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At a recent Donors Collaborative meeting of nonprofit executive directors, Betty Burton, who runs the Family to Family Holiday Meal Program, told the group that if they wanted to see a great example of collaboration, they should come to the program’s Thanksgiving distribution. It was, she said, an incredible effort by a long list of donors and volunteers that included Island farmers, Island Grown Gleaners, the FARM Institute, Vineyard Committee on Hunger, Reliable Market, Cronigs, Stop and Shop, the First Baptist Church, preschoolers from the First Light Day Care Center, 10 members of the high school football team, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School faculty and students, members of Daybreak Clubhouse, and the financial donations of hundreds of Islanders.

Collaboration is a buzzword in the nonprofit world that elicits varied reactions. Donors and foundations encourage it because they believe it gives their gifts more impact, and they see it as a solution to a glut of nonprofits, many with overlapping missions, which would benefit from merging. Nonprofits can feel threatened by large-scale collaborations or mergers because change can be scary and people’s jobs are at risk. Nevertheless, Vineyard nonprofits have been finding ways to work together, mostly through joint programming and marketing efforts, but donors and foundations are insisting more be done.

So how can we overcome the natural forces that impede the community benefits of larger-scale collaboration? One way is to learn from those who are doing it.

Ann Smith, executive director of Featherstone and chairman of the recently formed Arts Martha’s Vineyard, the Island’s arts & cultural collaborative, said she was skeptical about the benefits of collaborating with competing arts and cultural organizations until she attended a meeting several years ago where they were all brought together to discuss how they could address common issues. She has been astonished at the camaraderie and business they’ve developed. Also, they aren’t going to the towns for money but instead are getting state and national grants because they are collaborating. She’s passionate when encouraging others to not be afraid to collaborate. “We have to get the elephant out of the room, focus on what’s good for M.V. and the entire Island,” she said.

Julie Fay, executive director of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, said her organization started two new large-scale collaborations after identifying critical gaps in services for Islanders.

Working with Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, they filled a gap in addiction and mental health treatment by establishing an on-Island community crisis stabilization program (CCSP) on the hospital grounds. This will help reduce the number of Vineyarders who have to be sent off-Island for hospitalization for acute distress due to addiction or mental health issues. It will also reduce treatment costs.

Community Services also helped form the Island Wide Youth Collaborative (IWYC) to address the sharp increase in the demand for youth-oriented mental health services on the Island and the lack of resources to handle it. They plan to better coordinate the efforts of Island clinicians and provide specialized training, along with increased outreach and prevention programs for kids and parents. The IWYC is comprised of members from the public schools, the hospital, the YMCA, the M.V. Youth Task Force, and private practitioners. This collaborative effort was impressive enough that it received a larger-than-requested grant from the Tower Foundation: up to $300,000 a year for two years.

Foundation money will continue to drive collaboration on the Vineyard. The recently formed MVYouth plans to invest a remarkable $1 million a year in youth programs and have made it clear collaboration is a key criterion.

The Vineyard also has issues at the other end of the age spectrum, as the bubble of baby boomers reach their golden years, and more and more seasonal residents retire here. The Island will feel this impact much more than the rest of Massachusetts and the country: the 65-plus population of the Vineyard is predicted to grow 134 percent by 2030, while the U.S. elderly population grows only 81 percent and the state 61 percent.

These numbers raise big questions about town budgets for the Councils on Aging and the Center for Living, and about future needs for housing, transportation, assisted living, homecare, and basic health and human services. To address these issues, the Donors Collaborative helped put together the Healthy Aging Task Force (HATF), a group of more than 36 health, human services and municipal organizations that provide services to Island elders, working to address the needs of our growing elder population.

It is clear that to succeed, the HATF will need to develop new models of service delivery and patient-centered care, which will require large-scale collaboration and major changes in the way things are done. Our doctors, the hospital, the VNA, Elder Services, home health care organizations and others will need to work together as a team, sharing information and responsibility for managing individual patient-care plans.

The needs of our growing elder population do not stop at town lines, and the big elder issues of affordable housing, transportation, infrastructure, and workforce development clearly require Island-wide solutions. The Martha’s Vineyard Commission needs to add social services to its planning agenda, and the six towns through the four Councils on Aging and the Center for Living need to have a unified mission and plan for meeting the growing needs of Island elders if they are to improve the efficiency, quality, and quantity of services offered.

So how can we overcome the bureaucratic challenges to changing the status quo that impede large-scale collaboration and regionalization?

Betty Burton also described her Thanksgiving Food program as an “all-Island community affair,” and it is indeed a great example of how the entire Vineyard community comes together to help those in need. Both of our Food Pantries, the Red Stocking Fund, and You’ve Got a Friend are shining examples of this. We do community really well, but need to improve collaboration.

What Julie Fay did, however, is really just the same as what Betty Burton did, but on a larger scale. They both mobilized people, organizations, and resources to help Vineyarders in need, and their focus was on the Vineyarders, not their organizations. Betty used volunteers and small donations while Julie used paid staff and large grants.

Could the solution to improved collaboration be to just think of it as community, but on a larger scale?

Peter Temple is a resident of Aquinnah and the executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Donors Collaborative, an advocacy organization devoted to sustaining the Vineyard by strengthening its nonprofit community.

