the town zoning bylaws and the APR.

Mr. Rappaport highlighted the controlling language in the APR. The property owner had the right to conduct or permit only the following: “The use of the property, and the construction or placing of buildings or structures, for non-profit and non-profit educational purposes only, and for non-profit agricultural purposes and such limited commercial agricultural purposes as may be directly related to the permitted non-profit and non-profit educational uses of the property.”

Focusing on town bylaws, Mr. Rappaport said the Ag Hall could be used for events that are “customarily incidental to a permitted use.” For example, concerts and similar activities solely for raising funds for the MVAS, provided the impact on the neighborhood is limited.

Addressing the bylaw but not the APR, Mr. Rappaport said, “We are of the opinion that a small number of weddings could be deemed permitted on the property under the bylaw as an incidental use.”

Among other restrictions, he recommended that only five weddings be permitted in a calendar year; only weddings of a MVAS member in good standing for five years be permitted; a member of MVAS be present at each wedding at all times; and at least four weeks’ notice be given to selectmen and the chief of police.

In addition, he said, three additional activities per year, for example the Vineyard Nursing Association auction, a birthday party, and the family Planning Art show could be deemed as incidental uses, he said.

Lots of requests

Eleanor Neubert began working for the Ag Society as the fair manager 30 years ago, a job she still has. She is now also a member of the board and is responsible for booking the use of the hall and grounds. She said that the town has requested a copy of the calendar she uses to book the events.

“We get calls from people who want to hold weddings all the time,” she said, “about 50 or 60 every year, but we can only allow six a year.” All six slots are filled for 2015 and two have been booked for 2016. The hall costs $4,000 for weddings.”

Ms. Neubert said there were six memorial services this year, including the Pat Gregory service that drew an overflow crowd.

There are dozens of events every year that fit within the APR definitions that are sponsored either by the Ag Society or local agricultural groups like Island Grown Initiative, Native Earth teaching farm, MV Horse council, and Slow Food. These include dinners, meetings, lectures, monthly board meetings, horse shows and classes, and the Dukes County Fair.

In addition, this year the West Tisbury Congregational Church used the hall Sunday mornings when their sanctuary was undergoing renovations, and the church also meets there on Easter and on Christmas Eve to accommodate the large crowds.

Annual events held in the hall this year included The Family Planning Art Show, Youth Hockey dinner, Windemere auction, West Tisbury School 8th grade graduation, All-Island library youth reading kickoff, MV Savings Bank dinner, Artisans Festival, town parties for Halloween and the holidays, and the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital dinner.

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A photo from Music on Martha's Vineyard: Sally and Ben Taylor perform at the Grange Hall in 2013. —Photo by Peter Simon

“Music on Martha’s Vineyard” by Tom Dresser and Jerold Muskin, copyright 2014 from The History Press, Charleston, SC. Paperback, 188 pages. $19.99. Available at Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven, Edgartown Books, and online booksellers.

Music-on-MV-cover.jpgOne of the most enjoyable parts of Music on Martha’s Vineyard, a new history of music on the Island by Tom Dresser and Jerold Muskin, is the interviews with local musicians. While the book is replete with stories and photos of the well-known and famous, it is the interviews with the locals — and there are many — that give the reader a solid sense of the shared love of music that drives both the listening public and Island musicians, most of whom have day jobs to support their music habit.

In his interview, Island folksinger, songwriter, shingler-carpenter Joe Keenan summed up his take on the subject. “The best thing about being a musician on the Island over the years is that most people are supportive in subtle ways,” he says. “We have such a strong community of artists and artisans that people make room for the vagaries that accompany the drive to play out. It is the support we get from others that makes it possible for us to pursue our artistic endeavors.”

Mr. Dresser is a former journalist and now author of seven books covering various aspects of Island history. With Mr. Muskin, a music lover and musician, he has compiled a history of music on the Island that is rich with world class musicians and composers, folk and rock stars, choral groups, both sacred and profane, bands playing Souza, and original blends of heavy metal, blues, and American roots music. The writers touch on stage musicals and open-air concerts, chamber groups and late night bar bands, bluegrass groups and town bands.

The authors admit that what they have assembled is not an exhaustive history of music on the Island, but a first attempt at a comprehensive look at an important part of Vineyard life for many Islanders.

It is a fun read that has the power to re-ignite memories of concerts with internationally known performers like James Taylor, shows at the Oak Bluffs dive, the Ritz, with local bands like Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish, and Island choirs and concert groups. It gives perspective for today’s music-loving Islanders.

