Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
Romping around the State Forest and other restricted areas on gas-engined off-road vehicles may be fun for children of all ages; but even if their undeveloped brains scoff at the laws against it, they should understand that it is also an unnecessary and clearly unpatriotic drain on their country's fuel supplies. Aren't prices at the pump high enough?
W. R. Deeble
approach to ATV
To the Editor:
I have read most of the letters regarding the ATV issue in the paper, and this is a tough one. Remember how people felt about the skate park issue and skateboarders in general? This feels similar to me. There were the typical complaints, "skateboarding ruins things, like public furniture, sidewalks, wooden steps, they're a danger to themselves, they're hoodlums, etc".
There were some who were very hesitant to build a skate park, due to insurance issues, land availability, misunderstanding the youth with thoughts of, if you put a bunch of them together, it could be chaos. Well, the important questions got asked, the issues resolved, and look at the great situation that has been created and stereotypes broken.
That was a long process, let us not forget. It also reminds me of the quote, "if you build it, they will come". Or, as with small children, it doesn't help the situation to just tell them no, you can't touch that, you can't play with that or you can't play there. You show them where they can play, all the options of appropriate toys, and how to play nice, and they usually respond in kindness (which they turn back to the world) than just being told "no." Maybe we could at least consider as many options as possible, if there are any.
Now here's where it gets tough for me. I am a "backyard botanist" and native plant specialist on the Island and do research in the State Forest all the time. I look forward to visiting the sites that are one of three places on the Island one can find some of our more rare plants. Due to the removal of the long ago planted vegetation to create the fire lanes, these spaces have reverted to what's known as a sandplain grassland community, which are globally rare. Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and very small pieces of the Cape contain most of the remaining acreage left on the planet. We are finding very rare plant species in these fire lanes whose seeds laid dormant all these years to return and give it one last try at survival.
The State Forest is turning into a most remarkable place with some of the funkiest plants of our flora. If you're walking, Sunday biking, or riding a horse you're going slow enough to notice. I went to gate 23 this fall to go look at some plants and was surprised to see vehicle tracks alongside the blacktop. I figured they must be from a state vehicle doing maintenance work and/or inspections. Now I'm not so sure. A section of rare plants I monitor are being squashed by these tracks.
There have also been other sites I've visited where I find motorcycle tracks right through the area. I say to myself, "all right, they're native, they're tough, they have to make it, hopefully they dropped some seed". What can I do? They (kids or adults) ride all over because there is no legal place to ride. These people cannot help that they don't notice the damage. Who told them what they should look for? It looks like a bunch of scrub and trees to them. They have to rip through the forest so they don't get caught. Never mind that they say motocross or any associated sports are some of the more difficult [sports] out there. They have to concentrate while riding, they're not thinking about ecology (although I wish they were).
I love to ride dirt bikes and motorcycles. I would get a dirt bike if there was a legal place to ride, but then again I'm too busy in my adult life to figure where I can pilfer a spot to ride that's not damaging, nor can I afford the cost of getting caught. How big does a "pit" really need to be anyway? I grew up where we had a sand pit about 500 feet by 500 feet with big berms and such, and this was enough.
I'm sure the kids will work out most of the rules of etiquette. They do at the skate park. Go watch them, it's amazing. Why not consider a site on the edge of the forest where they don't have to tear through the forest to get there? What about on the edge of the business park? Between it and the old Hot Tin Roof? I know, what about the noise issue. Make very quiet mufflers mandatory.
I don't know. These are just some ideas. For starters, if the forest was considered, I'll offer my services to identify and transplant rare species into other sections of the forest. I would prefer an alternate site if there was one. One thing I do know, isolating the ATV and motorcycles would help the forest. But trying to shove the ATV issue down people's throats to say yes will not work. Nobody likes to be told what to do or how they should feel. (Although it's hard not to have letters to the editor seem that way).
Nor does it do anybody any good to just bluntly leave it at, "no, because I said so." I hate that. But I think we may want to at least keep our minds open for a progressive dialog, for yay and nay. We can try to keep exploring ideas until a great one comes up.
Leslie Look worked for a long time to get the skate park going. I think it was something like 10 years. It took her sincere conviction and determination for many years, and then the community to get behind her to manifest that.