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GreatPondBluefishIn mid-November of this year, a series of sunny days with light southwest winds moved my partner Ruth Kirchmeier and me to extend the fishing season by going forth for white perch in Tisbury Great Pond’s Town Cove.

In mid-afternoon we paddled our canoe south down the cove from Mill Brook to the mouth of the Tiasquam River (brook) where we anchored. I began spincasting a tiny Hopkins stainless steel jig — its single hook adorned with a small piece of squid — and Ruth got out her pencils and crayons and a sketch pad. A superb woodcut artist, she rarely climbs into a canoe without the tools of the initial phase of her trade.

White perch are one of our favorite food fishes and I had good reason to anticipate success, having caught many of them in the same spot in previous Novembers.

After 20 minutes of casting without a hit my optimism was fading.

A sharp strike startled me and I was startled again when my hooked quarry leapt from the water, something that white perch don’t do.

It was a big snapper — a handsome, gleaming bluefish of about a pound and a half. I caught several more of the same size in the next hour.

Ruth was delighted. She greatly enjoys one of my recipes for cooking snappers of this size. I scale and gut them and make an incision down the lateral line on both sides, brush them thoroughly on both sides with olive oil, season them with salt and pepper and a substantial dusting of garlic-flavored bread crumbs, and bake them for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. It is a good idea to check them with a fork after 10 minutes. If the flesh flakes apart easily, they’ve been cooked long enough.

Tisbury Great Pond is a so-called salt pond, opened to the ocean — typically four times a year — by man. The reasons for these periodic openings include maintaining proper salinity for the pond’s oysters and soft-shelled clams, allowing access by spawning alewives (herring) and spawning American eels in spring, and avoiding the flooding of pond-side fields, marshes, roads, and homes. White perch also enter the pond to spawn, although some members of that species remain in the pond year-round. Low salinity and cold water doesn’t bother them and they can live their entire lives in freshwater ponds, lakes, and streams.

From the Tiasquam River’s outlet south to the ocean, the West Tisbury-Chilmark town line goes down the center of the pond. The pond’s riparian owners — there are about 100 of them — in both towns have formed an organization that is responsible for opening the pond at the proper times. They also annually elect a president, vice-president, clerk, treasurer, and three commissioners. They assess themselves annual dues of $100 each. In recent years, pond openings have cost about $600 each.

In 1839, the Massachusetts Fish and Game Commissioners made formal notice of the ecological need for periodic great (salt) pond openings, and in 1904 the Massachusetts Legislature authorized the riparian owners of all such ponds (save Edgartown Great Pond) in Dukes County to form organizations that would attend to pond openings. The Tisbury Great Pond riparian owners have been doing this for more than a century.

Kent Healy of West Tisbury — a civil engineer who is one of the Tisbury Great Pond riparian group’s commissioners — says that his organization confers with various state agencies about the timing of the openings. As an example of this, Brad Chase of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries is a frequent visitor to the Vineyard and Tisbury Great Pond.

The day I caught the snappers, the pond was high. It had been last opened in mid-July and had closed a month later. As of December 5, it was still closed. If the health of the pond’s fish and shellfish isn’t being threatened, the pond’s stewards let it fill until it is about 3.5 to 5 feet above sea level.

Snappers enter the pond in early June if it is open. They are usually six to seven inches long at that time, having been spawned offshore in the Atlantic in late spring. In the western Atlantic, bluefish range from Nova Scotia to Argentina. Bluefish can live to be 12 years old. Maximum weight is over 30 pounds, but 20 pounders are unusual. A five-pounder is considered a good fish by Vineyard anglers. The species is found throughout the world in most temperate oceanic waters.

Bluefish reach sexual maturity in their second year. At that time they are from 12 to 18 inches long. A three-year-old female produces from 0.6 to 1.4 million eggs annually.

Large bluefish occasionally enter Tisbury Great Pond, but don’t make a habit of it and rarely range any great distance from the barrier beach. Bluefish are voracious feeders and one of the reasons the snappers enter the pond is to escape predation from other fish, including their parents. Another reason is that ample food for them — including shrimp, crabs, silverside minnow, and young menhaden — is plentiful in salt ponds, bays, and estuaries.

The snapper’s habit of seeking food and shelter in salt ponds sometimes backfires. My son Jeff, his son Sam, and I observed this firsthand a few days after Ruth and I caught our snappers.

During the previous week Jeff and I had been refurbishing our three waterfowling blinds at the outer end of Mill Brook and putting out duck and Canada goose decoys. Because the pond was high, we used an aluminum skiff to get to those blinds. Two or three times an oar dipping into the water produced swirls from fish we judged to be more than a foot long.

We had already noted that the last two downstream pools in the brook were filled with great numbers of menhaden an inch or two long, medium-sized silverside minnows and some half-grown sea robins.

On our return to the landing in our skiff, the light was such that we could see what had caused the swirls: scores of large snapper blues surging up and down the pool. Jeff decided to fish the pool with Sam the following morning which was the opening day of the waterfowling season. (He wanted some snappers for smoking and freezing, and we had already made plans to hunt ducks and Canada geese in that spot the afternoon of the same day.)

A sad and sobering scene greeted my son and grandson when they arrived at the pond.

The bottom of the brook and its shores and the marsh beyond was littered with dead snappers and a much smaller number of sea robins. Gulls, cormorants, black-crowned night herons (locally called “quawks,” my own spelling), eastern turkey vultures, and crows were feasting on them. Most had been eaten by mid-afternoon. I suspect, although we didn’t see one, that otters also took part in the feast.

