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Since 1997, Vineyard House has been the only long-term sober-living facility for Islanders who are coming back to the Island after detox or rehab.

Vineyard House benefactor Joel Greenberg speaks about his mother at the dedication of the Carol Potasnik Greenberg women's residence Sunday.

Dedication ceremonies for the Carol Potasnik Greenberg women’s recovery residence at the Vineyard House campus in Vineyard Haven Sunday morning were an emotional affair for donors Joel Greenberg and his wife, Marcy Gringlas, and for the approximately 70 Island residents in attendance from the recovery community and recovery service providers.

The Greenbergs are seasonal residents who made the Vineyard House a substantial matching-grant offer that enabled the organization to complete a nearly decade-long effort to upgrade the housing it offers to Island residents in early recovery. The $3 million four-building residential and administrative campus, built by Squash Meadow Construction on Short Hill Road off Holmes Hole Road, opened in December 2014.

Designed for group living for 17 men and seven women, including private (for seniors) and semiprivate bedrooms, fully equipped kitchens, laundry facilities, and common areas, the complex includes a separate administrative building with a community conference room available for 12-step meetings and other recovery programs.

The new campus.
The new campus.

Short introductory remarks by Board Chairman Mark Jenkins and Executive Director Dawn Bellante-Holland drew comparisons between the transformative nature of recovery and the benefits provided by a safe and secure environment for people building their recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Noting the community support for Vineyard House since its inception in 1997, the speakers credited efforts by Squash Meadow Construction, Jardin Mahoney, and a group of building tradesmen who worked on the project.

Mr. Jenkins noted that recovery work is not glamorous work. Indeed, most recovery work is conducted quietly, and observes the anonymity of sufferers. Stories are not often shared in a public setting, and Mr. Goldberg’s often emotional telling of his mother’s life transfixed the audience on Sunday.

Carol Potasnik Greenberg was born in 1927 in Yonkers, N.Y., “in a big family with big hearts who ate a lot, drank a lot, and laughed a lot,” he said. His mother shared the family traits, he said. “In her 40s, she moved to Israel, not speaking a word of Hebrew, to help children, survivors of a school bus bombing by Palestinian terrorists, to rebuild their lives,” he offered as an example.

He said her greatest act of courage came when she was 70, when she admitted that she was an alcoholic and had strained relationships with her family. “She went to rehab, and never had another drink. She mentored and counseled others during the remainder of her life,” he said.

Mrs. Greenberg died in 2013 of pancreatic cancer. She was 85.

Public acclaim for other contributors to the recovery community here has been observed in other Vineyard House buildings. Rooms and buildings are named for Hazel Teagan, who continues her decades of work helping addicts and alcoholics as a nurse at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital; for Kathy Ferland, longtime Vineyard House operations manager who died last month; and for Pat Gregory, who was Vineyard House treasurer and board member when he died in a senseless robbery and murder in 2014 during a California vacation.

The dedication clearly affected Dr. Charles Silberstein, an Island psychiatrist who has written extensively on Island substance abuse and has counseled untold numbers of people in recovery.

“Hazel [Teagan] and I have had this shared vision since 1995, that people would be able leave the hospital’s [former] detox center and move into a recovery environment. Then Julie Norman offered Vineyard House a property right next to the hospital. Amazing. As a psychiatrist, I can observe the ripples of recovery move through the community, something you don’t see in a larger urban community.”

The benefits of the new Vineyard House are best described by people who live there. Jill Huminski is the house manager of the Carol Potasnik Greenberg women’s residence. She has served as the women’s house manager for three years.

“I can see a tremendous difference,” she said. “This residence is telling people that we deserve good things in our lives, and they show respect for their home and toward each other. And I have never seen a group of men come together as they have here.”

Bill C, a Vineyard House resident for six months who asked that he not be identified, agreed. “This place makes me hold my head a little higher, makes me feel better about myself and in my relationships with others,” he said. “We are not on top of each other; there is room for living.”

The Vineyard House will hold its annual fundraiser, Water Tasting by the Sea, on August 6 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at the Captain R. Flanders House on North Road in Chilmark. More information is available at vineyardhouse.org.


Jack Shea is a freelance writer, and has served on the Vineyard House board.

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Following a one-year delay, the Army Corps signed off on a $2.2 million plan to deepen and widen the sand-clogged channel into Menemsha Pond.

Looking southwest, the Menemsha channel is visible in the background, and is scheduled to be dredged to the entrance of the pond. Photo by J.B. Riggs Parker.

One of the largest Martha’s Vineyard navigational projects in recent years is about to start in October, when work begins to dredge the length of the Menemsha Creek channel from the Vineyard Sound entrance into Menemsha Pond. The work is intended to provide a safe passage into the pond anchorage, designated a harbor of refuge.

One offshoot of the work will be approximately 60,000 cubic yards of sandy sediment, which will be pumped to replenish sand lost to erosion and storm damage along Lobsterville Beach in Aquinnah.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Work last week announced it had awarded a $2,170,798 contract to J-Way Southern Inc., of Avon, Ohio, to complete the dredging work. Work on the federal navigation project (FNP) is scheduled to start on or about Oct.1, and take about 12 weeks to complete.

The work was scheduled to begin in October 2014, but delays in securing the necessary state and federal permits pushed the project back one year.

The Army Corps is authorized to dredge the channel, last dredged in the early ’70s, to a depth of eight feet at low mean tide and a width of 80 feet from between the jetties that protect the Menemsha Harbor entrance, past West Basin and the red nun channel marker, and past Long Point, known locally as Picnic Point, into Menemsha Pond.

This map shows the channel and the area to be dredged.
This map shows the channel and the area to be dredged.

Money for the project comes from a $50 billion relief bill for areas damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

Earlier this year, the Army Corps completed a separate project to repair the jetties on either side of the channel.

