Homeowners help create wireless landscape
As computer technology has changed the way we communicate and do business, the network of wooden poles and wires that crisscross our neighborhoods and carry the electricity that powers our computers has remained mostly the same.
The term wireless is commonly associated with the increasing spread of wireless Internet and cellular telephone service. For some homeowners and communities, the term describes a view free of telephone poles and a spider web of black wires.
Increasingly across the Island, individual homeowners, neighborhood groups, and towns are willing to pay the cost to place wires underground. The beneficiaries of an unimpeded view include the wider community of residents and visitors.
When David Roush, an attorney and health-care consultant, was in the process of inspecting a house he purchased on East Chop overlooking Prospect Park and Nantucket Sound, the electricity went out. There were high winds that day, said Mr. Roush.
Looking at the view from his deck, the most prominent features in the foreground were a telephone pole and wires, he said. He decided to speak to his contractor, Doug Best, about removing the pole and wires.
This water view from a house that was renovated on East Chop is now unimpeded by utility poles and wires. Photo courtesy of Doug Best
The conversation soon included members of the Prospect Park Association. Mr. Roush's initial idea turned into a wider project that, once completed, will improve the view along a portion of East Chop Drive and the appearance of the park.
"It clearly is just a wonderful spot on the Island," said Mr. Roush, in a recent telephone call, "and certainly does not need to be framed by telephone poles and telephone wires."
He said that one neighbor, completely unsolicited, contributed to the cost, a gesture that speaks to the sense of community.
The project removed three poles, relocated two poles with transformers, provided underground service to 10 houses, eliminated approximately 900 feet of aboveground wire, and improved the view of the park from every direction, said Mr. Best. The cost was approximately $100,000.
And, on West Chop, the owner of a 16-bedroom, 21,100-square-foot compound under construction also decided to remove two poles and relocate another one in order to improve his view.
James Ferraro, a prominent Miami lawyer, is building his new house on two lots along upper Main Street, formerly part of the Jane Douglas estate. The nine-bedroom main house overlooks a meadow owned by the Sheriff's Meadow Foundation that blooms with wild flowers in the spring and has a view of outer Vineyard Haven Harbor and East Chop.
In addition to private homeowners, town leaders in Tisbury have done the groundwork to remove utility poles along specific town roadways in the interest of beautifying the downtown area.
The tangle of wires and poles, some jutting into Tisbury's downtown sidewalks and streets, could someday disappear.
Public works superintendent Fred LaPaina said the infrastructure is in place to put wires underground along Main Street, Water Street, Union Street and the Water Street parking lot.
For now, the town plans to start small. The initial plan is to remove four poles and wires along Union Street. The town is waiting for the legislative approval needed for the project. "We are ready to roll," said Mr. LaPaina.
One of the most ambitious pole and wire removal projects is occurring in Edgartown, where a small group of residents pooled their resources to fund a beautification project that will transform North Water Street, which is lined with elegant houses running along Edgartown Harbor past the Harbor View Hotel and out to Starbuck Neck.
S. Bailey Norton Jr., a resident of North Water Street and one of the leaders of the project, said that about four years ago a group of residents began discussing what might be done to remove the poles and wires lining the road. Town officials, while supportive, had other priorities.
"We found out that if anything was going to be done, it pretty much had to be funded privately," said Mr. Norton.
The group privately funded the necessary engineering and survey work. A company was hired to lay the infrastructure, underground PVC conduit and vaults, beginning at Simpson Lane and running out to Starbuck Neck.
That work, almost completed, has stopped for the season but will be completed next fall, said Mr. Norton. The poles and wires will be down by spring.
In place of the 20 existing wooden poles topped with wires, there will be 20 new street lanterns evocative of an earlier, simpler era. New brick sidewalks will also be installed.
"It is going to be very attractive," said Mr. Norton.
The total cost of the project is approximately $2.5 million. The town voted to contribute $235,000 in community preservation act funds. The organizers must still raise another $750,000.
Mr. Norton said that from the start it was envisioned that the project would serve as a model for a wider effort. With the engineering already done and the experience that is being gained, he said local merchants and residents could turn their attention to Main Street, South Water Street, and Dock Street.
Describing the motivation of the project's contributors, Mr. Norton said, "They are people who like to see things done for the beautification and betterment of the community."