Tags Posts tagged with "Chappaquiddick"

Chappaquiddick

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The Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank announced yesterday the purchase of a 30.6-acre property at Toms Neck in Edgartown for $5,170,000 from seller Ann Floyd and others.

The property, made up of overgrown farm fields, surrounds Pease Pond and has long views out to the Cape Poge Pond, a prolific shellfish resource. The Land Bank’s acquisition of the property will conserve several pre-subdivided building lots, and reduce the potential number of future septic systems in Cape Poge Pond’s watershed, according to a press release.

“The acquisition was singular in Land Bank history, however, for reasons unrelated to the land itself: The transaction was an unusual collaboration between donors, volunteer creditors, and a remarkable citizens’ organization known as the Chappaquiddick Open Space Committee,” the press release said.

The committee, chaired by Nancy Hugger, arranged for the Toms Neck property’s acquisition and its financing. Of the $5.17 million cost, $2.2 million was donated outright and $1.9 million was collectively loaned to the Land Bank by 11 Chappaquiddick families.

Management planning is underway. The Land Bank expects the property will be opened to the public in 2016.

Anyone with questions about the acquisition is encouraged to attend one of the Land Bank Commission’s regular weekly meetings at 5 pm on Mondays, or one of the Edgartown town land bank advisory board’s meetings at 4:30 pm on the first Thursday of the month, in the Land Bank’s offices at 167 Main Street in Edgartown. Call 508-627-7141 for more information.

What a difference a week makes.

Photographer Doug Burke left the shutter open for 24 minutes to capture this image of the Chappy ferry.
Just a week earlier, Cornelius Sullivan shot drone footage of the Chappy ferry cutting a path through a frozen harbor.
Chappy, solid: Just a week earlier, Cornelius Sullivan shot drone footage of the Chappy ferry cutting a path through a frozen harbor.

Last week, we published a video that Cornelius Sullivan produced with a drone. Solid ice had coated Edgartown harbor, stranding the Chappy Ferry on the Edgartown side, and Chappaquiddick residents on their side. Ferry owner and Captain Peter Wells, with the help of an excavator, freed the ferry (and the Chappaquiddickers).

A week really matters. On Saturday, March 14, Doug Burke took the photo (above) of the ferry crossing a glassy, entirely liquid harbor.

We asked Doug how he got this phantom image, and here’s what he told us: “It was about 5:45 am, and I had pulled up to Memorial Wharf. An SUV pulled up on the other side.” The ferry captain hopped in the boat a few minutes before the usual 6 am run to fetch the driver on Chappy. “By the time I got set up, the ferry was on the Chappy side. I had just started taking the shot when it left Chappy.” Doug left the shutter open for 24 minutes, at f22. “I was shooting with a Canon, on a tripod obviously, on ‘Bulb’ mode. I got lucky, for the boat never left again until the sun was up, and the lights had gone out. So I caught half of one round trip.”

We featured some of Doug’s photos in this story on the Oak Bluffs fish pier last spring.

Doug is one of several “mentees” of Island fine art photographer Alison Shaw, and has been coming to the Island since the mid 1980’s, when his parents owned a cottage here.

He works now as the director of sales for a division of EMC, a computer storage company based in Hopkinton.

“But I try to get down to the Vineyard every other week,” he said,  to a cottage he bought a while back on Hines Point.

You can see more of Doug’s work at dougburkephotography.com and on his Facebook page, Doug Burke Photography.

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Captain Peter Wells turned to Yankee ingenuity to open the vital harbor link.

Drone video coverage by Cornelius Sullivan


The blast of subzero Siberian air that descended on New England last week temporarily put the On Time ferry, the only connection between Chappy and Edgartown, out of commission. According to ferry owner Peter Wells, service was suspended from approximately 7:30 pm Friday night until 8 am Saturday.

“There were eight people stranded on the Edgartown side, and one person on the Chappy side,” Mr. Wells said. “I told them there was nothing we could do. Apparently the people on the Edgartown side went to the Harbor View and had a great time.”
Mr. Wells said the plunging temperatures had frozen saltwater and freshwater together, creating ice that was unusually strong and sharp-edged. He added that the ice thickened rapidly because of the lack of wind, and the lack of current in the harbor due to the narrowing Norton Point breech.