“The project consists of maintenance dredging the federal navigation project at Menemsha Creek,” said Craig Martin, Army Corps project manager for the New England District, Programs/Project Management Division in Concord. “Approximately 60,000 cubic yards of sandy sediment will be dredged from the 10-foot entrance channel, eight-foot navigation channel, and six-foot anchorage by hydraulic cutterhead dredge.”

Work will not include dredging the 10-foot anchorage, where there is extensive submerged aquatic vegetation which cannot be disturbed or damaged under Massachusetts state permit requirements, the Army Corps said in a press release.

The sandy dredge material will be pumped via pipeline to Lobsterville Beach in Aquinnah, about 1.5 miles by water route to the west of the federal navigation project, the Army Corps said. The six-foot anchorage requiring maintenance dredging is approximately 1.5 acres in size.

 

Safe refuge

The federal government owns the channel that leads into Menemsha Pond, designated a federal harbor of refuge where boats may seek shelter in the event of a storm. In 1945, Congress authorized periodic maintenance dredging and repairs to the jetty to insure safe passage of vessels seeking refuge from storms. The Army Corps says parts of that channel have shoaled to depths of less than three feet, creating hazardous conditions for commercial and sport fishermen as well as recreational boaters.

Early in the project, the Army Corps sought to engage the main pond stakeholders, the towns of Aquinnah and Chilmark, and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah). While the Army Corps did not require local approval to move forward, it prefers it.

Navigating the political waters proved tricky. The town of Aquinnah and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) both favored the dredging project, as a way to improve the health of the pond by increasing water circulation, and to allow vessels access to Menemsha Pond.

Chilmark officials worried about the effect on the scallop fishery and the potential for more and larger boats to use the federally designated channel to enter the pond. However, those town concerns were not enough to outweigh the Army Corps mandate to protect navigation through the federal channel.

Brett Stearns, director of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) natural resources department, has played a pivotal role in support of the project.

Mr. Stearns said the natural resources department has plans to continue to enhance the scallop fishery in the pond, which is expected to benefit from improved circulation.

“I’m pleased that we’re moving forward,” Mr. Stearns said. “I think it is essential, not only the maintenance of the watershed but for access for vessels.”

 

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For the second Saturday in a row, firefighters battled a restaurant fire in downtown Edgartown.

Firefighters responded to a fire at Rockfish restaurant Saturday.

Updated: 7/15/2015 at 3:00 pm

There is no rest for the weary for Island firefighters. For the second Saturday in a row, Edgartown firefighters, backed up by Oak Bluffs, responded to a fire in a downtown restaurant.

The fire began about 2 pm in the Rockfish restaurant at the corner of North Water Street and Mayhew Lane. Co-owner Nell Coogan said that the fire began in an area of one of the restaurant’s four hood vents where grease was able to accumulate and the fire spread into a wall behind it.

Ms. Coogan said that as of Tuesday, all four vents had been serviced to prevent another grease fire and the entire menu was available.

Saturday, as police blocked off Main Street, the men and women volunteer members of the fire department stopped what they were doing on a gorgeous summer afternoon — at the beach, around the house, or at work — and answered the call.

Edgartown Fire Chief Peter Shemeth said the fire location proved to be fortuitous. Firefighters were able to open the wall from the outside and extinguish the fire quickly. “It was a real good save,” Chief Shemeth said.
There was little damage to the restaurant, and Health Inspector Matt Poole conducted an inspection that same day. The restaurant reopened Sunday with a limited menu, utilizing its wood-fired pizza oven.

Oak Bluffs firefighters also responded to back up Edgartown, standard protocol for a fire in the heavily congested downtown area.

Unfortunately, Chief Shemeth said, the department has some experience responding to exhaust-fan fires, a reference to a fire one week earlier in the Atlantic restaurant.

Chief Shemeth said he was very pleased with the response on a day when members of the department were scattered around town and the Island.

Asked if he thought he might get a chance to go to the beach, he said, “That would be nice; we’ll see what happens.”

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President Obama and family will stay for two weeks in early August.

President Obama will play plenty of golf, if previous vacations are any indication. — File Photo by Nancy Lane/Boston Herald

The White House confirmed Friday what has pretty much been common knowledge on Martha’s Vineyard for months. President Barack Obama, First Lady MIchelle Obama and their two daughters will return to the Island this summer, as they have all but one year of his presidency.

“On Saturday, August 8th, the President and the First Lady will travel to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts,” a White House spokesman said in a press release distributed late Friday. “They will remain there until Sunday, August 23rd, when they will return to Washington, D.C. There are no public events scheduled at this time, and further details regarding travel will be released as soon as they are available.”

Official confirmation followed preparations that began months ago when the White House began making reservations to accommodate the large entourage of Secret Service agents, White House staffers, and support personnel that are responsible for the safety and success of the president’s vacation.

Chilmark is favored

Last year, the Obamas stayed at the home of Joanne Hubschman on Gosnold’s Way off Prospect Hill Road, which overlooks the north shore and Vineyard Sound. The seven-bedroom, nine-bath, 8,100-square-foot house, sits on a 10-acre lot and features 17 rooms in total, expansive water views of Vineyard Sound, an infinity pool and hot tub, and a dual tennis-basketball court.

A view of President Obama's vacation getaway at Gosnold's Way in Chilmark. – File photo by Nathaniel Horwitz
A view of President Obama’s vacation getaway at Gosnold’s Way in Chilmark. – File photo by Nathaniel Horwitz

Ray and Lillian Kellman, who live in the house next door, told The Times in early June they suspect the Obamas will return to the neighborhood this summer.

“We’ve heard that they’re coming back,” said Mr. Kellman. “They’ve rented houses around here, and they wanted to rent this house for the purpose of the Secret Service. I presume if they rented houses around that they’re going to be here.”

Although he hadn’t heard anything official yet, Mr. Kellman said he was contacted by a real estate agent who told him that his house was one of several being considered for rental to the Secret Service. He said the Hubschman house is the perfect spot for the president and his family, as it is surrounded by conservation land.

