Tisbury selectmen end skip-dredging in Tashmoo
On February 11, Tisbury selectmen voted to allow commercial fishermen Jason Robinson and Tom Searle to skip-dredge for quahogs in the northwest corner of Lake Tashmoo for quahogs, using a heavy dredge with rake-like teeth that dig into muck or sand.
On March 10, selectmen Jeff Kristal and Geoghan Coogan ended the one-year trial after learning that the two fishermen had been cited for overfishing.
Selectman Tristan Israel was absent.
Meeting Tuesday, selectmen appointed Danielle Ewart as shellfish constable. She started work yesterday. Ms. Ewart has been deputy shellfish constable in Oak Bluffs since 2004.
At the March 10 meeting, Hillary Conklin, acting shellfish constable, reported that she had stopped the skip-dredging for the time being because she had issued citations for overfishing. Mr. Searle, who protested Mr. Baccelli's assertions that skip-dredging is harmful to the pond, admitted he was "kicking himself" for making a poor decision on the overfishing. Both he and Mr. Robinson were fined $350 and lost their licenses for 30 days.
"No more, we're done," Mr. Kristal said, as he and Mr. Coogan formally ended the trial.
In other shellfishing related business, selectmen agreed this week to a deal that would offer Oak Bluffs shellfish constable Dave Grunden $6,500 to work with Tisbury's shellfish department on mutual efforts for five to 10 hours per week for six months.
Island Plan overview booklet debuts
An eye-catching four-color booklet included in today's issue of The Times offers a summary of the Martha's Vineyard Commission's (MVC) Island Plan, the regulatory body's ambitious blueprint for Island development and change during the next 50 years.
The booklet touches development and growth, the built environment, energy and waste, housing livelihood and commerce, the social environment, transportation, and water resources.
"The plan's findings demonstrate conclusively that both year-round and seasonal residents are concerned that the Vineyard and our way of life are succumbing to the cumulative impacts of growth and change," James Athearn, Island Plan chairman, said in an OpEd that appears on Page 9 of today's Times.
The 24-page document is a "lite" version of the heftier full-size document created following a three and a half year planning effort that cost $341,000. Island taxpayers contributed $120,000 to the effort through earmarked town assessments, in addition to each town's annual MVC assessment.
MVC executive director Mark London said in an email that the commission paid to print the Island Plan materials with a portion of a $24,000 grant from the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). The remainder of the grant money will be used for other outreach activities in the coming year.
The booklet cost $13,000 to print and about $2,400 to distribute in Island newspapers this week, Mr. London said. The cost of printing 200 copies of the full document, which will be distributed to town boards, libraries, and other entities, is a little less than $4,000, he added.
"The full Island Plan can be downloaded from islandplan.org, and we are also burning a hundred CDs of the full document," Mr. London said.
The Island Plan process was publicly launched in the summer of 2006.
One-way street backers looking for direction in O.B.
The Oak Bluffs roads and byways committee is asking for public opinion on a plan to create one-way traffic patterns on all of Dukes County Avenue, and a small part of Sea View Avenue.
The committee is composed of representatives from the police, fire, ambulance, and highway departments, the board of selectmen, town administrator, and the business community. It has scheduled a meeting for public comment on Wednesday, March 24. The meeting is scheduled for 5 pm in the Oak Bluffs Library Meeting Room.
"The roads committee meeting is the chance for the public to hear and look at the possible scenarios for Dukes County Ave and also near the Steamship Authority," town administrator Michael Dutton said. "No decisions, just a chance to look and ask questions."
The concept of one-way traffic on Dukes County Avenue has been discussed for more than a year. Highway commissioner Richard Combra, Jr. said the committee is exploring whether one-way traffic could solve several problems, including congestion near Tony's Market. "The road really isn't wide enough to accommodate two-way traffic," Mr. Combra said, referring to busy times when cars park in front of the market. "If we created one-way, from Vineyard Ave. to Wing Road, we could be able to create more on street parking for that area. There is a possibility of a sidewalk." There is no consensus at this point on which way traffic would flow on Dukes County Avenue.
The other change to be considered is making a short stretch of Sea View Avenue, from Lake Avenue to Oak Bluffs Avenue, a one-way street. Until last year, that stretch was effectively one-way during ferry landings. Traffic officers would not allow cars to turn left toward Edgartown coming off the ferry. That policy changed last year.