The book is filled with interviews and information sifted from the Island’s newspapers and other sources. The photos of Island musicians are numerous and fun, but all in black and white. It is a compendium, a collection of anecdotes and meandering memories of events and musicians. The narrative follows the train of thought of those interviewed, and this is part of its charm.

A second edition would benefit from a more complete index. Many musicians are talked about but relatively few made it to the index. The book ultimately does justice to an important, creative part of the Island’s past, and it will bring back fond memories for both those who have enjoyed the music that has been made on the Vineyard and those who have made the music.

This is Mr. Dresser’s seventh book, either as sole or co-writer, for the History Press, a publisher that promotes local histories. His books include Women of Martha’s Vineyard and African Americans on Martha’s Vineyard, and his previous book Martha’s Vineyard in World War II, written with Herb Foster and Jay Schofield. Mr. Muskin is a poet, a former university professor, truck driver and trumpeter.

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Swans, an invasive species, have become a part of the Mill Pond landscape. —Photo by Michael Cummo

West Tisbury animal control officer Joan Jenkinson asked selectmen last week for their support to put a gate and fencing between the Mill Pond shoreline at the entrance of the Allen M. Look Memorial Park and the old police station building on the West Tisbury-Edgartown Road to protect wandering swans that have taken up residence at the pond.

Well-known for her tender and caring attention to all animals and wildlife, Ms. Jenkinson regularly feeds the swans and ducks that congregate on the scenic pond. In general, wildlife officials discourage feeding waterfowl for the dependency it creates on human handouts.

Ms. Jenkinson told selectmen last Wednesday that the gate would help keep swans and ducks from wandering out onto the road but also allow access for visitors.  “Now that the police station isn’t there, cars go faster than they ever did,” she said. “I would like some support on this because I and the police have had to pick up dead swans and dead ducks.”

Ms. Jenkinson is primarily concerned about one young swan, which she named Rocky, that is recovering from the bite of a snapping turtle. She took the swan to a veterinarian for surgery in August.  “I don’t want him going out into the road,” she said. “He is like a baby. He will fly away some day. I’m there twice a day and he waits for me right by the road.”

Ms. Jenkinson said that she and her husband, Pat, would pay for the materials and that Pat has volunteered to do the work.

Selectman Cynthia Mitchell and Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter agreed that ducks on the road are sometimes a problem. Mr. Manter said the town should pay for the gate, not the Jenkinsons. Selectman Richard Knabel said that he would not want a gate to keep people from using the park.

Selectmen said the gate proposal should be brought up before the Conservation Commission and the Historic District Commission before a decision is made.

Live pond

Ms. Jenkinson told The Times in a phone conversation that she feeds the swans and ducks that congregate on the pond at least twice a day, and that she is sometimes at the pond four times a day to check on Rocky. Volunteers fill in for her when she is away.

Although the waterfowl come to the edge of the pond when they see her car, she does not think she contributes to the traffic mortality problem. “The ducks would cross the road anyway to get to the Mill stream and Tisbury Great Pond,” she said.

Ms. Jenkinson said the feedings contribute to the scenic nature of the pond, which is created by a dam.  “If I didn’t feed them the swans wouldn’t be there,” she said. “We would have a dead pond. This is the entry point for the town. We don’t want a dead pond.”

She said she did not think the risk of wildlife dependency was an issue because she does not feed the waterfowl everything they need and they are still wild.

Ms. Mitchell told The Times that selectmen have not discussed the issue of feeding the ducks and swans at Mill Pond. “I have not given it any thought, not that it shouldn’t be discussed, necessarily,” she said. “The general sentiment is that it is kind of nice that Joan is doing it. No one in recent memory has ever objected to it. Not that there aren’t objections to be made.”

Ms. Mitchell said that the selectmen do not consider the feedings to be part of her job. “She and her husband, Pat, have gone over and beyond her job, especially taking care of the injured swan. It is a kind and wonderful thing. Her love of animals is one of the things that distinguishes her as an animal control officer.”

Misguided compassion

Birder and naturalist Matthew Pelikan, who writes a regular column for The Times about Island ecology, said the swans that have become a fixture of the Mill Pond landscape are mute swans, an introduced, non-native, species that competes very aggressively against native waterfowl for nesting real estate.