“It’s completely private — it’s all reservation down here — which is why it’s so great for him,” Mr. Kellman said. “It’s a very secure area. It has a swimming pool, it has tennis courts, it has everything that you could want right there. And it’s got a rather staggering view.”

After living in their home in Chilmark for 40 years, the Kellmans never thought they would be sharing the neighborhood with a president. They said that besides a few road stops for car checks, the biggest inconvenience was having to provide a list of all their house guests. Last year they forgot to include their gardener and best friends on the list. But by and large, they said, having the Obamas next door didn’t really affect them.

“As far as I was concerned, we were just sorry not to catch a glimpse of him,” Ms. Kellman said.

Mr. Obama and his family have vacationed on the Island every year since his 2008 election, with the exception of 2012, when he was campaigning for re-election. Chilmark is their favored vacation spot.

In 2009, 2010, and 2011, the first family rented Blue Heron Farm in Chilmark, a 28.5-acre compound on Tisbury Great Pond. In 2013, the first family rented a house in Chilmark just off South Road. The location necessitated a road closure that left some Island residents grumbling about the inconvenience.

Past presidential vacation activities have included golf, more golf, bike trips with the family, hikes, and dinner with friends.

The annual event attracted throngs of people to Main Street, Vineyard Haven.

Main Street, Vineyard Haven was crowded with people for the annual Tisbury Street Fair Wednesday night. Photo by Larisa Stinga.

On a sultry summer night, Tisbury welcomed throngs of visitors to Main Street, Vineyard Haven Wednesday night for the 44th Street Fair where they enjoyed food, shopping and musical entertainment.

Pedestrians of all ages filled the street. For many, the Street Fair provides an opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones. Kids enjoyed a variety of activities.

The Island Cove Adventures climbing wall was a popular attraction.
The Island Cove Adventures climbing wall was a popular attraction.

Tisbury Police Lieutenant Eerik Meisner said the evening was peaceful and problem free. “Everybody had a good time and it went smoothly,” he said. “It was a good crowd.”

 

No bigger than a bottle cap, “the clinger” inflicts a knee-buckling sting that can require emergency treatment.

"The clinger" is about the size of a quarter and lives in eel grass in quiet, protected areas of saltwater ponds. – Photo by Dan Blackwood/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

On June 25, 17-year-old Florida resident Michelle Langone was rushed to Falmouth Hospital with respiratory failure and partial paralysis after being stung by a jellyfish known as “the clinger” while swimming off a dock in Waquoit Bay in Falmouth. “All of a sudden I felt my lower back tense up, and I couldn’t stand up straight, and like as if all my muscles were paralyzed,” she said in a June 26 interview with Boston television station WCVB. “I was cramping. It spread to my chest, and I couldn’t breathe.” Twenty-four hours after the sting, Ms. Langone said, she was still in pain, and had “tingling sensations” in her body. Ms. Langone’s mother described a scene out of a Stephen King novel, where her family was surrounded by a swarm of thousands of the stinging creatures.

"The clinger" has been documented in Farm Pond and Stonewall Pond.
“The clinger” has been documented in Farm Pond and Stonewall Pond.

According to Mary Carman, research specialist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI), the clinger, Gonionemus vertens, is also alive and well on Martha’s Vineyard. “We’ve had sting reports from Farm Pond and in Stonewall Pond,” she told The Times. Ms. Carman knows firsthand about the pain of a clinger sting — she was stung on the lip while doing research at Farm Pond. “It felt like five hypodermic needles going into my lip at the same time,” she said. “It’s not fun.”
Oak Bluffs Shellfish Constable David Grunden has also been stung several times at Farm Pond. “It’s a very intense burning sensation,” he told The Times. “It went away in several minutes. But it has caused some people to go into anaphylactic shock. Clingers can stick to your skin, so chances are one sting will actually be multiple stings.” Mr. Grunden said he found the first clinger in Farm Pond in 2006. He said the treatment for a clinger sting is the same as for a garden-variety jellyfish sting — douse the wound with white vinegar. Both Mr. Grunden and Ms. Carman were stung in previous years, and so far this summer, no clingers have been sighted in Stonewall or Farm Pond. “We’re not sure why that is, but mostly likely it’s a little early in the summer for them on the Vineyard,” Mr. Grunden said.

Invasive invertebrate
The clinger is an invasive species from the northern Pacific that was first documented in Woods Hole in 1894 by biologists. “They went away in the 1930s when there was an eelgrass blight, but in the past 15 to 20 years, we’ve been seeing them come back, and we’ve been getting reports of some pretty nasty stings,” Annette Frese Govindarajan, research specialist at WHOI, told The Times.

There is conjecture in the scientific community that its firebrand sting has actually evolved since its East Coast arrival. There is certainty, however, that more people are being stung.

“It’s alarming that there are an increasing number of reports,” Ms. Govindarajan said. “The population is spreading. We’re finding them where we haven’t seen them in the past. The symptoms reported by the girl who was stung in Waquoit Bay are similar to other reports we’re getting, with the breathing difficulty and temporary paralysis.”

Part of what makes the presence of clingers so vexing is that they are so small, between the size of a dime and a quarter, and they’re extremely well camouflaged, almost completely translucent except for a thin brown, orange, or purple border and and two thin lines that cross in the center.

Clingers get their sobriquet because spend most of their life clinging to eelgrass. “The stings occur when people disturb eel grass,” Ms. Govindarajan said. “They don’t swarm. They live in more quiet, protected areas in saltwater ponds where there’s a lot of eelgrass.”

Ms. Govindarajan said clingers pose no threat to beachgoers. “They don’t live in the open ocean,” she said. “They can’t handle water where people want to swim.”