Maybe we should quit bickering, stop stereotyping, and discuss and outline the real issues. Whoever brought this up, let's see some research on how others have managed to make it happen in other places in the state. Go talk to John Varkonda, who manages the State Forest. Maybe if you understood the work going on you will approach it in a new light. This issue is obviously very complicated and likely to take some time. As far as the forest is concerned, we're talking about state-owned land with a restoration plan that's already in progress. Wow, this is asking a lot if you weren't aware. That's Okay. Just thought you'd like to know.
Not the place for ATVs
To the Editor:
On a balmy Friday afternoon in mid-January, my mare Allie and I rode into the State Forest, entering near Greenlands, well north of the airport. As we trotted south on one fire lane, I heard revvings and rumblings ahead. We turned southwestward on the next trail, and before we'd gone 50 yards the ATVs tore by behind us. By the noise, I think it was two, possibly three. No harm done, but I was glad it was Allie and I, not a less experienced trail-rider on a more nervous horse. I couldn't help remembering an incident a few years back: a panicked horse ran into Old County Road, where he was hit by a car and killed. His very experienced rider had done an "emergency dismount" at full speed; she landed in the hospital.
I'm sure that most ATV riders ride responsibly - albeit, in most places on this Island, illegally. But most of the dirt bikers I see on the trails and byroads seem too young to have driver's licenses, or to have had them for long. Age and experience don't necessarily a responsible driver make - a drive from one end of State Road to the other will disabuse anyone of that notion - but they do help. How many of these ATV riders realize the havoc that their passing can cause?
As a longtime walker and, more recently, rider of the Island's open-to-the-public lands, I don't want to deprive anyone of the experience, but at the same time it's clear that some uses are not compatible with all the others. For one of these, shotgun deer hunting, an accommodation has been worked out: for one week in late fall, the shotgun hunters get access to the State Forest and certain Land Bank properties, and most of the rest of us stay close to home. I'd suggest a similar solution for the ATVs, but would most of the dirt bikers be willing to stay out of the woods 51 weeks of the year? I doubt it.
In last week's Martha's Vineyard Times, one parent of an ATV rider was quoted as writing: "These kids have chosen their sport to be ATV riding and deserve a place to ride." If they had chosen cockfighting for their sport, would we be called upon to make them a space, perhaps down by the local MSPCA? If they choose downhill skiing, must we build them a mountain? Not all sports are equally suited to all times and places. ATV riding is not well suited to Martha's Vineyard in 2006.
With all the talk these days about juvenile couch potatoes and computer junkies, why can't these young people find a more physical, less noisy, less resource-intensive and intrusive way to blow off steam and see the off-road Island? Perhaps if they were on foot, or a mountain bike, or even a horse, they might actually see and hear and smell the woods, and understand what some of us object to being deprived of.
Susanna J. Sturgis
To the Editor:
I have spent the past 30 plus years working within a few feet of the Beach and Main Street intersections; beginning in 1972 for Martha's Vineyard Community Services at the former Tarlow Building and, since 1985, as the owner of the current Mansion House, so the area, its activities, foot and vehicle traffic, architecture, changes and uses are quite familiar.
After reading the Tisbury planning board's master plan for the area's possibilities, I am filled with profound admiration.
The realistic, yet imaginative, scope of the plan is remarkable. The obvious effort and skill shown by the Tisbury planning board in addressing, planning and providing reasonable solutions to multiple town issues including public access to its waterfront, location of municipal buildings, improved parking opportunities, lessening the impact of traffic flow, increasing cultural venues while improving the visual and human experience of the Village of Vineyard Haven is, I think, unprecedented on the Vineyard.
My congratulations and thanks to Henry Stevenson and the Tisbury planning board for this effort in the best spirit of public service.
Give him some love
To the Editor:
Each holiday that comes around, I spend some time decorating my house and yard for the season. I construct scenes for Christmas, New Years, and most recently Valentine's Day. I love to do this, as it is a way for me to give back to the community. Unfortunately, however, a cupid from my Valentine's Day display was stolen. I find it hard to think of a reason why someone would feel the need to do this; after all, I decorate for the public, not myself.
I would greatly appreciate it if whoever stole it would simply return it to my yard. I won't ask any questions, I just want it back. I want to continue to put up displays, and am already planning what I'm going to do for St. Patrick's Day.