“Swans also feed heavily on submerged vegetation,” he said in an email to The Times. “Between their size and their long necks, which mean they eat a lot and can feed in deep water, they can damage populations of underwater plants, create opportunities for undesirable plant species to get established, and contribute to problems such as fecal contamination and loss of water clarity due to suspended sediment.”

Mr. Pelikan said that actively encouraging the local swan population “doesn’t make much sense ecologically.” He pointed out that many states and municipalities in the Northeast are taking measures to control mute swan populations. “In particular, given the evident concern in West Tisbury about the health of the Mill Pond, encouraging a mute swan population there is a puzzling course of action,” he said.

Mr. Pelikan said feeding waterfowl, a practice banned in neighboring Rhode Island, “accustoms the birds to viewing humans as a resource, which can lead to problematic behavior such as aggression toward humans and it encourages the waterfowl to congregate at much higher density than they normally would, and in different places, altering their social interactions, facilitating the spread of disease, and increasing their local impact on vegetation.”

Decisions like the those concerning the Mill Pond are made often on an emotional rather than a rational basis, Mr. Pelikan said, adding that while he respects the compassion that is behind efforts to protect one swan, encouraging the persistence of swans around the pond is “a misguided approach.”

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West Tisbury selectmen Tuesday voted to allow town hall employees to lock offices doors when alone on a floor. —Photo by Michael Cummo

West Tisbury selectmen last week adopted a new safety and security policy for the town hall under which an employee alone on a floor in the three-story building during regular business hours will be allowed to lock the door to his or her floor and post a note asking visitors to knock. In some cases, the employee could refuse to open the door.

Adopted October 15, the policy states: “If an employee finds that they are alone on their floor during regular business hours they may, if they choose, lock the entrance door to their floor and post a note asking patrons to knock for entrance into the floor. If the employee has reason to feel concerned they may refuse entrance to that individual. If a patron is refused entrance the employee shall notify their department head or board members immediately of the incident. After regular business hours the door from the lobby to the stairwell and the elevator shall be locked unless there is a public meeting taking place in the building.”

The policy did not satisfy Michael Colaneri, chairman of the board of assessors, who initially raised the issue with selectmen in July when he said that an employee who works on the third floor told him she did not feel safe when she realized that she is sometimes the only employee in the building during hours when the town hall is open to the public.

Mr. Colaneri, in an email to the selectmen dated October 7 following his review of a draft of the new policy, noted that the town hall is also a well used bus stop.

“I certainly do not want to make a mountain out of a molehill,” Mr. Colaneri said, “but in these ever precarious and uncertain times, and the town hall now being a bus depot times have changed in West Tisbury and the Island. I believe the town can do better and should do better, with a more comprehensive plan, to possibly include security cameras.”

Mr. Colaneri told selectmen Wednesday that the new policy “is minimal at best and doesn’t do enough to protect town employees.”

Selectman and town police sergeant Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter said that he thought a security camera would be a good idea. Mr. Manter said that recordings from a security camera would be used as an investigative tool only in the case of an incident and would not be routinely monitored as a surveillance camera would be. “There is hardly a place you can go today, right or wrong, that you aren’t smiling on a camera,” he said.

Selectman Richard Knabel disagreed and said he is “completely opposed to the idea” of a video camera. “To some extent it seems to me we are looking for a solution that’s looking for a problem,” he said. “I raised the issue of security five years ago when we first moved into this building because of the separation between floors and the lack of easy communication and one floor not knowing who is on the other floors.”

Mr. Knabel said he thinks there should always be someone on the first floor whenever the building is open. “Without going to extreme measures we should see how this new policy works,” he said.

Selectman Cynthia Mitchell said that employee input was solicited before the new policy was written.

In a town where many residents do not even bother to lock their doors, there is little to suggest that town hall is unsafe, with or without a bus stop.

West Tisbury police Chief Daniel Rossi told The Times that in his 23 years with the police he does not recall a single call from a town employee regarding suspicious activity in the town hall. “There have been around two calls per summer reporting suspicious activity at the bus stop in front of the town hall,” he said, “but nothing significant happened any of those times.”

Tent permits

In other business Wednesday, selectmen Mr. Knabel and Mr. Manter rejected building inspector Joe Tierney’s request to charge fees for tent permits. Mr. Tierney said fees are charged by most of the other Island towns for the permits that are required by state law for tents over 400 square feet. Selectman Cynthia Mitchell voted for the fees.