Mysterious creature

Scientists know that the clingers live one summer as an adult before they die off in early autumn. Before they reach adulthood, they go through the microscopic larvae and polyp stages. It’s not known how long the polyp stage can last, but it is known that the polyp can form an outer shell so it can survive the New England winter. It’s likely that the clinger survived the eelgrass blight in the 1930s by hunkering down in the polyp stage. “The polyp stage is interesting, because one polyp can make several jellyfish; it’s an asexual stage in their life cycle,” Ms. Govindarajan said. “The adults reproduce sexually, and they produce larvae, which form polyps, and the polyps in the asexual stage make the jellies,” she said. “When jellyfish occur in blooms, it’s because a polyp can make a lot of jellies, and a lot of polyps can make an awful lot of jellies.” Although the jellyfish was first discovered in Woods Hole over a century ago, scientists have yet to determine what preys on clingers, and why an animal that feeds on small zooplankton has a sting so toxic it can temporarily paralyze humans.

“There’s a lot we don’t know,” Ms. Govindarajan said. “Right now we’re trying to understand why they’re coming back every year.”

 

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The second annual music and arts festival prepares to take over Waban Park this weekend.

Dwight and Nicole performed at last year's show, and will perform again this year. – Photo by Shannon Rynd-Ray

Waban Park in Oak Bluffs is the site of a two-day festival of music, food, and art this Saturday and Sunday, July 11 and 12, from 11 am until 10:30 pm. The second annual Martha’s Vineyard Sound Festival is billed as both a family event and a cutting-edge music happening, featuring a diverse musical lineup ranging from indie, rock, and folk to reggae and hip-hop. There are notable groups from off-Island, including the rocking Ryan Montbleau Band and the hip-hop group Lynguistic Civilians, as well as some of the Island’s best local talent, including Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish and the Mike Benjamin Band, among many others. There will be food booths, exhibits of art, and events for kids and families, with a focus on local food, home-grown talent, sustainability, and fun.

Event organizer, local musician, and producer Phil daRosa said last year’s inaugural event was a success, and he expects this year to be even better.

While strolling through the vendor booths, and snacking on delicious local food, Mr. daRosa said, visitors can watch visual artists and craftsmen, and also take advantage of a kids’ tent, which will providing fun games and activities throughout the day. A group of local artists will be on the scene, creating a collaborative painting inspired by the events of the weekend.

On Saturday, the Chilmark-based Martha’s Vineyard dance company the Yard will lead an interactive choreography session culminating in a performance between musical acts.

All ticket holders are welcome to attend “Yoga in the Park,” an outdoor yoga class with instructors from ONE Hot Yoga and an onsite DJ, from 10 to 11 am each morning.

Re-entry will be permitted, so that attendees can take advantage of the surrounding amenities, including the Oak Bluffs town beach, where one can go for a dip between sets.

Entertainment will continue beyond the main event at the park, with live music at satellite locations throughout downtown Oak Bluffs and Edgartown.

Good Night Louise, from left: Shawn Barber, Rob Myers, and Geordie Gude will play the festival again this year. – Photo by Geoffrey Parkhurst
Good Night Louise, from left: Shawn Barber, Rob Myers, and Geordie Gude will play the festival again this year. – Photo by Geoffrey Parkhurst

The full 2015 lineup, which Mr. daRosa said will also include “unnamed special guests,” includes Ryan Montbleau Band, the American roots-based Parkington Sisters from the Cape, Kenyatta Hill of Culture, Mieka Pauley, Dwight & Nicole, Dana Williams, Caroline Sky, Mike Benjamin Band, Will Dailey, Island Thunder Band, Charlotte Benjamin, Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish, Hitch & the Giddyup, Beninghof Walton, Alex Karalekas, the soulful stylings of Vineyard native Sabrina & the Groovers, Nate D’Angelo, Jason Nichols, the Jemima James Band with Rose Guerin, Crooked Coast, Good Night Louise, the Lynguistic Civilians, Black Brook Singers, and the Chandler Blues Band. DJs WEP, Ras Toe, and AP will spin between artists’ sets.

“The focus is on local,” Mr. daRosa said, “local restaurants, farmers, artisans, shop owners, nonprofit organizations, musicians, and visual artists are all contributing to the festivities.”

Mr. daRosa said in a press release that Martha’s Vineyard Sound is working toward becoming a zero-waste event. This year, festivalgoers will find free water refills available to anyone who brings their own vessel, as well as compost and recycling containers throughout the grounds. Martha’s Vineyard Sound is also teaming up with Preserver Products, a B-Corporation that will provide reusable recycled #5 polypropylene dishware and utensils, available at most food vendor booths. Vendors will provide information about the sourcing of their local produce and sustainable materials.

Martha’s Vineyard Sound is partnering with three local nonprofit organizations for ticket sales: Island Grown Initiative, the Yard, and the Martha’s Vineyard Skatepark (through the Green Room on Main Street, Vineyard Haven). Stop into one of their physical locations to pick up your tickets, and $5 from each ticket purchased will go back to the organization.

A portion of the proceeds from Martha’s Vineyard Sound will help kickstart the Island Collaborative, an Island nonprofit that will support sustainable projects on Martha’s Vineyard. Island Collaborative was created to facilitate collaboration between Island civic organizations, local government, schools, businesses, nonprofits, and individuals, to accomplish projects Islanders want and need. Visit islandcollaborative.org for more information.

 

Advance ticket prices: single day, Saturday or Sunday, $35, weekend pass $60, all-access passes $100/$150. Parking is available at the Oak Bluffs School. Purchase tickets online at mvsound.brownpapertickets.com. For detailed info and an event schedule, visit mvsoundfest.com.

 

Dean Bragonier will take a dip for dyslexia: 50 miles, while avoiding jellyfish, exhaustion, and sharks.

Dean Bragonier, who lives in Cambridge and on the Vineyard, will swim around the Island in a specially made suit designed to ward off sharks. – Photo by Michael Cummo

Vineyard Havener Dean Bragonier will begin a 27-part, freestyle circumnavigation of Martha’s Vineyard this Sunday at State Beach in Oak Bluffs. Forty-two-year-old Mr. Bragonier, a dyslexic, is the founder of NoticeAbility, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to creating a dyslexic-specific middle school curriculum. In addition to raising awareness about dyslexia, Mr. Bragonier is undertaking what will be a 50-nautical-mile swimming adventure to draw donations to NoticeAbility, in an effort to hit a $145,000 target for curriculum development. Several Island businesses, such as Wallace & Co., the Mansion House, Big Sky, Atria, the Art Cliff Diner, 7a, and this newspaper, have lent their support.