I welcome the public to drive by if they would like to see the Valentine's display. My house is located in Olde Schoolhouse Village, across from the high school on Vineyard Haven Road. Thank you.
Not without you
To the Editor:
As you might know, in September, I was diagnosed with a type of cancer. Since then, many people have helped us out greatly, and I would like to thank them.
Strictly All Contact, Oak Bluffs School, Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School, All the people who performed at the Atlantic Connection, Mark Wallace & Others, Sacred Heart Church, Martha's Vineyard Hospital, The Ambulance drivers, and The Steamship Authority All of these people and more have helped me and my family out greatly.
I would most like to thank all of my friends, or anyone else whom I forgot to mention, for all of the support and love that they give me. I can't do this without you. (And it wouldn't be pretty if I did.) And again, thank you all so much.
Time to face facts
in West Tisbury
To the Editor:
Sometimes in life you have to admit defeat, you have to accept that your plans will not come to pass. In other words, you have to accept reality. That time has come for the town of West Tisbury with regards to renovating the town hall.
The dream was glorious: return an historic building to its former beauty while providing a modern and useful work space for the town employees. However, it has been 10 years since the town began its attempt to actualize this dream. And, in that 10 years - as I suspect in many of the previous years - little, if any, maintenance has been performed on the building. Anyone who attempts to renovate this building is taking a large risk that these years of neglect have not created conditions that make renovation economically infeasible. No one - neither town officials nor preservation society experts - really knows the state of the building or what it would ultimately cost to renovate it. Further, the town does not know whether the Preservation Trust would be willing to take over the building and lease it back to the town at a price the town would be willing to pay.
It is time to accept the fact that the world and West Tisbury have changed. The center of the town is moving to the North Tisbury area. What is now the town center is slowly but inexorably becoming an historic district. I know many will be saddened to see the town hall located in a different part of town, but it is far more likely that the costs of building a new town hall elsewhere can be more accurately estimated and that these costs would be significantly lower than those for renovating the existing building. Recent building projects support this view.
Oak Bluffs was able to build its library, a 15,000-square-foot building, for $3,800,000, or roughly $250 per sq. ft. Chilmark built a 5,600-sq.-ft. town hall for $1,500,000, or $268 per sq. ft. Is there a reason why we could not build a new town hall for $300 per sq. ft.? At that rate a 6,500-sq.-ft. building, which should provide adequate space for our town employees for 20 or 30 years, would cost $1,950,000, which, I would argue, would be a heck of a lot less than other alternative ways of housing the town employees. We have an obligation to provide our town employees good working conditions. We also have an obligation to our taxpayers. Building a new town hall is the most effective way of meeting both obligations.
So, let's accept reality. It's time to get the show on the road. Sell the current town hall to the Preservation Trust. Build a new town hall of which we can all be proud on land now owned by the town in North Tisbury.
Choose day care
To the Editor:
One of the most horrifying headline news stories this week is the trial of the Reading woman accused of shaking a three-month-old baby to death at her "unlicensed day care." This is an unimaginable tragedy for the family. It should be a grim wake-up call for other families who choose to trust the care of their children with people who operate outside the law. If it is true, as reported, that the woman was caring for 14 children, including several infants, what type of judgment would tell a parent that this is a safe situation?
As a licensed day care provider, I am allowed a limit of six children to be under my care, which is a statewide law. This is not a hardship, this is a safe parameter. I am also governed by many safety and education requirements, which are meant to ensure that I will provide a safe and nurturing environment for the children in my program.
If someone chooses not to participate in a lawful practice, their motives must be examined. The entire system of working parents and pre-school care needs improvement, for sure. There is a puzzle of economics: the cost of day care is high for a working family, yet the income is low for the provider or center. This kind of inequality causes stressful decision making, like an unlicensed provider trying to make ends meet by taking on an overload of children. Who suffers? What kind of care can we assume children are receiving, with one caregiver for 14 children? I have heard the excuse that parents are desperate, but this is child abuse and should not be excused.
Please, look for the license, know the law, ask questions, pay attention to the environment, understand the philosophy and motives of the program before you make any decisions about where your child will spend time learning and growing. Like most licensed pre-school program directors, I take my profession very seriously. I am invested in the growth and education of the children in my care. Parents should expect nothing less.