Selectmen voted unanimously to continue to team with the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank to appeal a land court decision denying public access to a part of a traditional walking path known as Old Stagecoach Way. The Massachusetts Land Court ruled that the town’s evidence was too speculative to satisfy the burden of proof in a case tied to an attempt to clear title to land owned by the McKacou Realty Trust.

Selectmen observed a moment of silence to honor the memory of Robert Potts who died on October 11. Mr. Manter said Mr. Potts always had a wise word and was a wonderful man. Mr. Knabel noted Mr. Potts’s contributions to the community through “The Broadside,” his self-published newspaper.  “He had a good sense of irony and knew how to use it,” Mr. Knabel said.

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Martha Hubbell of Lambert's Cove climbs the sand dune at Lambert's Cove Beach to leave. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Some 30 West Tisbury residents submitted a petition to the West Tisbury Conservation Commission Tuesday to ask that a high dune at the entrance to Lambert’s Cove beach be lowered to allow easier access for elderly residents and emergency personnel.

The petition asked the commission and the parks and recreation department to either lower the dune as in past years or create an alternate, safer route before next spring.

The dune, created by wind and erosion, is an obstacle along the quarter-mile hike required to reach the beach from the town parking lot off Lambert’s Cove Road.

Conservation commission board administrator Maria McFarland said a Bobcat excavator has been used in previous years to keep the dune passable. She said that required state approval for the necessary permit to alter the dune might be difficult to obtain due to the focus of state- backed conservation efforts to maintain dunes. She said that the town neglected to file the permit in past years and that the commission intends to end that practice.

She said the commission will request input from the park and rec department, the fire department, EMTs, the police and selectmen during the process of finding a solution.

“People have talked about putting in a boardwalk since the early 1980s,” Ms. McFarland said. ”That is a possible solution.”

The commission and the parks and recreation department collaborated on a Lambert’s Cove Beach dune restoration project during the winter of 2012. Snow fencing was installed on the water-side of the dune to help capture wind-blown sand in order to build the dune up. Beach Grass was planted this spring to help stabilize the dune.

Both Ms. McFarland and Peter Rodegast, chairman of the commission, told The Times that the fencing was placed far enough in front of the path to build up the width of the dune without adding to its height. “That could make it more difficult for people to climb the dune. We really don’t have a benchmark to determine if the dune is any higher now than last year,” she said. “It is one of the things we will try to establish.”

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Stuart Saginor, executive director of the Community Preservation Coalition, provided a CPA pep talk over a PowerPoint presentation titled, “CPA: What makes it great?”

More than 30 people gathered at the Sailing Camp in Oak Bluffs on a wet fall evening Tuesday to learn about the regional funding possibilities associated with the Community Preservation Act (CPA).

Stuart Saginor, executive director of the Community Preservation Coalition, a statewide group that helped establish the CPA and actively supports its implementation, provided a CPA pep talk over a PowerPoint presentation titled: “CPA: What makes it great?”

The CPA allows towns to add a surcharge fee as large as 3 percent on real estate transfers and receive matching funds from the state for a prescribed list of projects. CPA expenditures must be approved at town meetings. and can be used for open-space and historical preservation, development of affordable housing, and the acquisition and development of outdoor recreational facilities.

Tuesday-night attendees included Community Preservation Act committee (CPC) members from Island towns as well as representatives of groups that have applied for CPA funds. Mr. Saginor said that 155 Massachusetts towns and cities have adopted the CPA to date.

Mr. Saginor said he did not need to highlight the CPA successes on the Island, and instead spoke about large successful projects in several off-Island towns. He said that combined local funds and state funds have generated more than $1.3 billion dollars for CPA projects statewide.

“On top of the money that has been directly raised by CPA, you folks have seen the magic of how CPA funds can be used to leverage all sorts of other funding,” Mr. Saginor said. “This happened here with the [Gay Head] lighthouse and a lot of the housing projects and virtually any project that hasn’t been funded 100 percent by CPA.”

He said that the state matching funds are the key to the program’s success. They come from a state trust funded by a $10 fee on lien transactions and a $20 fee on real estate transactions.

The match has dipped to as little as 26 percent of CPA money raised by the towns because of the addition of new towns to the program and the decrease in revenues with the real estate downturn. He said he is talking to legislators about ways to keep the matches consistently in the 40 to 50 percent range. For fiscal year 2013 the legislature added $25 million in funds from state budget surpluses to the matching-fund trust to help make up the shortfall.