I should add that we didn’t inspect the remainder of the pond to see if other contingents of the fish had perished. The shallow pond covers about 600 acres when it is low and 800 when it is high. A few days later I learned from Tony Rezendes of West Tisbury that Nick Bayer, who has a home on the pond, had seen dead snappers on the shore in the Tiah’s Cove area.

Whilst duck hunting the east side of the main body of the pond in winter over the past half-century, I had occasionally seen young bluefish breaking water among my decoys, or clusters of them lying frozen on the shore of Tiah’s Cove, but this most recent experience was the only time I had observed schools of them alive one day and dead the next.

I felt that cold water was the major cause of their demise although low salinity would also have been a factor. The air temperature had dropped below freezing on recent nights. Bluefish less than 10 inches long need water temperatures above 45 degrees Fahrenheit in order to survive. Larger bluefish can take a bit more cold. If the pond is open when its waters get too cold for bluefish, they return to the warmer ocean.

The day we found the dead snappers I took the water temperature of the pond at the brook’s mouth. It was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. At the same time that day in the ocean offshore of the Vineyard near Nantucket Island, the Nantucket Sound Main Channel 17 Lighted Gong Buoy recorded a surface water temperature of about 47 degrees Fahrenheit.

Jeff and I assumed that — ignoring the lower salinity they encountered — the snappers and the sea robins had pushed their way into the brook to dine on the silverside minnows and the young menhaden.

Because the snappers we found ranged from 8 inches in length to one that was 18 inches long and weighed 2¼ pounds, we also came to believe that separate young-of-the-year contingents — or even a few from the previous year — had entered the pond.

I have come to think that those responsible for opening the pond to the ocean should include the welfare of bluefish in their endeavors and that all of the salt ponds within the bluefish’s range up and down the Atlantic coast should be similarly regulated. This is a relatively inexpensive way to further protect one of our most valuable food and game fishes.

Nelson Bryant of West Tisbury was for almost 40 years the outdoor columnist for The New York Times. As a young man, he participated in the D-Day invasion with the 82nd Airborne. Later he became managing editor of the Daily Eagle in Claremont, New Hampshire and then a dock builder on the Vineyard, before beginning a career as a columnist that would take him around the world and back again to the Vineyard.

About the artist

Beginning in 1979, Glenn Wolff’s pen-and-ink illustrations accompanied Mr. Bryant’s Outdoors column. The evocative images and attention to detail traced the currents of the written word in a collaboration that delighted New York Times readers for 26 years and was renewed in The MV Times (November 2012, “Writer Nelson Bryant recalls a lifetime in the hunt”). Original fine art, prints, and more information is available at

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The role of primary care physicians (family doctors and internists) at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is going through a big change. Primary care doctors will no longer treat patients while they are admitted to the hospital. Adult patients who are admitted to the hospital will be cared for by internists whose job is to care for hospitalized patients. These doctors, who are called hospitalists, do not have office practices. They are on the hospital floors throughout the day, from 7 am until 7 pm, seeing all of the admitted patients, and they will be on call to the hospital during the night. Your primary care doctor will therefore work only in his or her office.

This system in which patients have different doctors for hospital care than for office care started about 15 years ago and is now a usual practice across the United States. Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is one of the last hospitals in New England to adopt this system.

Nonetheless this is new both for Martha’s Vineyard patients who have always known that their doctor will be responsible for their care in the hospital, as well as for the doctors who expected to care for their patients if hospitalized.

Let me say that this is mostly a good change, and with the transformation that is taking place in medicine there is really no choice. Hospital medicine is in many ways different than office-based medicine, and it is a field that is changing rapidly with new tests, new medications, and new ways of caring for many diseases and conditions. Hospitalists have received special training for this kind of medicine, and because they do it every day they are able to keep up with new developments. They are on the floor all day long and therefore more available to patients and their families. They will usually have more time, and are not held to an office schedule with certain times available to go to the hospital, usually at the beginning and end of the day. Family meetings can take place at any time. Coordination of care among different professionals is easier, and transfers to larger hospitals if necessary are more easily arranged.

Patients understandably will say, “but my own doctor knows me better,” which is true. However, the hospitalist and the primary care doctor will coordinate the patient’s care together, and the primary care doctor can speak to the hospitalist to review special issues. Also as many patients realize, patient care in the past 20 years has become more complex, and each visit takes more time, more paperwork, and now more computer work. This is true in the hospital and in the office. A primary care doctor can no longer “do it all” and “do it well.” Although the system will be different, I have no doubt that patients admitted to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital will continue to receive high-quality care.

Dr. Henry Nieder practices family medicine at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

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I would like to respond to a recent spate of Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) bashing, particularly as it relates to the current review of some developments of regional impact and to the commission’s budget. As chairman of the MVC, it concerns me that these criticisms seem to be largely based on misinformation about these issues, as well as about what the commission can and can’t do. I must admit that before joining the MVC as the appointed member from Oak Bluffs five years ago, I was perhaps equally uninformed.

I think that most Islanders continue to believe in the mission of the commission as described in the enabling legislation that created the MVC 40 years ago, namely: “preserving and conserving for the enjoyment of present and future generations the unique natural, historical, ecological, scientific and cultural values of Martha’s Vineyard…by protecting these values from development and uses which would impair them, and by promoting the enhancement of sound local economies.”

