Letters to the Editor
World access to Chilmark beaches urged
To the Editor:
The following is a quote from the Massachusetts attorney general's web site regarding beach access in Chilmark;
"A visitor to our website pointed out that in Chilmark, two town beaches (Lucy Vincent and Squibnocket) are restricted to residents only of the town of Chilmark, or their guests or tenants. This is enforced even for foot traffic, and the town requires a beach access photo identification card that they issue for a $10 fee (see the town of Chilmark website). This is the only municipality in the Commonwealth that issues resident-only beach access walk-on permit cards.
"With various state and federal laws ensuring equal access to public lands and public facilities, it might seem improbable for any municipality in Massachusetts to attempt to limit public access (not just parking) to a public beach to only residents of that municipality. However, the situation in Chilmark is actually more complicated in that these two "town" beaches are really privately owned lands leased to the town (the town does actually own its own "public" beach elsewhere). According to the town, they assert that limiting access to residents-only is needed for them to ensure they are complying to the terms of the lease.
"While private property owners can certainly limit public access to their property to town residents only, this case is curious in that public resources are being expended on a public property that allows only selective access by the public. We have not seen a legal case addressing these particular circumstances."
What does the Massachusetts attorney general mean by, "public resources are being expended on a public property that allows only selective access by the public"?
If that means what I think it means, I sure hope not a penny of the state taxes I pay or any of the "public resources" meant for my benefit "are being expended" on the maintenance of beaches my family and I are denied access to. However, if these beaches were made public, I would gladly make a donation to their upkeep, as I consider them some of the most beautiful beaches on earth, and I truly believe everyone in the world should have access to places like these.
Reject Monster Shark Tourney
To the Editor:
On April 12, voters will have a say in whether the Oak Bluff's Monster Shark Tournament continues. We believe it should not.
Sharks in the Atlantic are in trouble. Studies have shown that those seen off our shores make migratory journeys into Canada and elsewhere in the Atlantic. Throughout their range, they are caught by both commercial and recreational fishermen. Years of over-exploitation have caused most shark populations to crash. Canada has already listed porbeagle sharks as endangered, and a major international scientific body, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), has listed them as being at very high risk of extinction in the wild. In February IUCN added thresher and mako sharks to its list of species considered at risk of extinction.
Although the U.S. has not yet listed these species as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, there is no question that these sharks are in trouble. All of these species are caught in the Monster Shark Tournament.
We at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies hope that you will join us in opposing the continuation of the Monster Shark Tournament. It is time to begin to appreciate sharks as extraordinary creatures that are an important part of the marine environment. It is time we began celebrating the diversity of Massachusetts's ocean wildlife, not celebrating its destruction.
Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies
To the Editor,
I've only lived on the Vineyard a short time, and though I believe that folks should have the right to go to wherever they want to, I think there's are much more important issue concerning the beaches on the Vineyard.
To me, the real concern is whether or not these beaches will even exist in 40 or 50 years. Even if they're private, the beach belongs to mother earth first and foremost. Scientists have shown that global warming is a reality, and if land-based glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica continue to melt at the rate that they have been, in 50 years or so no one will have any beaches to go to. The ocean levels will rise and the Vineyard's beautiful beaches and fancy multi-million dollar homes will all be under water.
We live in a progressive area of the nation, and yet the Vineyard Transportation Authority only has two vehicles out of a fleet of more than 30 that run on propane. Although this is positive, does this small tidbit of a statistic truly reflect the environmental attitudes of some of the most powerful, wealthy, educated, and progressive people in the nation?
There's a large population of wealthy and powerful people who either live here or visit this Island, who have the money and power to make changes on the Vineyard and even on a global scale. That said, there must be wealthy and environmentally conscious folks that could fund the research, design, development and implementation of massive green initiatives and projects. We could actually have a green Island and act as an example to millions of people. Why aren't we?
In the face of our global situation, it is our responsibility - as Vineyarders and as humans - to think further and deeper into the future than we are at the present moment. If you're one of those powerful and wealthy folks reading this letter, then it is your moral and ethical responsibility to speak up and say. "I can help."
If you're one of those folks, and you disagree with the idea of Island-wide public beaches, then you should re-examine who you are and if your big bank accounts and property titles are actually more powerful and important than mother earth. You should think about your kids and your grandkids, and whether or not they'll even have a beach to go to before you spoil the Island news with your shallow arguments. Quit your griping and start saving the planet.
And if you don't, then shame on you; just keep on doing what you're doing and we'll see whose beachfront property gets swallowed up by the ocean in a few decades.
For Brazilians, laws stand in the way
To the Editor:
Have you ever had a dream that you knew was impossible? Impossible, because of a bunch of words written on a piece of paper and made into a law? And now your dream has been crushed, and the only way to make it possible is to break that law and follow your heart, to achieve your dream illegally.
This is what it is like for many of the immigrants who have traveled here to live their lives and raise their families here in the United States. Scanning through last week's MV Times, I passed an article in The High School View that caught my eye.
"Coming to America" sparked my interest. I just returned back from a three-month adventure in Brazil, and I must say that Brazil is an amazingly gorgeous country full of very kind and generous people.