Mr. Bragonier will swim counterclockwise around the Island, starting at Big Bridge (aka "Jaws" bridge), on Saturday, July 11. Map courtesy Google. Illustration via NoticeAbility.org
Mr. Bragonier will swim counterclockwise around the Island, starting at Big Bridge (aka “Jaws” bridge), on Saturday, July 11. Map courtesy Google. Illustration via NoticeAbility.org

As a child, Mr. Bragonier struggled with learning disabilities in middle school. “I remember a seventh-grade history class where the teacher had us read aloud paragraphs from a textbook,” he said in a recent interview with the Times. “I would spend the first few minutes of the class trying to identify which paragraph would be mine (by counting off the number of students in the rows before me). Inevitably, as my turn approached, my heart would beat wildly with anxiety, knowing that I would stumble on words, mispronounce easy ones, and butcher my delivery.

“The class bully always had it in for me. I would feel his stare as my turn to read approached. One day, on a particularly horrific attempt at reading the paragraph, this student proclaimed that ‘my stupidity was holding up the class.’ This was met with a handful of laughs but none more loud and pronounced than the teacher’s own cackle.

“I was shattered.”

Mr. Bragonier eventually enrolled at Bates College, where, he has said, he finally developed a true love of learning, fostered “in large part by the institution’s unique approach to education and its support of students with learning differences.”

The initial spark for forming NoticeAbility came to Mr. Bragonier at a conference in May 2014, where he witnessed what he termed a “magical event.”

He saw an eighth grader from the Carroll School (a Lincoln school specializing in teaching dyslexic children) present a prototype project to a group of educators. He described the eighth grader’s device as a size 11 basketball sneaker with an “Erector Set attachment” and a wire. It was designed to charge a cellphone while the kid walked.

“As he presented this to this group of educators and received all these accolades and this praise,” Mr. Bragonier said, “I saw him kind of go through this metamorphosis from the nerves and anxiety of a young presenter into what was clearly going to be a future entrepreneur.”

The moment moved Mr. Bragonier to work toward exposing a wider population of young dyslexics to the type of specialized curriculum that enabled that eighth-grade dyslexic inventor to succeed. To that end he started NoticeAbility. It wasn’t long afterward that he hatched a plan to swim around the East Coast’s third largest island to spotlight both the company and cause.

Throughout the winter Mr. Bragonier trained with the Cambridge Masters Swim Club at the Harvard University pool to build up the stamina necessary for such an arduous series of swims. In order for his body to periodically recover, he won’t swim every day as he makes his loop.

“I’ll swim in a sequence of three days on, one day at rest, and I continue that pattern until August 16th,” he said.

For every one of the 27 legs of his swim, Mr. Bragonier will post a video blog featuring different aspects of the journey, alongside different folks from on- and off-Island who were born with dyslexia. Recent Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School graduate Charlie Marano will film the blogs (which will also be available on the Times website; see info below). Mr. Bragonier described Mr. Marano as having “an exceptional eye for video documentaries.”

Visitors to Mr. Bragonier’s site will be able to follow his progress as he moves around the Island. Each of the “lightbulb” waypoints will turn to orange when he’s finished that leg.

Mr. Bragonier faces a range of hazards in the Atlantic, from wayward boaters and old buoy lines to rip currents and jellyfish — frustratingly common in Vineyard waters, these stinging globs form minefields around which Mr. Bragonier will not be able to swim, but must just plunge through. One particularly ominous hazard, about the size of three end-to-end refrigerators, has motivated Mr. Bragonier to seek creative defenses in the name of sanity. That hazard, of course, is the white shark.

Mr. Bragonier happens to be friendly with renowned shark expert Greg Skomal, and has consulted with him about the risks these huge fish pose to the swim.

“He and I have talked about this issue at great length,” he said. “The reality is there’s very low risk. However, based on the duration of time that I’ll be in the water and increases in seal populations, it warrants real consideration. Greg’s principal concern is the south side of the island and the east side of Chappaquiddick.”

Along with being monitored by the Dukes County Sheriff’s boat and, at times, various harbormasters, Mr. Bragonier has hedged against the threat of becoming a chew toy by commissioning a special triathlete suit that’s decorated on the legs with an orange light bulb pattern and on the chest with green striations in an effort to mimic coloration akin to poisonous marine life. The thinking is that white sharks will not only not be disinclined to sample something they deem harmful to them, but they will be less likely to mistake Mr. Bragonier for something he’s not.

“I absolutely don’t look like a seal,” he confirmed.

Also, around his ankle, Mr. Bragonier will wear an electronic deterrent popular with abalone divers, spear fisherman, and surfers, made by Shark Shield of Australia. The device trails a 4-foot cord that emits a radio frequency sharks apparently detest.

Mr. Bragonier plans to pick his swim times and shore distances carefully.

“I don’t want to swim after dusk or before dawn. Those are principal feeding times for great whites. I don’t want to swim if I see seals. The other things Greg and I have spoken about are the preferred feeding depths. The depths of water that great whites tend to feed the most in range from 12 to 25 feet.”

Mr. Bragonier further defined those depths of concern to be in the zone just beyond the surf break, where the seabed often drops off. So for safety’s sake, he’ll hug the shore, staying inside the natural breakwater along the south side of the Island. Unfortunately, this is where waves are generally hefty. He anticipates getting knocked around in the surf a bit.

“It’s going to be very challenging swimming,” he told us.