The Commonwealth gave Islanders and towns special authority — through the commission — to regulate development. This has been remarkably successful in preserving the environment and character of the Island, which are the basis for the Vineyard’s strong economy, property values, and tax base. The commission has two regulatory tools, developments of regional impact (DRI) and districts of critical planning concern (DCPC).

DRIs are new building projects, subdivisions, and other developments that require a permit or permission from an Island town and have a regional impact. If the project triggers the commission’s checklist defining Island-wide impact, the town must refer the application to the MVC before issuing a permit. The commission then reviews the application based on the procedures, sometimes admittedly a bit cumbersome, dictated by our enabling legislation and the Commonwealth’s Open Meeting Law. As a result, dozens of projects every year are significantly improved, thanks to the commission’s DRI review, by ensuring they don’t negatively impact the water quality of coastal ponds, traffic, parking, affordable housing, scenic values, and many other concerns that are largely beyond the scope of individual towns to address.

When the commission reviews a DRI application, it must not only look at the big picture, but it must also look at the details — such as the specifics of how much nitrogen is in the wastewater or calculating the appropriate affordable housing mitigation — to determine whether the project’s anticipated benefits outweigh the detriments, the standard for project approval. These details are also important since they will be included in the project approval that the community will live with for generations to come.

Usually, the MVC completes its hearings in one or two meetings, as was the case for the Cottage City Bowling application. Clearly, the Stop & Shop hearings have stretched out much longer than the MVC or Stop & Shop would like, due to the fact that it took Stop & Shop six weeks or more to go back to head office each time it revised its plans in response to community concerns, to the time it took for the traffic studies and peer reviews, and to the fact that the applicant asked for several delays waiting for the town of Tisbury’s resolution of the design of the town’s adjacent parking lot.

The Commission’s other regulatory function, DCPCs, provides additional protection to special areas, generally at the request of towns. DCPC designation gives towns the authority to write special regulations to protect these critical districts. After approval at town meeting, these regulations are administered exclusively by each town.

Some people criticize the commission for going too far with its regulatory authority, others for not going far enough. Notwithstanding the high-minded goals of our mission statement, the commission does not have unlimited authority to right any wrong and prevent anything that anyone sees as a threat. The DRI and DCPC processes are for new development and do not include regulating existing buildings, businesses, or other situations.

In addition to funding the MVC’s two regulatory functions, two thirds of the commission’s budget is spent on planning, serving the Island as a whole and assisting individual towns. This is where we make some of our greatest contributions to achieving the goals of our enabling legislation.

We work on a wide variety of planning challenges, most of which do not stop at the town lines. Almost all the watersheds of the Island’s coastal ponds extend across several towns and our water resource planner, Sheri Caseau, works on protecting the water quality of our coastal ponds and single source aquifer. Our transportation planner, Priscilla Leclerc, works with Mass DOT and towns on efforts to improve transportation across the Island. Our economic development and affordable housing planner, Christine Flynn, spearheaded the recent Housing Needs Assessment and has been instrumental in working with towns to apply for grants. Our DCPC coordinator and coastal planner, Jo-Ann Taylor, is completing a Pre-Disaster Mitigation Plan for the Island, making towns eligible for a range of grant opportunities. Our GIS (Geographic Information Systems) coordinator, Chris Seidel, not only makes maps supporting a wide range of MVC planning efforts, but also provides assistance to all towns on GIS issues and supports various town departments’ map requests. The DRI coordinator, Paul Foley, is the only planner who works exclusively on the regulatory side.

The cost of these important services to the Island is modest. The commission is funded largely by assessments collected by the towns on behalf of the commission. This year, a typical property assessed at $500,000 pays $23.68, regardless of what town it is located in.

For the fiscal years 2011, ‘12, and ‘13, the MVC had no budget increases because we knew the towns were in dire financial conditions because of the recession. However, that caught up with us in 2014 and 2015, when legal expenses for defending MVC decisions so greatly exceeded our artificially low budget line that we had to take money from our general reserve fund to meet legal expenses. Even though our FY 2015 budget includes a one-time obligatory replenishment of the reserve fund, the MVC’s average budget increase over the past six years is only 2.2 percent. And since the replenishment of the reserve fund is a one-time expense, all town assessments will go down next year.

The MVC continues to play a vital role in protecting what makes the Island so special and not the “Anywhere U.S.A.” it could become without the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.

Fred Hancock of Oak Bluffs is chairman of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.

The MV Times addiction series, which began on January 2 with“Opiate addiction on Martha’s Vineyard hits home” and the on-target Editorial of February 27 [Time for concerted action, community strategy] bring home the base reality and attendant consequences of substance abuse. The recent rash of heroin-based overdoses and associated deaths focus public attention on what is a long-term and persistent health problem.  The prevalence on Island is exacerbated by seasonal employment and isolation.

The question posed in last week’s editorial was: “How to do better?” Reaching more of our neighbors, coworkers, and family members with this condition requires three broad strokes:

First, while the Island has specific components for treating addiction — e.g. prescribers, outpatient counseling, sober living, 12-step meetings for adults, and youth prevention efforts — the Island doesn’t have a funded, coordinated system of care. The Island lacks a capacity to detoxify and establish medical stability, that can hand the patient off to an intensive outpatient or residence-based continuing care system, that is followed with integrated medication and counseling based outpatient care for family and patient as appropriate, and where recovery is supported by peers over time.

