This week, I learned that summer rentals are down. Oh, the late July, early August weeks are nearly all booked, but June and early July are weak, and there is downward pressure on prices, to the intense disappointment of owners who depend on summer lease income to pay, or help pay, the mortgage. The question is, why?
The answer could be that all the strategies we've put in place over the years are working, and we may be able to save this place. The stars, as an astrologer might put it, are at last aligning themselves. They must be entering retrograde or some other similar grade. Of course, retrograde would be perfect. It's what we're all about.
I have worried for a while that zoning rules, health rules, subdivision rules, conservation rules, Martha's Vineyard Commission rules, endangered species rules, water conservation rules, setback rules, parking rules, pesticide rules, herbicide rules, smoking rules, Jet Ski rules, low-fat rules, the McMansion rules, moped rules, and all the other rules I've not the space to mention have not been sufficient, even acting in concert, to turn back the summer tourism tide. Even, adding in spotty cell phone service and the high price of a ferry trip (see the Editorial across the way), it's not been enough.
But, maybe what constipation brought on by a steady diet of rules could not achieve, bad news has. Everyone hopes for good news. The newspaper business is always under fire for publishing too much bad news. Critics say newspaper people like bad news because its sells newspapers. Well, sure, but by that logic it's the readers that like the bad news, isn't it? Anyway, the anti-bad news movement has gone so far as to suggest that newspapers should publish stories that encourage good things to happen, so that good news will result, and then stories about the good news will fill the gaping columns in each week's edition. That seems an extreme view. After all, one of the virtues of the news business is that for the most part we just play it as it lies, good or bad. That way we limit our exposure, so to speak, to criticism if something we touted that seemed a good thing ultimately turns out to be a bad thing. I think the theory is known as plausible deniability. We in the news game like that.
But anyhow, this is not a case where we need to worry about good news turning out bad. This is the opposite. The papers and especially the TV are full of bad news that may turn out to be good. For us, I mean. In the general sense, you understand, not in any particular, individual human sense.
For several years, folks have been counting on ticks to do the job of discouraging tourism. The mere nuisance of them, never mind the medical complications, could be enough to put almost anyone off. We thought the diseases associated with ticks - Lyme, babesiosis - would have discouraged some of the braver ones who said, in effect, to hell with these pesky ticks. Well, there's no conclusive evidence, but the signs are promising.
And, the Island's rodents have pitched in with tularemia, and we imagined that news of the threat of that sort of infection would have spoiled the place a bit for the visiting hordes. Maybe we were right.
Not that anyone hoped that visitors would contract these diseases. But some folks, enamored of even the nastiest of God's critters, have taken note of the reverse publicity value they offer as semi-hidden dissuaders. Wouldn't want to harm such valuable pests.
Then there is the West Nile virus and now the moths and caterpillars that devour the trees each spring. Perhaps the chemicals we use to control mosquitoes and moths have repulsed a visitor or two. Crowing about this sort of potential health risk certainly should have discouraged some of the pilgrims who might otherwise have hopped the Island Home for a trip to the summer isle.
And, there's the shark tournament. Lots of publicity about the threat to sharks and the bloodthirstiness of the sport may have had an effect. Full-page ads, television coverage.
If the ticks don't get you, the rodents will. That could be the motto. Or, we might warn that the tourney has a coarsening effect on the human sensibilities of participants and onlookers. Whatever reasons we suggest, the news seems to be that we have successfully discouraged the crowds, and after all that is the goal.