For better or worse, Mr. Bragonier is linked to some interesting bits of “Jaws” trivia. He is the former owner of the Amity Café in Oak Bluffs. His father was a friend and fishing buddy of Peter Benchley. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the motion picture. The director of that blockbuster, Steven Spielberg, is dyslexic. Lastly, Mr. Bragonier’s swim will end at the second bridge on the Oak Bluffs–Edgartown line, site of the infamous ‘shark in the pond scenes’ in the movie.

Passionate about dyslexia being a cognitive asset as opposed to a disability, Mr. Bragonier hopes the swim will bring more folks around to looking at it in that way as opposed to merely a disorder. He noted that dyslexics excel in entrepreneurship, engineering, architecture, and the arts, and cited his wife Sally Taylor’s multimedia installation “Consensus” as a concrete example of the fruit regularly born from a dyslexic mind: “For anyone who wants to see what the strength of dyslexia looks like,” he said, “her creation, which is called ‘Consensus,’ is being housed on the second floor of Midnight Farm. It’s on exhibit all summer long.” And Sally is not the only one in Mr. Bragonier’s extended family to have suffered from the learning disability. His mother-in-law, singer Carly Simon, said in an email to the Times, via Mr. Bragonier: “As a dyslexic child, I never got to feel proud of what I was good at. If you’re not talented at what school thinks is important, then you’re a failure. If a student is only categorized in the traditional subjects, then you lose the sense of yourself as a person.

“[But] there are other ways of being an ‘A’ student,” she continued. “You can be one in multiple ways. To open a student’s eyes and let them realize that they are an ‘A’ at something is just as important. Any light that you can shine on that is creative unto itself.”

 

For more information visit noticeability.org, and check out mvtimes.com/on-island for Mr. Bragonier’s video blog, and an interactive map which will follow his progress.

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Aquinnah selectmen Monday voted to issue a cease-and-desist order to prevent the tribe from working on the community center.

Tribal leaders want to turn the long dormant Wampanoag community center into a bingo hall.

Aquinnah selectmen met in a specially called executive session Monday morning, and voted unanimously to deliver a cease-and-desist letter to the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) that orders the tribe to stop work intended to transform a long-unfinished shell of a community center into a high-stakes bingo facility.

Scott Crowell, who represents the Aquinnah Wampanoag Gaming Corporation, a separate tribal entity formed to pursue gaming, said the tribe will not respond to the order to stop work on the building, and is well within its legal rights to proceed under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The heart of the issue is the extent to which the settlement agreement limits the tribe’s ability to build a casino, either in southeastern Massachusetts or on tribal lands on Martha’s Vineyard. Signed by tribal leadership in 1983 and ratified by the state legislature in 1985 and by Congress in 1987, the settlement agreement stipulated that the tribe was subject to local and state laws and zoning regulations in effect at the time.

The legal question still to be settled is whether the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) signed in 1988 trumps the settlement act Congress approved in 1987. That question is now before a federal judge.

The 6,500 square foot building that is the latest flashpoint in tribal-town relations was erected at taxpayer expense just off the entrance road to the tribal lands by two teams of Air Force reservists in 2004 and 2005 as a civil engineering community project. The shell sat dormant and unfinished after the citizen-soldiers departed.

It was not until Governor Deval Patrick signed the state’s 2011 expanded gaming law, which authorized up to three licenses for resort casinos in Massachusetts, that the tribe turned its full attention to the unfinished building. Spurned in its quest for a piece of the mainland gaming pie in favor of the Mashpee Wampanoags, the Gay Head tribal membership narrowly voted to turn its unfinished community center into a Class 2 gaming facility.

In December 2013, Governor Patrick filed suit in state court to block the tribe from moving forward with a gaming facility on Martha’s Vineyard. The case was later moved to federal court, and the commonwealth was joined by the town of Aquinnah and the Aquinnah/Gay Head Community Association Inc. (AGHCA).

A hearing is scheduled August 12 before U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV on cross-motions for summary judgement, at which all sides will argue the case. In a deposition given last week, Tobias Vanderhoop, chairman of the Wampanoag Tribe, testified that the tribe planned to move forward to convert the building.

The tribe contends it does not need a building permit to proceed because it meets federal gaming requirements. If it moves forward the tribe would be on the hook for approximately $1.2 million in Housing and Urban Development grants appropriated for the community center.

‘Overwhelming implications’

The selectmen took action Monday at the request of town counsel Ronald Rappaport. Mr. Rappaport has previously argued that the tribe must comply with town zoning and building requirements, and that gaming is not a permitted use.

“It is clear that the tribe and the gaming corporation intend to proceed with construction of a casino,” Mr. Rappaport said in a phone conversation Monday, “and that they intend to proceed without obtaining any town permits. We cannot sit back and allow anybody to build anything in town without a permit, so the selectmen today authorized the issuance of a cease-and-desist order, and we intend to follow up on that.”

Asked what is at stake for the town and the Island in federal court, Mr. Rappaport said, “A casino on the Vineyard — as [selectman] Jim Newman said today, is nothing that we planned for, and the implications are somewhat overwhelming.”

Over the years, the Aquinnah/Gay Head Community Association has vigorously defended the tenets of the settlement agreement even as it worked to forge closer ties with the tribal leadership. The tribe’s latest move, just weeks before the central question will be decided in court, came as a surprise.

“The unilateral actions being taken by the tribe’s leadership to move ahead to open a casino in Aquinnah are astounding, in that they fly in the face of the core issues that are the heart of the ongoing litigation among the commonwealth, the town, AGHCA, and the tribe,” retired lawyer and longtime AGHCA president Larry Hohlt told The Times. “It is quite appropriate for the town to issue a cease-and-desist letter. Hopefully doing so will result in responses by the tribe that will not make the taking of further legal action necessary.”

Cease and desist

The letter is dated July 6 and signed by assistant building inspector Leonard Jason, Jr.

The order describes the permitting history of the building, which was to include a gymnasium, stage, locker rooms and a kitchen. Following a series of public hearings, on December 13, 2007 the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) approved the community center as a development of regional impact under the condition that the tribe would return to the MVC should it “substantially alter the use of the premises from the proposed uses.”