"Coming to America" makes many important views that should be well known or heard. Written in this article, the Brazilian students stated that they "...understand..." that their way of entering our country "...is against the law according to the American government, but you have to understand why this is being done by so many immigrants day after day."
The Brazilian students had combined their thoughts of America and their lives here, compared to back in their home country. I felt like I could relate to them, after having lived in Brazil for a few months. In Brazil, they can slave over farms or wood and nails for endless hours per day, but never will their salary be nearly close to ours. They can walk on the streets at 10 at night, but never will their safety be like ours.
The Brazilians live "...a more comfortable life...." here in America where "There is so much technology available..." and "There is an activity for every person." They "...hear about the security and safe neighborhoods and good education." That is something very hard to find in Brazil.
Many of us Americans blab and complain that we're not satisfied with our jobs because we only make $10 an hour, or maybe our television sets are too small and we need a larger one. Well, the Brazilians are on a different side of the table as us (or should I say, a different side of the world). We may wake up and say "Ugh! I don't want to work today." Instead, they choose to wake up and say "Ah...Hoje vou trabalhar." Today I am going to work.
The majority of the Brazilian community is very grateful for what they have; with or without a TV, or even at minimum wage here in the U.S.A., they are willing to work in the pouring rain, in our freezing winters and burning hot summers. I'm not saying that us Americans don't do the same. We're all very dedicated to our hard work and our families. But the Brazilians come here for safety and security. They appreciate the level of education that we have to offer them, because it's something that doesn't exist in Brazil. They not only receive the money they work for, but they have earned it, just like we have. They have equally earned their money and have the right to choose where to spend it. Just because they may send some of their paycheck to Brazil does not mean they are cheating our country out of money. They have an equal right to decide where and when to spend their money. We too spend our money in other countries, so what's the problem?
I experienced the Brazilian life while I was enjoying their culture back in their home country. I got to experience their views of life from my own eyes and ears. Yes, it is true that they "...love to party..." and "...work hard and are very grateful for what [they] have."
America gives these people an opportunity to experience our life and our culture. It gives them the chance to have something that they don't have. We should be grateful to have these people here on our land and in our country. Not only do we have a lot to offer them, but they have a lot to offer us. They are not stealing our jobs and our money; nor are they taking over our country. They just want to share an equal lifestyle and take on the same responsibilities as us, including paying taxes. They too want their children to grow up in a safe neighborhood with a good education. Yes, "America is unique in that it doesn't have an established tradition like many other countries, but a tradition that has been pieced together throughout the years and added to by each immigrant population coming to the United States." Just as the Brazilian students had written in their MV Times article: "Coming to America."
The Brazilians want to add their piece of tradition and share their culture. "American culture is a collage of all the cultures in this world and not to embrace that is anti-American." After all, America is considered a free country. A country of Unity and Peace. Why not give this culture a try? Why not give these people a chance? Offer a hand in friendship and see what they may have to offer back. You might learn something.
What are the health
To the Editor:
The following letter was sent to the Edgartown Board of Health, with copies to the boards of health in the other five towns of Martha's Vineyard. It is written in response to the announcement by the Nature Conservancy that this spring's season of prescribed burns will soon be underway and will mark the first time these have been done under the auspices of the newly formed Martha 's Vineyard Prescribed Fire Partnership. Member organizations include the Nature Conservancy, the Trustees of Reservations, Polly Hill Arboretum, Sheriffs Meadow Foundation, and the Massachusetts Audubon Society.
I am writing to request that boards of health, whose purview is the protection of public safety, welfare, and the environment launch a new initiative, possibly in conjunction with the All-Island Board of Health, to examine the practice of controlled burns on Martha 's Vineyard. The Nature Conservancy regularly conducts burns on its properties, as well as Vineyard conservation lands owned by the Sheriffs Meadow Foundation, the Trustees of Reservations, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and towns such as Edgartown. The Martha's Vineyard Land Bank, however, successfully restores grasslands by clearing and mowing: to date there has never been a controlled burn on any Land Bank property.
The very nomenclature used for controlled burns has therapeutic connotations. Burns are conducted according to an approved "burn prescription" (the range of weather conditions, time of year, how the burn is to be managed once the fire is set) and land subjected to this is referred to as having a "burn treatment." Every year the acreage scheduled for burning on the Vineyard grows larger. Given the health and environmental impacts of this intensive land use tool, it seems appropriate that local boards of health become involved.
While environmental issues dominate our local papers on a weekly basis, there is surprisingly no public debate about controlled burns. Perhaps the reasons for this are threefold: one is the high esteem the various conservation organizations are held in by the community and the trust that a Los Alamos, New Mexico kind of conflagration from an "escaped burn" will not happen here; second is the assumption that an activity that causes air pollution is carefully reviewed by boards of health; third is the presumption that data is systematically collected on land subjected to prescribed burns and ecological goals are being met.