Second, concerted and more consistent screening and identification of substance abuse by primary care physicians, school staff, the emergency department, first responders, and other related parties can increase the opportunity to connect people with local treatment resources.

Third, as with any chronic health condition, the key to controlling and improving the condition is ongoing follow-up. This is difficult to achieve when detoxification is done 50-plus miles across the water; where no organizational or other connection between a medication provider and counselor exist; where the primary medical provider is not connected to the whole episode of care.  At the crux, this isn’t about collaboration between organizations; it’s about making continuity of care into a seamless, coherent experience for the patient and their family — here, locally.

Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS) and our partners, including the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, Island Health Care, Vineyard House, Youth Task Force, Vineyard Health Care Access, law enforcement, and the court system, schools, town boards of health, private practitioners and other interested parties have participated in several planning efforts over the last decade that have come to the same conclusion — a seamless system of care is vital, and each iterative effort has resulted in meaningful, but small steps.

A case in point.  The New Paths Recovery Program run by MVCS, the only intensive outpatient recovery program on-Island — and the result of the most recent community effort to do something to address this problem — has served more than 350 Island residents since its inception in late 2010. New Paths is funded in part by a generous Martha’s Vineyard Hospital grant, which will expire in January, 2015. The program’s future is unknown, as it lacks the requisite financial base.

The long-term funding of New Paths and increased coordination of current services, as well as the addition of services not currently available on-Island for those suffering from substance abuse and their families, will take a determined focus that cannot waiver.

Substance abuse and the devastation it causes to individuals, their families, and the community is not new. Substance abuse will not simply go away.  As a community, we can do better and we must do better, and the time is now.  It will take money, time, community commitment, and creativity.  Let’s take a giant step forward and actually create the necessary system of care and ensure its long-term sustainability.  Attention to this issue must be defined in years, not months.

Victor Capoccia is the board president of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. Juliette Fay is the executive director.

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A photo illustration shows how the latest design for a new grocery store in Vineyard Haven would look.
A photo illustration shows how the latest design for a new grocery store in Vineyard Haven would look.

Stop & Shop has proposed to replace its current tired and inadequate Water Street store with a beautiful new store that, beyond all measure, will meet the needs of the community, benefit the town of Tisbury, revitalize the center of Vineyard Haven, and in the process encourage future investment in a downtown area that sorely needs reinvestment as the gateway to the Vineyard.

There is no need for word pictures here. Just walk up Water Street for starters. Quaint and inviting are not defined by peeling paint, narrow sidewalks in disrepair, and rundown structures. The before and after of Stop & Shop’s proposal is stunning by Vineyard standards.

The Stop and Shop Company plans to expand into the space now occupied by a former restaurant and clothing store.
The Stop and Shop Company plans to expand into the space now occupied by a former restaurant and clothing store.

As a former Tisbury selectman and a citizen of our town for more than 30 years, I know firsthand about failed efforts over the years to revitalize the downtown, and I fear the consequences of allowing further deterioration. We’ve asked commercial property owners to simply do the bare minimum upkeep, put a coat of paint on a tired building, to

replace loose shingles, very simple measures to enhance the beauty of our town. We enacted a town by-law to provide the local building inspector some enforcement authority and a penalty structure to force business owners to maintain their buildings. Yet, for all of those efforts, today as I write this we have not one full-service restaurant on Main Street that serves dinner, no movie theater, and one rundown grocery store.

Tisbury has a loyal partner in Stop & Shop, one who over the years has contributed generously to our schools, seniors, and community programs. In Stop & Shop, we have an anchor for revival of the downtown — renovating an entire block, keeping in the character of Tisbury’s rich history, and attracting visitors back to Vineyard Haven who are now bypassing the town for Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, and beyond. Sadly, Tisbury has become, for many summer visitors and locals alike, just a waiting line for the ferry.

It’s time we do something about this. There will be those who remain resistant to change on Martha’s Vineyard. For reasons I cannot explain, we will always have a group of people who want to keep the status quo, even when the status quo is rundown, dilapidated buildings. From my perspective, change is a good thing, when done smartly. The proposed renovation of Stop & Shop is smart development.

Some in opposition have unfairly criticized Stop & Shop for the lengthy permitting process. The reality is that this site is perhaps the most unique development site on Martha’s Vineyard. We are adjacent to the main port for vehicular and pedestrian traffic to the Island throughout the year. We are adjacent to the worst intersection many of us will ever know, the infamous Five Corners. And we are abutting a town property, the

municipal parking lot that services the entire downtown area. We have been working closely with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, town of Tisbury officials, the business community, and residents of Tisbury to make this a better project. We are thankful for the input and the directions provided from many different and varied sources.

The most recent deliberation that has delayed our bringing our project to a final hearing is the result of ongoing discussions, since October, between Tisbury selectmen and a special town subcommittee over recommendations for improvements to the adjacent municipal parking lot. When Stop & Shop first applied to the MVC we had a vision for the parking lot that was included in the proposal. We were advised to bifurcate the project and focus on only the Stop & Shop property, and to let the town decide what they wanted to do, if anything, with the town lot. That has simply proved impossible. This project does not exist separate and apart from the lot. They are inseparable. Ultimately there are too many issues that interconnect between the lot reconfiguration, or the lack of a reconfiguration, and the proposed renovation, to provide a final product for a decision from the MVC.