In 2011 and 2012 the town issued building permits for a community center.

Mr. Jason’s letter references the testimony of Tobias Vanderhoop on July 1, when he testified under oath that the building permits issued by the town were no longer valid because the tribe had transferred control of the building to the gaming corporation for use as a casino and has the authority to proceed under the IGRA.

“Mr. Vanderhoop acknowledged that the tribe did not notify the town about this change of use, nor did the tribe seek new or amended permits to reflect its proposed change of use. He further stated that the tribe would not permit town inspections, and that the type of commercial gaming  which would be conducted on the premises was ‘electronic bingo, or, as it’s referred to, Class 2 gaming activities …’ Mr. Vanderhoop stated that the tribe has retained a contractor and an architect, although architectural plans have not been made available to the town.”

Mr. Jason said the tribe cannot proceed with its renovation plans for a casino without permits and that commercial gaming is not a permitted use under town zoning bylaws.

“Accordingly,” Mr. Jason said, “I must instruct you to cease and desist from all construction activities at this time.”

‘Spurious side proceeding’

The tribe is represented by Scott Crowell, who heads the Crowell Law Office Tribal Advocacy Group, a firm “committed to tribal advocacy and the preservation and furtherance of tribal sovereignty,” according to the group’s website.

Mr. Crowell said the town is well aware of the tribe’s legal position that the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act supersedes the settlement act regarding gaming. “Any jurisdiction of the commonwealth and the town over matters integral to the tribe’s gaming operation that might have been in effect prior to the passage of the IGRA, is no longer in effect, and that includes the town’s efforts to use its permitting process to interfere with the tribe’s gaming operation,” Mr. Crowell said in an email to The Times.

“The town was well aware of the tribe’s position well before this past week. That is why they intervened in the federal litigation. The issue will be resolved in that litigation and not in some spurious side proceeding over a permit.”

Mr. Crowell said the tribe offered to take steps to assure the town that all work was up to code, but the town responded by issuing the cease-and-desist order. Mr. Crowell said the tribe’s decision to move forward with construction should come as no surprise.

“The tribe initiated this process well over three years ago, and the town brought its lawsuit against the tribe because it was already aware of the tribe’s plans,” he said. “The effort of some to portray these developments as new, or a change in the timeline, has no basis in fact. Indeed, if anything, the process has been slower than anticipated.”

Class 2 gaming of the type envisioned for Aquinnah encompasses high-stakes bingo, poker, pull-tab cards, and associated electronic games that do not require coin slots. Unlike class 3 gaming, which encompasses all types of gaming and requires a tribe-state agreement, tribes may regulate Class II gaming on their own lands without state authority, as long as the state in which the tribe is located permits that type of gaming.

Benefits for all

The May 2011 vote at a general membership meeting of the tribe to use the community center building for gaming was unannounced, and revealed a clear split between tribal members who live on the mainland and Island residents. The vote was 21-10 with 7 abstentions. A second vote followed in May 2012 that affirmed the earlier vote but by a narrower margin.

This week, tribal members submitted a petition calling for another vote on the use of the building by the general membership. That vote will be scheduled later this summer, tribe chairman Tobias Vanderhoop told The Times in a telephone conversation Tuesday.

Mr. Vanderhoop said the cease and desist order was not unexpected. He referred all questions about work on the building to Ms. Andrews-Maltais.

Mr. Vanderhoop said there is no question that the question of gaming in town has created divisions among the membership. He said he has tried to mitigate the concerns of tribal members through additional discussion.

Asked for his personal view on the question of gaming, Mr. Vanderhoop said, “It is my responsibility as the elected chairman of the tribe to represent the interests of all the tribal citizens. My point of view is that I stand with the actions that the membership takes and I carry out my duty.”

Asked if he agrees with the idea of constructing a casino in town, Mr. Vanderhoop said, “As long as it is the will of the people that is what we will do.”

Mr. Vanderhoop said it is important that people understand the benefits the proposed gaming facility would bring to the tribe, in terms of increased funding for a variety of social services that include health care, scholarships and youth programs, as well as “additional housing to allow tribal citizens to return home.”

Mr. Vanderhoop said there would be benefits for the wider community. “The gaming facility has the potential to increase tourism on this end of the Island,” he said, “increase patronage to the existing businesses across the Island and will create more jobs, not only in the facility but for ancillary businesses that will have the opportunity to benefit from the tourists.”

Spiritual impact

Two of the three members of the Aquinnah board of selectmen, chairman Spencer Booker and Julianne Vanderhoop, are tribal members and do not share that rosy assessment of the impact.

Mr. Booker said the selectmen were unaware of the tribe’s plans. He said that on most issues there has been communication between the town and tribe, but where gaming is concerned, the town has been left out of the loop.

Mr. Booker said he is opposed to gaming in town, and fears its effect on a cultural and spiritual level. He said he is not alone in that view.

“A casino in Aquinnah would impact the tribe and tribal people greatly on a very deep level,” Mr. Booker said. “People have hunted these lands for generations, and what would it do with the masses teeming all over our lands?”

Selectman Julianne Vanderhoop said she is perplexed by the tribe’s actions, and said the notion of creating a gaming hall in the Island’s smallest town is “far-fetched.”

Ms. Vanderhoop said the tribe has been sold a bill of goods, and is not considering the implications of a project that would ultimately be more harmful than good.

“It’s disappointing to me, not only as a town official but as a tribal member,” Ms. Vanderhoop said. “I really don’t know how this is viable at all.”

Ms. Vanderhoop said the push for a casino on tribal lands is driven by the off-Island membership who are not connected to the rhythm and culture of the Island. “I think that everyone in town is unprepared for this,” she said.

At the least, she said, the tribe ought to wait until there is a decision in the case now before Judge Saylor.

Earlier decision

In an earlier procedural ruling, Judge Saylor said that the tribe remains bound by the terms of the settlement agreement, and knowingly waived its sovereign immunity with respect to tribal lands.