Some of these assumptions do not seem valid. The journal Environment (March, 1998) describes the atmosphere as part of our "global commons." Haze formed from the pollutants in smoke obliterates scenic vistas, greatly decreases visibility on island roads, and given our variable winds, often affects areas far distant from the site of the burn. I have smelled smoke at the Triangle when a burn was occurring on Chappaquiddick. It seems that just as the board of health strictly regulates indoor tobacco smoke, ambient air quality must also be part of its jurisdiction. Smoke from controlled burns is unhealthy for all of us to breathe, particularly children and people with existing respiratory diseases such as emphysema, asthma, and those with heart disease. Yet, there appears to be no advance public notice of when and where burns are tentatively scheduled, and only an informal abutter notification exists at best. No public hearings are required where citizen voices can be heard.
Combustion produces large amounts of carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas. With global warming a scientific reality, with serious projected consequences of climate change, how can we rationalize controlled burns when other habitat restoration methods such as mowing and brush cutting produce no greenhouse gases and can be equally effective?
Clearly defined ecological goals for specific island properties with realistic time frames for achieving these goals is essential and should be communicated to boards of health. All along the "Fire Trail" at the David H. Smith Preserve opposite the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest on the West Tisbury Road, for example, are the unsightly standing dead trees and underbrush, the result of prescribed burns. Why is the apparent failure to convert woodland to sandplain grassland at this site any different than other areas in the forest under consideration to be burned?
The question is are these "habitat restoration projects" working on Martha's Vineyard? Conservation organizations need to provide answers, not by citing experiences in the New Jersey Pine Barrens or Oklahoma prairies, but right here on the Island. While baseline studies are no doubt done prior to a prescribed burn, do participating conservation organizations have adequate staffs to regularly monitor all burned properties following controlled burns, not just in Katama? If not, then how do we know if ecological goals are being met? What are the parameters for determining the number of acres to be burned and frequency of "burn treatments?" Recent and cumulative scientific data should be made readily available to boards of health if they are to balance the risks and benefits of controlled burns.
Furthermore, why does the "burn window" extend well into May on our Island, when plants are leafed out, young mammals are vulnerable, birds are nesting, and people are tending their gardens and children are playing out of doors?
What is the "Island plan"? Is the goal of prescribed burning to return large tracts of land to an 1800s habitat of extensive grasslands that existed here and in the northeast when native Americans and colonists cleared land for farming, pastures, and to facilitate the hunt, and in so doing maintained fields? (Fires were rarely started by lightning, unlike in the West.)
Is there a documented resurgence of rare sandplain plants, animals, birds, butterflies, moths, beetles etc. after all these years? Have sufficiently large contiguous tracts of conservation land in various parts of the Island been designated where scientists can compare over time the effects of prescribed burning, mechanical cutting, sheep grazing, and land left wild subject to only salt spray, storms, and other forces of nature?
The need to protect biodiversity and save rare sandplain plant and animal species is urgent, and we are fortunate to live where so many exist. I have been involved in environmental affairs for over 30 years and realize that they are often not as black as the charred earth after a prescribed burn nor as white as a cumulous cloud on a beautiful summer day. Perhaps research will show that a combination of management techniques used in a rotation is ideal for restoring sandplain habitats. These land management tools should nevertheless be evaluated in the context of impact on human health.
Christina G. Miller
Time to rebuild
To the Editor:
Two weeks ago a fire in Chilmark destroyed the Chilmark writing workshop.
Anyone who has attended the workshop will attest to the magic and safety of the writing circle. It is a gem among gems on this Island.
This fire is devastating, both to fellow writers and especially to the "Midwife of words," Nancy Aronie. For years she has encouraged and nurtured wordsmiths to foster writings of honesty and healing. So many people have been reborn in the sacred circle of the studio.
Now may be a good time to give back to that special place. The time for rebuilding is right. Anyone who is interested in supporting Nancy with the endeavor, building time, donations, things of beauty to replace lost items - any support right now will go a long way. Even words of encouragement. (Nancy would never ask, so I will, knowing how important this is for her right now.)
Give me a call to create a list - Lara Robinson, 508-939-0011, or at home, 508-696-7372, and we can put a support team together. Look forward to hearing from you.
Simpler and quieter
To the Editor:
There are many quality establishments in Vineyard Haven, some of them owned or operated by fine people I know. I am not a teetotaler and enjoy wine and beer myself. But is it right to ask the citizens collectively to underwrite the bottom lines of individual businesses through the issuance of liquor licenses? It seems to me there is something flawed about asking the general taxpaying citizenry to pay the increased social costs of alcohol sales to benefit individuals. (If one questions the existence of these costs, one has only to check the columns of the Calendar section where the many 12-step programs are listed.)
Towns where alcohol is sold and consumed incur greater policing costs and more disturbances of the peace. Increased policing includes more wages, overtime, and long-term benefits. Increased disturbance of the peace includes noise, vehicle-related incidents, changes in place-of-principal-garaging rates, and more. The question of who will be among the lucky few to receive the licenses is one of the root causes of municipal corruption across the Commonwealth.
Back in the day, Holmes Hole had taverns, sailors ashore, and girls who wore the red petticoat. Perhaps when the then-Tisbury voters had the chance to remain dry, citizens with long memories recollected that early history and made a wise decision to keep the life of their town a little simpler and quieter.
Christiantown, West Tisbury