Vineyard Spelling Bee competition today
Six young spellers from the five Island elementary schools and the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School will compete today in the Vineyard's Regional Spelling Bee, sponsored by The Martha's Vineyard Times.
The winner will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., May 26-28. The national competition, widely known as Bee Week, will host 293 spellers from across the country, each sponsored by a newspaper, which underwrites the cost of the speller's participation.
ESPN will broadcast the Bee Week competition on May 27-28. Results will be posted through the competition at spellingbee.com and twitter.com/scrippsbee.
The Island spellers competing tomorrow are: Anna Keenan of Edgartown, Mary McCarthy from Chilmark, Matthew Luce from the Charter School, Connor Downing from West Tisbury, Olivia Jacobs from Tisbury, and Charlotte Potter from Oak Bluffs. This year, there is no competitor from the home school community.
Jean Holenko of the Oak Bluffs School is the Bee coordinator. Doug Cabral, editor of The Times, is the pronouncer. Judges are Nelson Sigelman, Times managing editor, and Times writer Janet Hefler.
Prescribed burn at Katama Airport in Edgartown today
The Martha's Vineyard Prescribed Fire Partnership (MVPFP) plans a controlled burn today at Katama Airport in Edgartown. Smoke may be visible east of Herring Creek Road, and may drift toward Chappaquiddick, according to a press release.
Controlled burns reduce the amount of fuel available for wild fires. Burns also help restore natural areas.
MVPFP member organizations include Mass Audubon, The Nature Conservancy, Polly Hill Arboretum, Sheriff's Meadow Foundation, and The Trustees of Reservations.
State sets nitrogen load rate for Edgartown Great Pond
After years of study, state officials have set a target level for reduced nitrogen loading that should lead to the rejuvenation of the ailing Edgartown Great Pond. The Massachusetts Estuaries Project report, an exhaustive scientific study of the Great Pond watershed, determined that 57.5 kilograms per day is entering the pond from the town's wastewater treatment plant, septic systems, and natural sources. The study concluded that the nitrogen loading has caused the loss of eelgrass beds, undesirable increases in macro algae, algae blooms, and depletion of oxygen for fish and shellfish populations in the saltwater pond.
The department of Environmental Protection set a total maximum daily load (TMDL) of 46 kilograms per day. That is the reduction the scientists believe will restore the pond to health.
Edgartown wastewater treatment plant manager Joe Alosso says that recently completed sewer projects along with another planned project, should reduce nitrogen loading well below the target TMDL.
The town has completed sewering a total of 119 homes in the Edgartown Meadows and Old Purchase developments. About half of the homes have already hooked up to the sewer system. The board of health is working on new regulations that could make hook-up mandatory.
Annual town meeting voters will be asked to give a final vote of approval to an $804,000 project to sewer the 149 home Island Grove subdivision. Mr. Alosso says taxpayers will fund $40,000 of that amount. Grants, and betterment fees paid by users will fund the rest.
"We're going to bring it down to about 40 kilograms per day," Mr. Alosso said. "We're already seeing improvement.
SSA trying off-peak auto pricing on Nantucket run
The Steamship Authority (SSA) members met Tuesday and approved a series of measures on a trial basis this year designed to increase ridership on the Nantucket route and fill space on underutilized trips. The changes could provide a model for future fare pricing that assigned a premium to the most desirable trips.
The authority will make ten vehicle spaces available at a "super saver" rate on select trips, generally the last trip of the day at a one-way cost of $99 in the summer and $69 during the off-season, versus $190 and $130 respectively for the 2-hour, 15-minute trip to the distant sandbar.
Other measures approved Tuesday include modifications to passenger ticket pricing intended to boost fast ferry ridership.
Flint Ranney, SSA Nantucket member, said he hoped the super saver changes would provide an incentive for people to travel when they otherwise would not.
"It will be interesting to see how this works out," Marc Hanover, chairman and Vineyard SSA member, said. "It may be a prelude to peak pricing."
The members also received an update on several capital projects that included the Oak Bluffs terminal reconstruction project. Carl Walker, director of engineering, reported that work crews are doing their best to make up the time lost when it was found necessary to construct a new foundation for the terminal building and shore up the bulkhead. The project is expected to be complete by mid-May.
The SSA's net operating income for 2009 was $3,649,208, or some $2,320,147 (174.6 percent) higher than the previous year and $470,613 (11.4 percent) lower than the projected net operating income in the 2009 operating budget, according to the unaudited operating results SSA treasurer Bob Davis presented to the board.