State representative Tim Madden of Nantucket, a staunch supporter of the CPA, spoke about the benefits. “I look at the CPA as a local economic development tool.” he said. “Local builders are getting the work generated by CPA projects. I’m a fan of home rule and local control. There is nothing more democratic. We understood the value of taxing ourselves for our benefit.”

A panel of Islanders who have successfully negotiated the hurdles of applying for regional CPA funds spoke about the benefits of the CPA.

Adam Wilson, Aquinnah town manager, spoke about the value and necessity of regional CPA support for the continuing success of the lighthouse project. He said that the support of all six Island towns was an important factor in helping to generate additional private support to raise the money that is needed.

Island Housing Trust executive director Philippe Jordi described affordable housing projects that have been supported regionally. He said voters have often responded positively when they realize the value of supporting projects that may be outside their own town but may house people who work in their towns.

Questions from the audience centered on methods and procedures for applying for regional CPA funding in a community made up of six towns.

Dan Waters of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum said the present method of presenting requests for funding a project requires presentations at each town’s CPCs and attending the town meetings. He said the last museum request took him to more than 16 meetings.

Several suggestions were floated from the floor for handling regional requests, including a common application and a regional CPC with representatives from each town, similar to the Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council formed from individual town cultural councils in 2007. It was suggested that further meetings on the subject could be worthwhile.

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The West Tisbury Farmers' Market is one of many organizations that rely on large tents. —Photo by Kelsey Perrett

West Tisbury selectmen at their meeting on Sept. 24 unanimously approved a request by building inspector Joseph Tierney to institute a $50 fee for fire-alarm inspections. Selectmen also discussed but took no action on a request to set a fee for tent inspections of the type often erected for special events.

Mr. Tierney said the other Island towns already charge $50 for the inspections. “The baseline is that we are supposed to be charging a fee to cover the services we are providing,” he told the selectmen.

The fire-alarm inspection fee will be added to the building permit fee, $700 for dwellings and $400 for additions, Mr. Tierney told The Times. “The building department and the fire department are involved with reviewing the inspections,” he said. “It’s taking up more time.”

The electrical inspector is also sometimes required to provide an inspection, he added.

Chairman of the board of selectmen Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter said he was not happy with the idea of additional fees. “I just hate all these fees we are charging,” he said before he voted to approve the request.

Mr. Tierney also requested selectmen approve a fee for tent permits. He suggested $25. He said anyone who sets up a tent of more than 400 square feet, or smaller tents with a combined total of more than 700 square feet, is required by state law to apply for a tent permit.

He said tents must be inspected by the building department, and that some installations, those with generators, also require an electrical permit and an inspection by the electrical inspector. Some also require an inspection by the fire chief, and if food is being prepared, must be inspected by the board of health agent.

Selectmen put the question of tent permit fees on hold until research is done to see what the other Island towns are charging.

Selectman Richard Knabel expressed consternation at the increasing number of state regulations and permit requirements in general. “I find this not acceptable,” he said.

“What are we coming to?” Mr. Manter added.

Mr. Tierney told The Times the tent rules went into effect in November 2011 and came to his attention while he completed his education to become a fully licensed building inspector.

In other business, the selectmen accepted the gift of a piano from the Friends of the West Tisbury Library purchased from the estate of David Frantz who died in February. Mr. Frantz was a violinist and violist with Vineyard Sinfonietta, and worked at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in instrument design and testing before opening his own company, Ocean Research Equipment, on the Vineyard.

“It is a lovely gift for the library,” selectman Cynthia Mitchell said.

The Duke County Regional Housing Authority (DCRHA), in a letter to the selectmen, requested that West Tisbury’s share of the annual DCRHA assessment be included in the annual budget rather than appear on the annual town-meeting warrant as an article to be voted on separately.

Mr. Manter said a warrant-article request makes it easier for voters to recognize the assessment. Ms. Mitchell said that the budget is gone over pretty carefully line by line by the selectmen, the finance committee, and many voters. “It makes good sense to put it in as a budget item,” she said. Ms. Mitchell included the town’s contribution to the Vineyard Health Care Access Program in a motion to approve the DCRHA request. Mr. Knabel and Ms. Mitchell voted for the motion. Mr. Manter abstained.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the estate of David Frantz donated a piano to the West Tisbury Library. The piano was purchased from the Frantz estate and donated by the Friends of the West Tisbury Library.


From left: chef Dana Rezendes, Jenny Dowd, Doreen Rezendes, and Tony Rezendes in front of their restaurant, The Square-Rigger, in Edgartown.

