Path markers stir flames beneath Chappy bike path debate
An attempt by at least one opponent of a Chappaquiddick bike path to mark the proposed path has escalated an already tense disagreement among Chappy residents.
The Chappy Path Committee, formed last year to promote and support a bike path, is now opposed by the newly formed Sharing Chappy Roads Committee. Members of both groups packed the Edgartown selectmen's office on Monday. It was clear from the tone of the debate that the prospect of a bike path on Chappaquiddick still deeply divides residents of the small rural island. At least two previous organized efforts to create a bike path were abandoned in the face of opposition. The battle dates back 30 years with proponents generally arguing that a bike path would make biking safer, and reduce car traffic, while opponents argue generally that a path would make biking more dangerous, and construction would forever alter the rural character of Chappaquiddick.
While still only an idea, proponents of the bike path have suggested a route along the south side of Chappaquiddick Road and Dike Road all the way to Dike Bridge. Local homeowners awoke one morning last month to find ribbons tied to trees and foliage along that route. It is unclear exactly what the ribbons were supposed to represent. Some thought they marked the dimensions of the proposed path, some thought they marked trees that would be cut down. Members of the opposing committees declined to identify who put up the ribbons, but Chappy resident Geoff Kontje, who spoke for the committee opposing the path, said the ribbons were not put up on the authority of his committee.
Town administrator Pam Dolby received numerous complaints about the ribbons. Some were on private property, but most were on town property. Selectmen ordered the highway department to remove them.
At Monday's meeting, Dick Knight, representing proponents of the path, asked selectmen to appoint an ad hoc committee to develop a specific plan for the path, which would be presented to voters at Edgartown.
"The committee we're asking you to form is a proponents committee," said Mr. Knight.
Proponents want a specific proposal with design plans, cost estimates, and funding sources, so town meeting voters can decide the issue. "It's very hard to come to a decision on something, if you don't know what it is," said Chappy resident Tom Tilghman. "Right now, we're just talking in ether."
Chappy resident Bob Clay, who opposes the path, later responded to that statement. "I know what a bike path looks like, and I'm not on ether," he said.
Selectmen took no action on the request to form a committee, but asked the opposing sides to discuss the issues, and return to selectmen to report any progress.
"Building consensus ought to be the objective," said selectman Art Smadbeck.
"If a plan does make it to town meeting," said chairman Michael Donaroma, "it would be nice to know the plan had the input of some of the people who have grave concerns."