Therefore, Stop & Shop has asked for the MVC to delay a final hearing until the town of Tisbury has had a full and complete opportunity to vet the proposed changes to the municipal lot. Once the town has made its determination, whether to change the lot or not to change the lot, Stop & Shop can button up its final proposal and head to a clean, and complete, MVC review.

As for the facts of this project:

• The footprint of the new building is just 6,500 square feet larger than the existing footprint of the buildings currently on site.

• The Water Street footprint of the proposed building is the same length as the present Stop & Shop and the rundown Chinese restaurant that now serves as storage for the store.

• The Norton Lane footprint of the new building is the same length as the current Stop & Shop, now a hodgepodge of three entrances for groceries, personal and hygiene products, and natural foods.

• The rear andwest side of the new building, blocked from view for the most part by surrounding buildings and proposed structures, will be extended the length of the Prouty house and yard.

• Stop & Shop is fully committed at its own expense to relocating the deteriorating Prouty house that, discovered as a part of this application process, is hidden from view, and years from now, if left in it’s current state, will collapse in disrepair.

• And yes, the building is higher, as will all renovated buildings be along Water Street, given new state regulations for the flood plain. Taller buildings along Water Street are unavoidable, a minimum of eight feet taller. The proposed Stop & Shop building height at 33 feet, in fact, is lower than the proposed new Island Housing Trust building next door and below the current zoning requirements.

There is a reality here. All buildings in the Water Street location will, at some point in our future, be raised approximately eight feet so that they don’t wind up in the harbor.

Project benefits:

• Stop & Shop is smartly utilizing the space beneath the building created to comply with the proposed floodplain elevation to provide 42 parking spaces beneath the structure. The proposed plan relocates the truck deliveries from the Norton Lane side of the store to a completely enclosed receiving area to the rear of the building.

• Stop & Shop has reduced the originally proposed store size by close to 15 percent, thus creating much wider sidewalks and pedestrian friendly gathering spaces along its Water Street frontage.

• All of the proposed development will be on Stop & Shop’s property, thus eliminating the current easements that are in place.

• The company has also committed to contributing to traffic studies for Water Street and the downtown, and to working closely with its neighbor, the Island Housing Trust. Results of collaborative studies with traffic consultants have indicated the replacement store will only increase in traffic at Five Corners by about six percent.

• This project creates new jobs: with its proposed new Vineyard Haven store, Stop & Shop will employ 160 in season (30 full-time and 130 part-time) and 100 in off-season (20 full-time and 80 part-time). Part-time workers will have regular opportunities for increased hours. At present, the Vineyard Haven store employs 96 in season and 57 in the off-season.

• And finally, the impressive architecture of this proposed building: architect Chuck Sullivan of Oak Bluffs has designed a supermarket in keeping with Tisbury’s vintage architecture, in tone, scope, and aesthetics. This will be one of the most attractive supermarkets in all of New England.

The downside of not moving forward with this project is business as usual in Vineyard Haven, and that is not in the best interest of anyone — the town of Tisbury, its residents, and Stop & Shop.

Geoghan Coogan of the Edmond G. Coogan Law Office in Vineyard Haven represents Stop & Shop and is a former member of the Tisbury board of selectmen.

‘Tis the season for gathering with family and friends, exchanging gifts, attending concerts and worship services, and sitting down together for a big holiday meal, but as you pack the car to go off Island or prepare your home to receive extended family, your anticipation is mixed with apprehension.

You’ve got to bring it up, but you don’t know how, and you’re dreading what’s going to happen when you do.

What’s “it”?

It could be anything. Maybe your 90-year-old dad has had two fender-benders in recent months. You think it’s time for him to stop driving, but you know he’s going to hate the idea.

Or perhaps the sibling who looked after grandma in her last year is still living in her house. The house now belongs to all three of you. Now what?

Or perhaps your aging parents are struggling to keep up the home you and your siblings grew up in. Would they be happier in a Woodside Village apartment?

Or perhaps Mama has been complaining incessantly about her next-door neighbor in the group living situation she moved into last spring. Is there anything you can do to help her out?

Such matters are hard to bring up, but if they aren’t addressed, the situation may deteriorate. Relationships fray. Family members stop speaking to each other.

Here is where a facilitator can be indispensable. Facilitators are neutral third parties who have been trained in mediation techniques. They help focus the discussion and keep everyone on track. They ensure that all participants are heard. When a party can’t be present for health or other reasons, they make sure that person’s interests are represented at the table. Facilitators trained in elder affairs are familiar both with the issues facing adult families and with the community resources available to them.

One service offered by the Martha’s Vineyard Mediation Program (MVMP) is facilitation for family meetings. The elder population on Martha’s Vineyard is growing. Studies suggest that as much as 80 percent of elder care is provided by families, not institutions. Accordingly, the MVMP has designated elder affairs a priority for the coming year.

