Determined Marie Desch makes Tisbury bloom
If Marie Desch wrote a book, it could be entitled, "How to beautify downtown Vineyard Haven in three days." Last week she attended the Tisbury's selectmen's meeting with the idea of volunteering her services to make the town look nicer. Before the meeting was over, not only had she volunteered to take charge of making downtown blossom, but to do it in time for the July 4th weekend.
By last Friday afternoon, Ms. Desch and her quickly recruited band of volunteers already had planted flowers, ornamental grasses and small shrubs in containers and garden areas along Water Street.
"I want people to say, I'm so glad to live in this community," she said, standing next to the "Welcome to Tisbury" rock surrounded by newly planted ornamental grasses, licorice plants and a hydrangea bush.
The Tisbury beautification volunteers take a break after a hard day of planting. At left is Caron Sund. The foursome includes, from left, Carole Early, Marie Desch, Denise Barrett, and Robert Stalvey in back. Photo by Janet Hefler
At the corner of Union Street, barrels filled with grasses and flowers now encircle the Chamber of Commerce tourist information booth. On the sidewalk in front of Stop & Shop, barrels containing Leland cypress and flowers brighten up the storefront.
Ms. Desch went to the Tisbury selectmen's meeting last week planning to volunteer for a committee because she felt it was time to do her part. Although she and her husband, Richard M. Gold, live in Amherst, she started spending summers on the Vineyard 10 years ago. About two years ago, she and her family purchased the Ferry View House off Cat Hollow Lane.
Walking around Vineyard Haven with her friend Lisa Rusche, owner of the Clark House, Ms. Desch often commented on what she would do to beautify the town. Last week, Ms. Rusche suggested they both attend the selectmen's meeting, where Ms. Desch could volunteer and put her ideas to good use.
Although Ms. Rusche didn't make it to the meeting, Ms. Desch did just fine on her own.
Her timing turned out to be perfect, as beautification happened to be a topic of discussion. Last spring, the selectmen approved allocating funds for flowers and plants to brighten up downtown Vineyard Haven. However, due to a misunderstanding between the Tisbury selectmen and the Tisbury Business Association (TBA) about what exactly downtown beautification would involve, no committee was formed or plans made.
At the selectmen's meeting, TBA President Steve Perlman reported suggestions made by the business community that included planting flowers, cleaning up around storefronts, and upgrading trash receptacles.
Ms. Desch spoke up, offering to serve on a beautification committee and to recruit volunteers. When Selectman Tom Pachico mentioned there was money available to buy plants and flowers, she asked how soon she could start spending it.
Told she would need to work with town administrator John Bugbee, she pressed him for a meeting the next morning. He told Ms. Desch she would first need to present him with a plan that he could give to the selectmen, who would then vote on giving her the money at another meeting.
Not to be put off, she asked, "If I get some volunteers, can we do something by this weekend?"
Willing to keep her momentum going, the selectmen sped up their legislative process by voting to give Ms. Desch up to $2,500 to get started right away.
Unable to sleep that night with visions of flowers and plants dancing in her head, Ms. Desch got up and put her ideas on paper in preparation for her meeting with Mr. Bugbee.
The next morning, after setting a spending limit and sketching out some plans together, they agreed she should target areas along Water Street.
"Most everyone has to come in on the ferry past this area, whether you live in Tisbury or not," Ms. Desch pointed out. "No man is an island is right. We all shop here, use the Steamship Authority, and have visitors who get information from the Chamber of Commerce."
With check in hand, she was off and planting. Fred LaPiana, director of the Department of Public Works, gave her some old barrels the town had used for Christmas tree planters and provided crushed stone around the tourist information booth.
Dee Dice of Eden Market and Garden Center provided her with expert advice on plants, flowers and materials to use, plus a discount on all her purchases.
Lining up her work crew came next. Ms. Desch went up and down Water Street, sweet-talking employees in businesses along the way to give her a hand. Robert Stalvey, who works at AAA Island Auto Rental at Five Corners, pitched in, along with his girlfriend Denise Barrett and co-workers Jay Needleman and Tim Burns.
Stop & Shop manager Sam Koohey donated $150 to the project, and his employee Sara Reed took over the watering duties for the planters in front of the store.
Community members who heard about the project also lent a gloved hand, including Caron Sund and Carole Early, the co-president of the League of Women Voters and president of the Vineyard Committee on Hunger.
Now Ms. Desch and Mr. Bugbee say their goal is to keep a good thing going.
"We could use a group, given the fact we have a funding source for that kind of activity," Mr. Bugbee said. "Hopefully this will be the beginning of something bigger, where we can have a group that can maintain the work that has been done already."
Ms. Desch agreed. "There used to be a Friends of Tisbury group. Now's the time to all come together and do it. We'll have fun."