To the Editor:
I, along with so many others, was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of author Peter Benchley. As Vineyard residents are well aware, he brought worldwide attention to our Island over 30 years ago when he wrote his best-selling novel, "Jaws."
Last year, I had the good fortune in helping to coordinate the 30th anniversary celebration of the making of the movie Jaws on Martha's Vineyard. During the period of time when Jawsfest '05 was in its planning stages, I was afforded the privilege of contacting and meeting many of my Vineyard neighbors who fell under the Jawsfest category of local talent - professional and non-professional actors alike who brought their combined talents to the big screen and helped make Jaws the classic film that stands the test of time to this day.
And I was thrilled to learn that Jaws author Peter Benchley would be attending the festival. What I was not aware of initially was that Mr. Benchley had been ill for quite some time and had been in a hospital in Dallas, Texas, receiving treatment. When I learned of Mr. Benchley's illness, I regretfully assumed that he would not be attending Jawsfest.
Well, I was wrong. I received a telephone call from Mr. Benchley's gracious wife Wendy informing us that Mr. Benchley had every intention of attending Jawsfest and was in fact "looking forward to it in a big way." That was a thrill for all of us attached with the coordination of Jawsfest. Later that year Mr. Benchley had an additional medical setback when he took a spill in the hospital and broke his hip. We were heartbroken for this stoic gentleman and not just for Jawsfest's sake.
Once more we got word from Wendy Benchley that Mr. Benchley was not out of the game just yet. He still intended to attend Jawsfest if at all possible. And attend he did. I can't begin to express how honored I was to meet this wonderful couple, Mr. and Mrs. Peter Benchley.
Peter Benchley was thrilled and shocked at the outpouring of love and respect that he received that memorable weekend. As I took his picture the first morning of Jawsfest directly after the kick-off ribbon cutting ceremony, I heard him make a gleeful comment to no one in particular that this was an incredible moment for him and although he didn't quite understand it, he was loving it! Fans from across the nation and around the world had gathered to honor the movie created from his novel. He was more than pleased.
It was an awesome effort that Peter and Wendy Benchley made to be here for Jawsfest. Jaws fans had a unique opportunity to meet and hear this talented and in many respects legendary author share his memories of the making of Jaws. His being here that weekend helped to cement the success of Jawsfest '05 and for that I am deeply grateful to Peter and Wendy Benchley.
Point by point rebuttal of Oak Bluffs fire/EMS dispute
To the Editor:
This is a copy of a letter to the Vineyard Gazette:
I am writing in reference to your article in your Feb. 10 issue regarding the Oak Bluffs Fire Department.
It was very interesting to read quotes about the status of the fire department from David Billings, who has not been a part of the department for almost a year. I question the value of an opinion by someone who is not part of an entity to speak on its behalf.
Did you bother to speak to anyone who is currently in the department, other than Chief Alley and John Rose? Perhaps you did and forgot to print their responses? You refer back to 2002 when Ralph Norton (another non-member for almost two years) and David Billings state that 20 department members signed a petition to not reappoint the chief. Did they mention that there were approximately 65-70 members at that time, so therefore 45 or so chose to not sign? You mention that John Rose resigned as captain last week. When you interviewed John Rose, did he happen to mention that he also resigned as captain of the ambulance in 2002? Are you seeing a pattern here?
I found it interesting to read that John Rose was agreeing to take on the responsibility of running the ambulance department on the condition that the "ambulance revolving fund" be audited. Mr. Rose may be confused about the function of the fund, because the revenue is generated by ambulance transports. Apparently Mr. Rose, even after spending several years as ambulance captain, is unfamiliar with how and why the fund was formed. It was formed through an act of legislature as a way to keep funds generated by protective services, which encompasses the police, fire and ambulance services, in any municipality separate from the other town funds. These funds can then be "revolved" each year and are saved specifically for protective services expenditures (equipment, vehicles, etc.) for any of these departments, with approval from all departments. There is no one person in charge of disbursement of funds and there are guidelines that are state-mandated on what can and cannot be purchased. As captain of the ambulance for several years, Mr. Rose would have been apprised of all expenditures for all of the departments during his tenure.