The Square-Rigger is a traditional New England style restaurant at the triangle in Edgartown, owned and managed by Tony and Doreen Rezendes and their family. Son Dana is the chef, and daughter Jenny Dowd helps manage the front. They specialize in classics like quahog chowder, mussels, stuffed mushrooms, boiled lobster, baked stuffed shrimp, New York strip steak, and prime rib.

The “Rigger” as it is known, serves surf and turf from a menu that has seen little change in over twenty years. “We have a large, vocal clientele who lets us know if we take things off the menu,” said Dana. “Adding new items is difficult because a menu can only be so big before you can’t handle it, and we have one of the biggest menus on the Island.”

“We did add a take out menu three years ago, and we have slowly made small adjustments to the menu,” Dana said. “But there has not been a change in the concept of the menu since we took over the Rigger almost twenty years ago.”

Dana said that his focus has been staying consistent and not getting caught up in the hustle of reworking the menu to fit popular trends. “We are a place where people can find the same thing they ordered last year or the year before.”

Tony worked for the post office and had no restaurant experience when he and Doreen bought the restaurant in 1995 from the previous owner William Holtham. Doreen was managing the Rigger at the time and had managed the dining room at Mr. Holtham’s other Island restaurant, the Homeport in Menemsha. Elder daughter Amy and Dana also got their starts in the restaurant business at the Homeport.

Dana began to work at the Homeport when he was eleven, washing dishes and helping clean up. At fourteen, he was cooking at the takeout line. Six years later, when the family bought the Rigger, he started working as a line cook before moving into the head chef position a few years later.

Jenny Dowd and Doreen manage the front of the restaurant with help from the only non-family member in a management position: Nina Ferry. Jenny is also in charge of the wine list and keeps the shelves stocked with a wide variety of select wines, including good moderately priced wines. Tony fills in wherever he is needed.

Dana said there are always new challenges popping up, usually with employees and customers. “One night a former dishwasher showed up to work wearing nothing but an apron,” he said. “That made us laugh. And there are the situations you find yourself in in the dining room. We had a customer loudly shushing a child at another table, over and over, and yelling at his parents. She told them to tell their child to shut up. You just think, ‘is this really happening? What do we do?’ It just happens. Dealing with people who are drunk and rude to the staff is never fun but we just look back and laugh.”

He said there are new things he would like to try in the kitchen at some point in the future, but he won’t say when or if that will ever happen.

From father to son, and onward.

Long-time employee TJ Giegler, left, poses with Daniel Larsen and Dan Larsen.

edgartown-seafood-market-wide.JPGDaniel Larsen owns and runs Edgartown Seafood Market with the help of his son — Daniel Jr., or Dan, 38 years old — who has been working at the market for 19 years. The market is open 11 months of the year. It sells fresh fish, and during the summer has a takeout menu. Danny, as the elder Mr. Larsen is known, grew up fishing with his dad, the late Chilmark fisherman Louis Larsen, before opening the market in 1986.

Danny Larsen, here in 1970, has been fishing all his life. (Courtesy Trisha Spring).
Danny Larsen, here in 1970, has been fishing all his life. (Courtesy Trisha Spring).

Danny’s sisters, Betsy Larsen and Kristine Scheffer, run Larsen’s Fish Market in Menemsha. His brother Louis owns Net Result in Vineyard Haven, and his cousin Stanley Larsen owns Menemsha Fish Market. The family’s markets are independent of one another. “We are not related by the wallet,” Danny said, “we are only related by the name.”

In a recent interview, Danny spoke to The Times about losing his dad in March and his mother four years ago. “That adds a new dynamic to my life,” he said. “I’m still sortin’ things. We’ve had a lot of help from family and friends. I’m pretty fortunate.”

Danny is a tall, large man — like his dad — and it is often difficult to tell if he is preoccupied or just moody. Ask him a question, though, and you get to hear one of the driest senses of humor around. He has even been known to crack a smile from time to time.

The Times took the chance and asked him a handful of questions.

When you were fishing, what did you fish for?

What did you think we fished for, king crab? I grew up fishing for all the things you go fishin’ for around Martha’s Vineyard: dragging in winter, swordfishing in the summer, scalloping, lobstering, all of it. I fished before it became fashionable to just fish for one kind of fish, when you had to go after everything to make your whole living out of fishing.

Why did you decide to open the market?

Danny (left) and Albert Fisher.
Danny (right) and Albert Fisher.