In mid-November, 11 Vineyard mediators and elder care providers attended an all day workshop run by Elder Decisions© of Norwood. The trainers, authors of the book “Mom Always Liked You Best: A Guide for Resolving Family Feuds, Inheritance Battles and Eldercare Crises,” emphasized that elder affairs involve more than elders. Adult family members are very much part of the picture. These may include former spouses, half siblings, and others who either don’t know each other well or haven’t spoken in years. They have different expectations, needs, and resources, all of which must be taken into account.

Where the disposition of property and other family assets is concerned, these differences can lead to serious conflict. As the authors of Mom Always Liked You Best note, “these dilemmas account for some of the most vicious family feuds and court battles in our society.” With the help of trained facilitators, families can work together to identify and solve potential problems, thus avoiding future bitterness and litigation. The best time to do this is before declining health or depleted finances precipitate a crisis.

With facilitation, a meeting dreaded by all can become an opportunity to solve problems, resolve disputes, and improve relationships among family members.

“It was amazing,” said one MVMP client. “We were able to vent, have our feelings validated, and then get reinforcement on the topics we needed to discuss and make decisions on.”

Led by the Dukes County Health Council and its Healthy Aging committee, Martha’s Vineyard is mobilizing to better serve its aging population. Its priorities include health care, transportation, and housing. They also include helping families and caregivers deal with the challenges that can come with aging. As part of this effort, the Martha’s Vineyard Mediation Program offers facilitation services to help Vineyard families work through these issues and emerge with solutions acceptable to all parties.

Pete Meleney and Susanna Sturgis are mediators with Martha’s Vineyard Mediation Program Inc. Reach MVMP at 508-693-2999 or by email at

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As I watch the MVC struggle to deal with the proposed Stop & Shop and the traffic, both current and anticipated, I want to shout “Move the Steamship truck and car traffic.”

Such a proposal is not a new one. It was first broached by the Tisbury selectman John Schilling in the late 1970s, in a plan put before the MVC. It has been recently proposed again by the Editor of The Times in an editorial [Editorial : Keep the supermarket, lose the SSA’s auto and truck traffic, August 14] and by letters and comments. There are various possibilities in such a move, and they should be investigated before the traffic problems become terminal.


Move the big boat car and truck traffic down Beach Road beyond the R. M. Packer Company complex so that cars and trucks would disembark in two possible directions — to Oak Bluffs or back to Tisbury. This would ameliorate the jam-up at Five Corners and facilitate travel for those heading to Oak Bluffs.

Keep foot traffic coming into the existing SSA terminal in Tisbury by encouraging the Steamship to use more pure passenger vessels as it reconfigures its fleet. These could run more frequently and be attractive to tours and those who park in the SSA lots. They could be small, fast ferries and would provide high margin revenues to the Steamship while fueling the merchants in Tisbury and the tour operators. In addition, the big ferries would not have to be the “birthday cake” giants like the Island Home. The existing Steamship building could remain and be a ticket purchasing point for all passages.


There would be a need for a jetty into the harbor to protect the new truck and car terminal on Beach Road from northeast wind. New slips would need to be built to accommodate the discharge of traffic on to Beach Road.

All of this would be costly. But would the alternative be cheaper? The Island population grows inexorably. It has become a destination for countless activities: vacation houses, retirement houses, weddings, tours, presidents (unfortunately), aspiring presidents, fishing contests, wealthy entourages of all stripes, and, of course, all the maintenance and service personnel to make them all happy. We are no longer the sleepy, little, informal Island of the past. This population explosion will plug up Five Corners and make the Oak Bluffs SSA terminal exit more and more difficult to navigate at ferry arrival times.

How to pay for it

Assuming the various town, regional, and ferry line planners subscribed to moving the Tisbury car and truck terminal, how would we pay for it? State funds? Federal funds? Bond proceeds? Assessments on each of the towns? Special add-ons similar to the various taxes in Boston on room rates? Fare hikes on short term turnaround auto visits? It would probably take all of the above, but these are issues for the planners, once the political leaders of the Island submit it to them. Feasibility studies are needed, and we have the MVC for that. This is clearly a regional issue suited for that body.

Do we have the will to make such a change? Or are we content to just let the traffic pile up, the huge delivery trucks jamming up Five Corners as they try to turn right at State Road, the tour buses and VTA challenging all and sundry trying to frequent the new Stop & Shop?

This is where we live. We should at least examine the possibilities of this plan, first made so long ago and then laid on the shelf to age. Is it time to move the SSA? Do we have the will to try? Is this not exactly the kind of regional impact plan the MVC should take on — especially since they are being confounded by the traffic issue on Water Street as it is?

J. B. Riggs Parker of Chilmark is a former Martha’s Vineyard member of the Steamship Authority.

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— Photo by Lynn Christoffers

Thunder Ben David of Chilmark died on July 25, after seven glorious years as the biggest attraction at Native Earth Teaching Farm, owned by Rebecca Gilbert and Randy Ben David.

“He was our rock star boar,” Rebecca said.

Thunder was born in 2006 at a farm in Pennsylvania known for breeding Berkshire pigs since the 1950s. “He came from a good blood line,” Randy said, “and I’m pretty sure he was the first Berkshire pig on Martha’s Vineyard.” He weighed upwards of 800 pounds, had a fine black coat with random white patches, and sported distinctively notched ears — one way pigs are branded when they are little.

During his lifetime, Thunder was well-known as a desirable stud, and his services were in high demand with other pig farmers. He sired dozens of offspring around Martha’s Vineyard until the summer of 2010, when his stud services were officially taken over by his son, Thunder Jr.