Mr. Rose and selectman Kerry Scott both feel that the ambulance service may not be getting all that they should through this fund. Again, I would ask that they remember how and why it was formed. Mr. Rose may have forgotten that the last vehicle purchased through this fund was a brand-new ambulance in the summer of 2005. (Of note, Oak Bluffs is the only town on Island with three ambulances). And prior to that, purchased just over a year ago, was a brand-new pumper truck for the engine company of which Mr. Rose is a captain. I don't recall him asking for an audit of the revolving fund at that time, but am sure if he did there would be documentation of such a request. Maybe when Mr. Rose understands how the fund works, he can explain it to selectman Scott, as she seems to share his confusion.
Equipment seems to be another point of concern for Mr. Billings. Mr. Billings feels that the fire department, of which, and I reiterate, he has not been a member for almost a year, is "lagging", to use his term. Interestingly enough, during Chief Alley's tenure, all but two of the trucks, including ambulances, owned by the town have been replaced. Of those two, a new ladder truck is in the process of being purchased as I write. None of the trucks and ambulances is more than 10 years old. The town is also fortunate enough to have state-of-the-art HAZMAT equipment, all of which was obtained through grant-writing from Chief Alley's assistants and deputies, all at no cost to the taxpayer. Some much larger towns than ours have far less than we have. And, if you own a home in Oak Bluffs, your homeowner's insurance rate is lower because of the fine equipment and department that we have.
Now about the EMS "walk-out." As an EMT, I am appalled at the behavior by the handful of those who walked. As an EMT, when you sign up for a shift you are responsible for that shift until you can get someone to cover you. By abandoning a shift you are violating your own by-laws, established by your fellow EMTs. Not to mention that it's unethical and very unprofessional. To walk out on one shift would have been enough to be reprimanded. These few people abandoned an entire month of shifts with blatant disregard for the town which employs them.
Chief Alley was notified within an hour of the walk-out, and within a few hours the shifts for the entire month were all covered (and remain so) by other EMTs.
Ms. Scott queries why the chief did not notify the board of the walk-out and "crisis." Chief Alley, his assistants, and deputies handled the situation within the department as it was a departmental issue. Kudos to them and to the EMTs who rose to the occasion and covered the town so quickly.
Ms. Scott refers to the wonderful rapport that Mr. Rose has with his ambulance squad. I can say unconditionally that all of the EMTs on the squad respect Mr. Rose as an outstanding EMT. However, there were many who refused to take shifts while he was captain. This rift is not mentioned in your article. Many of these EMTs who signed up to cover the walk-out were people who had been inactive for several months as they were not happy with then captain John Rose. Some felt that he gave special treatment to a core group of members. Oddly enough, this core group were the people who walked out on your town. Upon notification of Mr. Rose's resignation, the inactive members did not hesitate to sign up. Enough said.
As a taxpayer, I am outraged. Of the members who walked out on their responsibilities that night, several are full-time, salaried with complete benefits, employees of the town of Oak Bluffs. One is an EMT that the town is sponsoring to the tune of several thousand dollars in the paramedic class. One is a full-time paramedic, who was given special consideration with scheduling through Mr. Rose's intervention so that they could keep their job in Oak Bluffs. One is a full-time transport person. Some of the others, though not full-time, derive a large part of their income doing shifts in our town. Ironically, none of the ones described above pay taxes in our town. None of the above were given so much as a letter of reprimand nor did anyone lose their position. And now the selectmen, spearheaded by Greg Coogan, are putting them in charge of themselves. Will the selectmen be taking any action against their employees? I wonder.
As a daughter, I am extremely proud. Proud of my dad, aka Chief Alley. He has dedicated over 51 years to the service and protection of the town of Oak Bluffs, its citizens and their properties. He has been a firefighter for more years than most of his detractors have even been alive. He has certainly not done it for the money (read the budget item for the chief's salary in the town report sometime), but because he loves the job and the people, despite all the problems that accompany it. There are some wonderful volunteer men and women who come running every time the pagers sound. It is difficult to imagine a separation of fire and EMS, as they are so often called upon to work together for the common good. I hope they continue to do the good work that our town has come to rely upon. I am proud of my dad and all that he has accomplished for this town and will continue to accomplish until the end of his term as fire chief.