I needed something to do, and since I had done it with my father since he opened Larsen’s in Menemsha, that’s what made me decide. My dad built his store the year I got out of high school, 1968. We first opened in a garage down the road where the Depot Corner was, and when we got a chance to buy where we are now, we did, in 1994. I try to hire local kids because I think they need jobs. It’s fun to watch them grow up.

Did you go to school after high school?

I was the only kid in the first grade at the Chilmark school. Oh, this is for the paper? I got my law degree from Harvard.

Your son Dan works for you. What does he do there?

He plans to take over quickly, I hope. It’s what’s keeping me hanging on. Retirement has never worked well for my family. I plan to work for Dan. It will be like a role reversal, I’ll get paid to do practically nothing. I’ll just come in to pick up a check. I would like to travel and spend some time with old friends and my six grandkids. I want to see them play little league, watch them grow up.

Do you close for the winter?

Daniel Larsen, left, with his dad, Dan, behind the counter at Edgartown Seafood Market.
Daniel Larsen, left, with his dad, Dan, behind the counter at Edgartown Seafood Market.

People think we close for the winter, but we only close for about a month to clean and make repairs. We stay open until the day after Valentine’s Day and open on St. Patrick’s Day.

What are your bestsellers?

In the summertime we probably sell more swordfish, a lot of lobsters, a lot of everything really.

Do you have any memorable customers?

Oh no, you’re not doing that to me, no way.

Have you had any funny experiences while in business?

Oh, yeah, I’ve had quite a few. But I’m not a squealer.

Do you have any business goals?

Just tryin’ to make a living, no gimmicks, no contests. We are trying the best we can. What else is there? Every day is a new day.

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A trio of friends hoof it around Martha’s Vineyard as summer wanes.

Austin Chandler, Jacob Cardoza and Benjamin Clark, left to right, began their walk around the Vineyard in Menemsha.

Last year, Benjamin Clark, then a sophomore at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, thought about walking around Martha’s Vineyard, but he didn’t get around to it. This year, now a junior, the 16-year-old and his two best friends, Austin Chandler and Jacob Cardoza, both 16 and fellow juniors, just about made it around the entire Island. If it hadn’t been for summer jobs and a visiting president, they might have made it all the way around. Friends since grade school, all three are members of the high school football team.

The path the boys took.
The path the boys took.

The trio thought the walk might be a good way to take advantage of the waning days of summer before school started, and before reporting to hell week — the tough first week of MVRHS football practice.

“We just wanted to see the Island,” Ben recently told a Times reporter, “and when we told people about it, they said we couldn’t do it. So it became more [about] trying to prove them wrong.”

Jacob Cardoza and Benjamin Clark strike out on Lobsterville beach the beginning of a three day, 50 mile walk (photos courtesy of Ben Clark).
Jacob Cardoza and Benjamin Clark strike out on Lobsterville beach the beginning of a three day, 50 mile walk (photos courtesy of Ben Clark).

The round-the-Island walk has been made by many people over the years, but it is often done in segments — sometimes over as many as two or three years — taking the tides and the weather into account, and usually in the off-season, when the issue of crossing private beaches is less of a problem.

The friends mapped out a route that included three days of hiking over sandy beaches, and rocky beaches, swimming across several inlets and camping out for two nights. They consulted online weather sites.

Each one asked for a day off from his summer job. Ben, son of Tim and Dori Clark of Oak Bluffs, worked for the Oak Bluffs harbormaster. Austin, son of Christopher and Jane Chandler of Edgartown, worked at Wheel Happy, a bike rental company in Edgartown, and Jacob, son of Christine and Paul Cardoza, also of Edgartown, worked at Karpet Kare in Vineyard Haven.

Mr. Clark, Ben’s father, dropped the circumambulators off in Menemsha early Thursday morning, August 14, with backpacks of food, cooking gear, sleeping bags and fishing rods.

The Island hikers pitched camp with a driftwood fire their first night on Lucy Vincent Beach.
The Island hikers pitched camp with a driftwood fire their first night on Lucy Vincent Beach.

Heading west, counter-clockwise around the Island, they crossed the Menemsha opening on the bike ferry. Walking, sometimes barefoot, the three quickly put Lobsterville and Dogfish Bar behind them, before they got to the Gay Head cliffs. There, they were pushed up off the beach by what Ben called “a crazy high tide.” They continued on along Moshup Beach and Philbin Beach around Squibnocket Point and pitched camp near Lucy Vincent Beach, a Chilmark private town beach.