“At seven on Saturday morning, it was clear the ice wasn’t going anywhere, so we put our new excavator on a ferry and started cutting out a channel,” he said.

Mr. Wells said the large, floating chunks of ice give him the most concern. “Some of them were bigger than a pool table and a foot thick, and they weren’t melting,” he said. “I started to recognize some of them coming in and out with the tide.”
Mr. Wells estimated it’s been about 20 years since he’s seen ice that thick in the harbor. “We’ve had it easy for a long time,” he said. “If it’s not this cold next winter I’ll be surprised, and I’m not easily surprised.”

Chappaquiddick is isolated in the winter. The miles of sand beach that attract visitors in the summer are deserted. But the snow and ice do not slow changes to the natural landscape. That is most evident in the dynamic changes taking place at the breach that separates Wasque Point and Norton Point Beach.

In a cycle centuries old, Norton Point Beach is beginning to overlap Wasque Point as a prelude to sealing the breach that has left Chappaquiddick an island in fact as well as in name.

Carl Treyz, a seasonal Chappy resident and skilled amateur photographer, captured the changes using a drone on Feb. 18. His dramatic aerial video can be seen above.

Woody Filley, a Chappy resident who has been closely monitoring the breach, provided an update in an email dated March 1.

“The width of the opening is down to about 150 feet, depending on the tide,” Mr. Filley said. “The growth of Norton Point to the east between Jan. 3rd and today was approximately 690 feet. The beach on the way out seems pretty stable, with some scouring on the ocean side. As you get closer to the Chappy side, the beach gets thinner in some areas, and in some places is not much higher at the ocean side than the bay side. Unfortunately, a good extra-high spring tide and some strong northwest winds could threaten another opening. But time will tell.”

This map shows the change in the beach recorded by Woody Filley.
This map shows the change in the beach recorded by Woody Filley.

Chris Kennedy, Martha’s Vineyard superintendent for The Trustees of Reservations, said there’s a good chance the opening may close by this summer, but it is unlikely beachgoers in over-sand vehicles (OSVs) will be able to travel onto or off Norton Point via Wasque, as there is still a sizable cliff to contend with along the Wasque shoreline. “I expect that OSVs will have to travel from the Dike Bridge down Leland Beach to drive onto Norton Point Beach where it attaches at Wasque Point,” he said.

The current cycle began in April 2007, when a one-two punch of storm-driven ocean waves and powerful spring tides knocked open a cut in Norton Point Beach. The result was two long, narrow spits of sand stretching east and west toward one another. Over the course of the past eight years, the cut has continued to migrate eastward to Wasque Point, in a natural cycle, recorded many times in the past four centuries, in which the cut eventually disappears into Wasque Point.

The breach as seen from the Wasque bluffs  last week. Photo courtesy TTOR.
The breach as seen from the Wasque bluffs last week. Photo courtesy TTOR.

This cycle was described in detail as part of a report prepared in connection with the relocation of the Schifter house from the edge of the disappearing Wasque bluffs.

Following months of preparation by a team of engineers, contractors, and builders, in July 2013 International Chimney Corp. of Williamsville, N.Y., a company that specializes in building relocation, moved the 8,313-square-foot, seven-bedroom seasonal home of Richard and Jennifer Schifter of Washington, D.C., including its foundation, basement bowling alley, and massive two-story chimney, back from the brink to an adjoining lot 275 feet away.

The Woods Hole Group (WHG), an international environmental, scientific, and engineering consulting organization headquartered in Falmouth, prepared an eight-page analysis of the historical shoreline changes and coastal geomorphology for the south-facing shoreline of Chappaquiddick for Mr. Schifter. Dated Dec. 11, 2012, the report provided a historical context for the breach.

A chart from 1894.
A chart from 1894.

The report described the three-stage natural history of periodic breaks in Norton Point Beach, the two-mile-long barrier beach that separates Katama Bay from the Atlantic Ocean.

In the first stage, ocean waves and tidal levels combine to punch a hole in vulnerable spots in the barrier beach.