In that instance, Judge Saylor was ruling on a motion filed by the tribe to dismiss the AGHCA complaint.

In a 33-page decision, dated Feb. 27, 2015, Judge Saylor leaned heavily on a decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in December 2004, which found that the tribe was required to seek a building permit in the winter of 2001 when it erected a small shed next to the shellfish hatchery on one of its ancestral lands, known as the Cook property, without a town building permit. The state’s highest court ruled that the tribe, then the only federally recognized tribe in Massachusetts, was not immune from zoning enforcement despite its federal recognition and its claim of sovereign immunity.

Judge Saylor did not address the overarching question of the IGRA, but he did speak to the settlement agreement and the tribe’s multifaceted arguments, and in doing so laid the groundwork for any future defense of the settlement act with respect to other land-use issues, irrespective of the rights of the tribe to gaming.

Following a detailed legal analysis, Judge Saylor said that he “must give full faith and credit to the decision of the Supreme Judicial Court.”

Judge Saylor said that in reaching its decision, the SJC “necessarily must have determined that the settlement agreement was enforceable against the parties” and “that the tribal council was capable of waiving the sovereign immunity of the tribe even though it had not yet been federally recognized.”

Taking one step beyond the Cook lands, Judge Saylor said, “The language in the settlement agreement applies equally to the remainder of the tribe’s lands as it does to the Cook Lands; there is no apparent basis on which to distinguish the Cook Lands from the lands targeted for gaming. By that reasoning, therefore, the tribe waived its sovereign immunity with respect to all of its lands.”

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The YMCA of MV's sold out Stars + Stripes festival attracts big name bands for the organizations annual fundraiser. – Photo courtesy YMCA of MV

Updated July 7

The YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard’s annual Stars + Stripes music festival celebrated its 5th birthday on Friday at Flatbread Company in Edgartown. Over 750 people attended, indulging in pizza and libations, as four big-name bands and two young local singers filled the restaurant with dancing and music that could be heard as far as the MV Airport down the road.

Since the festival’s conception in 2010, Stars + Stripes founders Derek Davies and Lizzy Plapinger have brought nearly 20 high profile bands to the Island, given ten local students the opportunity to perform before large audiences, and raised over $400,000 in ticket sales and sponsorship donations–100% of which directly benefits the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard.

The larger community contributed to the night’s success. Offshore Ale was the official beer sponsor and Our Market was the official Liquor and Wine sponsor for the event.  Giveaways were generously donated by Norton Point, Vineyard Vines, and Lululemon for the sponsors and first 100 attendees.

As one of the Island’s only music festivals (Martha’s Vineyard Sound Fest takes place at Waban Park in Oak Bluffs next weekend), Stars + Stripes sold out all 700 tickets this year, (as with all previous years), but this marked the first time that tickets sold out in advance of the show.

The highly anticipated evening began at 7:30 pm, when director of YMCA’s teen program Alex’s Place, Tony Lombardi, took the stage.

“You can’t keep a good thing down,” Mr. Lombardi said of the festival and its commitment to the local community, before introducing two young musicians from Alex’s Place who, as tradition goes, open the show each year.

This year, Oak Bluffs School student Leah Hairston became the youngest Stars + Stripes performer at age 12, with her rendition of “House of the Rising Sun.” Upcoming Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School freshman Robert Hanjian followed with an Oasis cover.

The Times sat down with Mr. Davies and Ms. Plapinger for an interview as the first headlining group of the night, indie rock band Santah, began to play.

“Stars + Stripes is really about giving back to the community,” said Mr. Davies, as Santah singer Vivian McConnell saturated the restaurant’s dance floor and garden area with passionate vocals.

“Martha’s Vineyard is our favorite place in the world,” Ms. Plapinger agreed.

The pair met at the Chilmark Community Center as kids and bonded over their love of music and the Island. They founded record label Neon Gold Records in 2008 and began bringing members of the Neon Gold family to the Island for the first Stars + Stripes in 2011.

In honor of the festival’s fifth anniversary, Mr. Davies and Ms. Plapinger organized a “greatest hits” version of Stars + Stripes by inviting past headliners Alex Winston and Walk the Moon back to the stage. Walk the Moon is currently at the top of this summer’s music billboards with their hit “Shut Up and Dance.” Santah and NYC-based duo ASTR rounded off the bill with their Martha’s Vineyard debuts.

By Santah’s finale, the dance floor was filled with people of all ages (over 21 per the event’s policy). Alex Winston got everyone moving with her Stars + Stripes classics, followed by ASTR with an hour-long electronic/hip hop set.

According to Mr. Davies, the festival is as much about giving back to the Island as it is about giving back to their artists.

“As a touring artist, it’s so rare that you actually get to experience the places that you’re visiting. We like to be able to give that ability to the bands we work with,” Mr. Davies said.

In lieu of performance profit, Stars + Stripes artists receive a three-day, all-expenses-paid visit to the Island, donated largely by Beach Plum Inn in Chilmark.

Santah’s Stanton McConnell said of his Island experience, “As soon as we set foot on Martha’s Vineyard, I felt a strange peace within me… It’s also the only place I’ve ever sound checked in my swim trunks.”

When the highly anticipated Walk the Moon began to play just before midnight, the energy of the crowd was at its peak. Everyone sang in unison to covers of the Killers and Miley Cyrus, and the summer’s music season seemed to start with the first stanza of “Shut Up and Dance,” “Oh, don’t you dare look back/just keep your eyes on me.”

Along with it’s fundraising initiatives Stars + Stripes served as the kick off to the YMCA’s Summer Music Series and will be followed by several shows at Alex’s Place with special guests Dana Williams, We Are the New Generation, Amie Penwell, Ellis Paul, Charlie Nadler, and the series finale show with the Nashville Hitmakers on September 19 back at Flatbread. Tickets are available at www.brownpapertickets.com/profile/1081405.