Complaint leads to new signs at Five Corners for motorists
What a difference a day makes. An article in last week's Times pointed out the absence of directional signs to Island towns that used to be posted at Five Corners. The next day, two green signs with white letters pointing the direction to up- and down-Island towns sprouted on the corner of Beach Road, near the post office parking lot, courtesy of the Massachusetts Highway Department.
Although a utilitarian version of what used to be the Island's unique signs, featuring the bunch of grapes motif at the top, the green and white replacements certainly will fit the bill in helping point Island visitors in the right direction, just in time for the busy July 4 holiday.
The reaction to the new signs by some Islanders appears enthusiastic - for those who noticed them. But, as is true for many, details may fade into the background in familiar territory. The sudden appearance of the new signs escaped the attention of many Islanders, including town administrator John Bugbee. "I guess I didn't even notice them," Mr. Bugbee said ruefully.
The credit for raising everyone's consciousness about the missing signs goes to Cora Medeiros, a former Tisbury selectman and longtime Vineyard Haven resident and business owner, who brought the issue to the Steamship Authority's members' meeting on June 19. Ms. Medeiros, who owns the Sea Chest gift shop across from the Vineyard Haven SSA terminal, said the missing signs contributed to traffic backups on Water Street, because tourists paused at Five Corners trying to figure out which way to go. The SSA members told her the matter was out of their hands.
Not fancy but functional, new direction signs point the way to Island towns. But, as this view from Water Street shows, you have to get through Five Corners first. Photo by Ralph Stewart
White Brothers-Lynch Corporation removed the original Island-style signs while reconstructing the post office parking lot in September. When asked to replace the signs by MassHighway, the contractor provided the green and white substitutes, which were seen leaning against the back of the town's Water Street parking lot comfort station.
Ms. Medeiros described to the SSA members her frustration over the last three months, as she tried to get someone to put the signs back up. At first, she contacted the Tisbury department of public works, which is not responsible for the signs on the state-owned Beach Road. Then she called Ed Panek, who is in charge of Vineyard signage for MassHighway, several times.
"He told me he'd look into it, and I told him, I used to be a selectman for 17 years, and when I wanted to pass the buck, I'd say I'd look into it - I was getting the same runaround," Ms. Medeiros said.
Mr. Panek was on vacation the early part of last week. An employee reached in his office said the replacement signs provided by White Brothers-Lynch Corporation would be up soon, once MassHighway's district office approved them. The signs went up on Mr. Panek's return.
Ms. Medeiros said when she saw the signs on Friday, she decided that being the "squeaky wheel" paid off. "I called the [Vineyard] Gazette and asked if they were planning to do a story on the signs going up," she said. "I told them to look at what The Times did - it got results. They told me they don't copy what The Times does."
Encouraged by her success in the sign caper, Ms. Medeiros hopes another issue she raised at the SSA meeting will be addressed as well. "One thing worked - let's try another," she said.
Ms. Medeiros also suggested at the meeting that there should be a sign identifying the SSA terminal on the Water Street side of the building. "I can't tell you how many people stand in front of my store and ask me where the Steamship Authority terminal is," she said. With Ms. Medeiros on a roll, perhaps they won't be asking for long.