From 2010 to 2012, Thunder was employed to root out and create a pasture at Tupelo Farm in West Tisbury. He happily consumed an acre of poison ivy and cat briars, rooted up old stumps and large rocks, and dug numerous wallows. He loved to be scratched with a flexible metal rake and would lie down and shut his eyes in happy abandon during this treatment.

In his spare time, Thunder delighted visitors to the Native Earth Teaching Farm, won several blue ribbons at the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair, and was the star attraction at a parade in West Tisbury where he upstaged the selectmen. He was also featured in “A Pig and a Pumpkin,” a short documentary shown on MVTV that captured his prowess at consuming pumpkins down to the very last seed.

During this past winter Thunder appeared in the MV Times when he escaped from his pen on Christmas Day and was heroically retrieved by officer Garrison Vieira of the West Tisbury Police Department. Clearly an expert with livestock, Officer Vieira lured Thunder with a bucket of corn a quarter mile down a dirt road, in the dark, back to his pasture.

Explaining Thunder’s death, Randy said that it is not economical to keep an animal you don’t use, and it is not good practice to have two boars on the same farm. Ordinarily Thunder would have lived only five years, but due to his rooting job at Tupelo Farm he had another three years of service.

“He was a good pig,” Randy eulogized, and many will miss him.

Thunder will be fondly remembered by his owners, Randy Ben David and Rebecca Gilbert and their extended families on and off Martha’s Vineyard, Jim Sullivan, also of Native Earth Teaching Farm, Joanie Ames of Tupelo Farm and her extended family and neighbors, the crew at Seven Gates Farm, and many others too numerous to name, who brought him leftovers, especially corn and watermelon — two of his favorites.

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Each summer, my family journeys to Martha’s Vineyard from our middle class New Jersey suburb for our annual vacation. We now spend three weeks during the summer in an effort to enjoy the bucolic surroundings of this Island in an attempt to forget the daily grind and recharge our batteries. I’m responsible for having increased the length of our stay, trying to heal the emotional scars of my youth that have been left raw due to my lack of a two-month summer vacation from school. Despite my efforts, I can’t seem to recapture those glory days.

Each year, I lie awake at night in our rented vacation house after a day of conference calls or reviewing and editing documents pondering whether our prolonged trip is fulfilling the so-called purpose of vacation. With the advent of Blackberrys, and now the new and improved smartphones, which seem to send and receive data faster than the speed of light, does anyone actually recharge their batteries anymore? Sure, I wake up every day after another fitful night of sleep to go for a run or play some tennis. But it would be sacrilegious for me not to check my emails before and after my hour of recharge. From that point on, barely minutes go by before I feel the need to electronically check in with the world. Although I can only surmise, I’m sure that is what an addict must feel like before his next hit. And when I hear the well-known buzz of an incoming email or text, I feel gratified that I have instantaneously picked up the message, even if it is just an advertisement for back to school sales. A chocolate chip ice cream cone doesn’t seem to have the same medicinal effect anymore. Does anyone in the working world really remember what it was like not to be so connected?

It has gotten to the point where if I don’t respond to an email or text within minutes, I feel as if I’m just outright rude. And who wants that reputation? Or, suppose one doesn’t respond to an email for a day. Other than you passed away, the only potential excuse for such an egregious act is that someone stole your phone. It is the 21st century version of the dog ate my homework. We have become the child generation — one that needs, at the very least, instant acknowledgement. We crave instant gratification, but at this electronic warp speed, we’ll take what we can get.

Years ago, families went on vacation. Vacation used to mean that you left your home so that you could relax and get away from it all. Now vacation means you take your laptop, iPhone, iPad or the latest electronic wizardry even if it should be to a galaxy far, far away, so that you can do your work in a more relaxed environment. Heaven forbid, you are out of phone or email touch for more than an hour. I’m not sure, but I believe the world would come to an end if that should ever come to pass.

Recently, I decided to conduct an experiment as I walked the streets of Manhattan during lunch — of course, having my newest iPhone in my firm grasp just in case someone tried to contact me. I decided to see how high I could count before I saw someone talking on their phone or typing away on their mobile device. Having only gotten to three, I was certain it was a data point outlier and attempted another test run. This time I counted to two before multiple cellphone users passed me on my stroll. When did we become so important that we can only go minutes, if that, without communicating to someone?

It has become the norm in my town that the rite of passage to your tenth birthday is that you become connected to the telecom network through one of Steve Jobs’ collaborations. It is the 21st century electronic version of “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Connect to the pod-like flowing data network, or be ostracized by your peers.

And yet, I’m conflicted by this extreme technology advance from the days of my youth. My mobile gadgetry has allowed me to work from virtual offices around the world. But most importantly, it has allowed me to work from home on those lazy Fridays in the summer when I don’t feel like commuting into Manhattan. It also gives me the opportunity to see my son in living color when he attends college out of state this fall. I have to admit that I like to know how my Knicks are doing through my multiple sports apps. But where does this leave me?

Hold on, I need to take this call.

Lee A. Goldberg lives in Wayne, New Jersey. He and his family have come to the Vineyard for the past 18 summers. They rent a townhouse at Mattakesett near South Beach. He is co-founder of Goldberg Cohen, a law firm specializing in intellectual property and based in New York City.