Operating revenues for the year ended Dec. 31, 2009 totaled $79,780,480. The authority's total operating revenues in 2009 were $1,515,348 (1.9 percent) lower than 2008, according to Mr. Davis, and $5,425,802 (6.4 percent) lower than the SSA's original budget estimate for 2009.
While automobile and passenger revenue was up slightly, freight revenue was off by $1,994,488 when compared with 2008.
Rate increases and a decrease in the cost of fuel figured large in the revenue picture. Bob Jones, Barnstable port council member, noted the drop in freight and flat ridership numbers, and expressed concern going forward.
"Bob, I share your concern," Mr. Hanover said.
In other business, the SSA awarded a contract to Island Transport of Oak Bluffs to operate a sightseeing bus stand at the Vineyard Haven terminal. The SSA will receive a 20-percent commission on each ticket sold with a guarantee of $5,000 compensation.
In response to a question from The Times, SSA general manager Wayne Lamson said he expects that the new terminal building in Oak Bluffs will include a ticket machine that would allow passengers to bypass the ticket agents. As for the Vineyard Haven terminal, he said there is some question of whether passengers would use the machine, but it is under consideration.
News we've been waiting for
Alex Goethals of West Tisbury was first on the scene of some pre-spring pinkletinkelry in his Lambert's Cove neighborhood. Mr. Goethals, an annual early observer of such events, reported to The Times office yesterday.
IEH adds three to board of directors
Island Elderly Housing (IEH) recently announced that three women had joined the housing organization's board of directors. "We are very pleased that Marie Allen, Simone DeSorcy, and Eleanore Tompkins are now members of the board of directors of the largest provider of affordable housing on the Island," John Early, IEH president, said. "We have a lot of work to do to fulfill IEH's mission and really welcome the leadership and help these women will bring to IEH."
The three women are well known on the Vineyard and have been active in community affairs.
Marie Allen served as the governor's appointee on the Martha's Vineyard Commission for 20 years and has been very active with the NAACP, both in Boston and on the Vineyard.
Simone DeSorcy is a graduate of Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, Stanford University, and Parsons School of Design. She currently works for the town of West Tisbury, designs dresses, and coordinates events.
Eleanore Tompkins is a resident of Aidylberg Village and has been coming to the Vineyard since she was a child. She moved here permanently in 1990. A former nurse, she is an Associate of the Sisters of Charity and is very active in the religious life of the Island and beyond.
IEH currently provides 165 quality, affordable apartments for the Island's low-income elderly and disabled, in one of four campuses. IEH manages Woodside Village and Aidylberg Village in Oak Bluffs and Hillside Village and Love House in Tisbury.
SSA has spring-like numbers
Like the snowdrops and the crocuses that have made brave appearances in sheltered, sun-warmed parts of Island gardens, Steamship Authority traffic statistics for February suggest that spring - and perhaps some economic quickening - may be on the way.
For February, boatline figures for passengers to and from both the Vineyard and Nantucket are up comfortably. Vineyard passenger traffic beat the February 2009 pace by 2.4 percent. For Nantucket, the increase was 2.1 percent.
Auto traffic in February beat the numbers for the year ago month by 3.4 percent for the Vineyard and 2.9 percent for the distant island.
The increasing traffic has persisted through the first two months of this year, despite dismal winter weather throughout the period.
On the other hand, truck traffic (freight) to both islands continued down, two percent off for the Vineyard and a brutal nine percent down for Nantucket.
DCR plans to fight fire with fire in State Forest
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) plans to stage controlled burns in the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest as part of a hazardous fuels mitigation plan to prevent wildfires.
DCR will discuss its plans at a public hearing Saturday at the State Forest headquarters off Barnes Road. The meeting begins at 1 pm and will include a presentation and an opportunity for questions, followed by an optional site visit that begins at 2 pm, according to a DCR press release.
DCR representatives will explain why controlled burns are used as an ecological restoration tool. DCR plans to burn and, or mow to reduce fuel buildup.
State and local officials have been concerned for years about the risk posed by falling trees and the build-up of fuel loads - dead and dying trees - that provide tinder for forest fires during periods of extreme drought.
In 2009, DCR removed dead and dying red pines from about 110 acres of the 5,100-acre State Forest. The work was part of an "emergency ecological restoration project" intended to restore native trees such as pitch pine and scrub oak and reduce wildfire risks and public safety hazards.
The last significant fire in the State Forest was in July 1999, following an extended drought. The blaze consumed 20 acres of woods and smoldered for two days before surrendering to the efforts of more than 100 volunteer firefighters from all six Island towns and the first steady rainfall of the summer.