They hadn’t bothered to bring a tent, simply spreading out their sleeping bags under the night sky. They collected driftwood, broke out the granola bars, and started a fire to heat up Boston baked beans and Progresso soup.

The fire attracted a nearby property owner, who asked what they were doing there on the beach.  “We told him we were walking the Island, and he just asked us to clean up after ourselves before we left,” Ben said.

At about three in the morning, it began to rain, heavily. It poured for 30 minutes, extinguishing their fire and soaking just about everything they had. “We had checked the weather and it was supposed to be clear skies. It was a real surprise,”

Friends since preschool and all members of the M.V. Regional High School football team, Ben Clark, Austin Chandler, and Jacob Cardoza walked around the Island this summer. — Ben Clark
Friends since preschool and all members of the M.V. Regional High School football team, Ben Clark, Austin Chandler, and Jacob Cardoza walked around the Island this summer. — Ben Clark

The sleeping bags were waterproof, but the storm crept up on them so quickly, and with so much rain, that they had little time to keep their clothes from getting drenched. “My shoes were pretty useless after they got wet,” Ben said.

The group had brought cell phones to keep their parents informed of their progress. Ben called home and got some motherly advice. “Mom, this sucks,” he told his mother.

“Spread everything out on the beach and go for a swim,” Ms. Clark replied. “It will dry.”

They started another fire in the morning, hoping to dry out a little, then started walking east along the south shore.

Jacob Cardoza and Benjamin Clark walked away from the beach to avoid an extraordinarily high tide while hiking around Gay Head.
Jacob Cardoza and Benjamin Clark walked away from the beach to avoid an extraordinarily high tide while hiking around Gay Head.

Ben said that the key to their success was to focus on completing the walk. “We stayed in the zone while walking,” he said, “and didn’t talk much until the nights. We tried to keep up a steady pace and we never took breaks of more than about 15 or 20 minutes.” It was not enough time to fish, he added, though they made a few casts a couple of times and caught nothing. They did manage to swim a few times.

From Lucy Vincent Beach the three hikers headed to Katama, swimming across the opening to Tisbury Great Pond at Quansoo. They had decided not to cross the breach at Norton Point, thinking that adding Chappaquiddick to the hike would add another day or two they didn’t have.

They also avoided the crowded Edgartown summer shoreline by catching a ride with parents from Katama to Cow Bay on the east edge of Edgartown. From there, they hiked State Beach to near Hart Haven in Oak Bluffs and set up camp for a second night.

Saturday, the third morning, they hiked into Oak Bluffs and got a ride in a dinghy across the Oak Bluffs harbor opening with a fellow employee of the harbormaster, Ben’s summer employer.

At the East Chop Beach Club parking lot, they met Ben’s mother, who brought them clean clothes and more sunscreen. Then they started walking again.

A woman on East Chop told them they were on private property and were killing her beach grass. “We apologized,” Ben said, “and told her we were walking around the Island and she let us walk through.”

They walked around Vineyard Haven Harbor and out to West Chop, where parents met them with refreshments. From there, they headed west, swam across the Tashmoo opening and stopped after they crossed the Seven Gates beach, just over the Chilmark town line, thinking that the Secret Service might make it difficult to pass the area where President Obama was staying a little farther to the west, blocking their route back to Menemsha.

It was Saturday night. They were picked up about 8 pm, walking from the Seven Gates beach.They were tired and sunburned, but triumphant, Ms. Clark said.

When Ben got home, he jumped into the shower. “My toenails were all broken,” he said. “My toes had been stubbed a couple of times. I went barefoot for most of the walk, which was kind of a bad decision, but my shoes got wet the first day and weren’t good to wear. It wasn’t too bad up-Island. It was pretty sandy but the north shore was pretty rocky.”

“We were pretty impressed,” said Ms. Clark. “They said they were going to do it and they did. I got home about 9:30 Saturday night and Ben was out like a light. He woke up Sunday morning, sunburned and his feet were a mess. He got up and went to work at 8. It was a hell of a way to get ready for hell week.”

The trio plan to do it again next summer, to add Chappy and to take five days. “I will be considering a better form of footwear next year,” Ben said.

Christine Seidel, Cartographer/GIS Coordinator at the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, calculated the distance around the outer beaches of the Island at about  57 miles, not including Chappaquiddick. Including Chappaquiddick it would be about 64 miles.