In the spring of 1916, fire destroyed 12,000 acres from West Tisbury to Farm Neck and Ocean Heights in Edgartown. A 1,000-acre fire tore through the forest in 1930, and another in 1946 destroyed more than 5,000 acres from the head of Tisbury Great Pond to Edgartown and Oak Bluffs
YTF guest speaker series for parents starts Friday
The Dukes County Health Council's Youth Task Force (YTF) kicks off "Let's Talk," a spring lecture series for parents, Friday at 7 pm in Martha's Vineyard Regional High School's library conference room.
Guest speaker Corey Scanlon, age 25, will share the story of a car accident he had after graduation from Silver Lake Regional High School in 2002 while driving drunk. His two best friends were killed, and as a result, Mr. Scanlon served two years in the Norfolk County House of Correction for vehicular homicide and lost his driver's license for life.
YTF is hosting monthly parent programs through May in response to parents' requests for more support and community resources, according to program coordinator Theresa Manning.
YTF has hired Dr. Martha Straus to speak to parents on the subject of teens and alcohol and drug use on April 30. A program on May 14 will feature Kathy Meyer from Plainville, whose daughter died in a drowning accident after an underage drinking party last year, and Mark Hoover from the law firm of Campbell and Campbell.
For more information, call 508-696-5304.
Real estate boom anticipated in Island's Athens
West Tisbury, often called the Athens of the Island, is the eleventh best place to live in Massachusetts, according to a Boston Globe Magazine story, written by Elizabeth Gehrman. The mid-Island town, which borders both Vineyard Sound on the north and the Atlantic on the south, falls between number 10 Brookline and number 13 Eastham.
"Many factors go into deciding where to live - schools, proximity to public transportation, green space," Ms. Gehrman writes, "but the recession has moved one component to the top of the list for many people: stability of real estate values. That's why this year's Globe Magazine's Top Spots to Live are all places that didn't fare too badly or even gained value during the economic downturn." Statewide, real estate values have shrunk about 20 percent on average.
The Globe's judgment is based in large part on data developed by the Warren Group, a Boston-based real estate tracking firm.
According to the Globe, according to the Warren Group, the median single family home price in West Tisbury in 2009 was $732,500, up four percent from the market peak in 2005
"A quiet life is what you'll get if you move to West Tisbury," Ms. Gehrman has determined. "Located in south-central Martha's Vineyard, on the other side of the airport from bustling (in relative terms) Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, and Edgartown, West Tisbury is an alcohol-free zone that's all about farmland, with an agricultural fair every summer, roadside farm stands, and a 36-year-old farmers' market.
"It has a Green Acres-tiny town center, with a little Congregational church, a country store, and a town hall."
"If you blink your eyes, you're through the town," Renee Ortiz, co-owner of Martha's Vineyard Seacoast Properties in Edgartown, tells Ms. Gehrman.
"Much of the housing stock is newer, but still in keeping with the Island's understated grace. Seclusion is valued here, with many homes tucked away along winding dirt roads that lead to the water," the Globe writer sums it up.
Number one on the Globe list is Wenham, whose median value is nearly $200,000 less than West Tisbury's but although rural and blessed with those winding roads is more sophisticated than the Island town, Ms. Gehrman finds.
DQ is back - can spring be far behind?
Apart from crocuses, snowdrops, pinkletinks, fish hawks, and St. Patrick's Day, the reopening of the Dairy Queen in Edgartown is an unambiguous sign of spring. Yesterday, the DQ welcomed a crowd of spring loving kids - nearly 100 by some estimates - who testified to a winter of deprivation and yearning. There were adults too. It was a clever coincidence that Island schools let out at noon yesterday, permitting the learning population to continue their studies in front of the DQ menu panels. With Orange Julius and light smoothies on offer, the DQ had something to please even the winter-weary who want to ease into the core Dairy Queen delights.
In the March 11 issue of The Times, a news brief incorrectly described selectman candidate Chris Chvatal as a member of the Oak Bluffs planning board. He serves on the zoning board of appeals.
In the March 11 issue of The Times, a news brief incorrectly stated that the Edgartown annual town meeting warrant would include proposals calling for a .75 percent increase in the meals tax and an additional 2 percent hike in the room tax. Following a public hearing on Feb. 16, Edgartown selectmen removed the requests from the warrant, town administrator Pam Dolby said.