During stage 2, the inlet begins to migrate east toward Chappaquiddick, and the dominant easterly-flowing shoreline current causes the Norton Point spit to grow. As that spit extends to the east, the barrier beach on the Chappy side of the inlet tends to shorten and erode.

The process of easterly inlet migration and barrier spit growth occurs until the eastern barrier is completely eroded and Norton Point begins to overlap the southwest corner of Chappaquiddick. During this middle phase of stage 2, the absence of a sediment source from the west, in combination with tidal currents directed against Chappaquiddick, causes rapid erosion of the south-facing shoreline.

In stage 3, the tidal channel that connects Katama Bay to the Atlantic Ocean eventually closes, as tidal currents are not strong enough to flush sediment from the opening. Waves gradually push the Norton Point barrier spit to the north, and the beach eventually welds onto Chappaquiddick.

Finally, during the last part of stage 3 the beach/dune system begins to retreat as ocean waves, tides, and currents cause erosion. The process continues until a new breach in the Katama Bay barrier forms, and then the cycle starts over.

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The Trustees of Reservations host their own version of a Chappy sleigh ride.

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The Trustees of Reservations hosted a Chappaquiddick Sleigh Ride last weekend during Edgartown in Christmas. Running twice a day, the personalized tours began at the Mytoi Gardens with hot chocolate, tea, and holiday cookies. As someone who has never been to Chappy, I decided to go — this would be a great way to see the Island. Once we finished our cookies, we were ushered by Trustees staff into a pickup truck, or “sleigh,” which was decorated with Christmas baubles and garlands.

Trustees educator Molly Peach was on hand to point out Chappaquiddick highlights, including the nests ospreys had built on poles placed for them. Any time a member of the tour had a question, Molly was quick with an answer. The ride was extremely pleasant, especially when the heavy blankets were passed around.

Once the sleighs reached Cape Poge Lighthouse, there was a quick tour, which included the history of the lighthouse, which has been moved four separate times, and which was originally located 200 yards offshore. Who knew? Although no snowy owls made an appearance, the tour was a fun way to see a beautiful, remote part of the Island.

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After 23 years of exploring Chappaquiddick, Carl Treyz gets a whole new view.

After 23 years of vacationing on Chappaquiddick, Carl Treyz thought he had seen all of the island there was to see. He’d hiked and biked all the trails, driven out to the most remote beaches, and fished every shore. Then last year Treyz bought a quadcopter — a remote-control aerial mount — for his GoPro camera. He began to see the island from a whole new perspective: from above. In an email to The Times, Treyz answered a few questions about his videography, and how it can be applied to conservation efforts.

 

Do you have any background in photo/video?

I first got into photography and videography when I bought my GoPro three years ago. I bought it for a college study-abroad trip to the Turks and Caicos Islands. I ended up making a series of films (like blog entries) of my time there so that my friends and family could get a glimpse of what I was doing. Since then I have been making short films and doing photography on the side. I have filmed everything from sharks to woodpeckers.

When did you get into doing aerial photography?

Just over a year ago I ordered the quadcopter specifically for my GoPro. It opened up a whole new world. Now I take it with me whenever I travel. When I traveled to the Bahamas I was able to get some great footage, and aid researchers by giving them an aerial perspective. I was working at the Cape Eleuthera Institute for the Shark Research and Conservation Program from August to December of 2013.

How do you keep track of the quadcopter when it’s in the air?
The quadcopter is controlled by a single controller with a range of up to about 2,000 meters, depending on trees, hills, and weather. I do “line of sight flying,” and always have eyes on the quadcopter to keep it to a safe distance. Fortunately, the quadcopter has a setting which allows the controller to be the center point, so no matter which way it is facing, if you pull back on the controller it will head back toward it. It is also equipped with GPS, and will hover at a set altitude without any input from the controller. When all else fails, it comes with a safety feature, so if the batteries in the controller die or the controller gets dropped in the water, the quad will automatically sense that it has lost connection and fly back and land itself where it was first turned on.

How do you get to the spots you film?

I usually just drive up to these places, like The Trustees of Reservations and Land Bank trails. After all the time I’ve spent on Chappy, I thought I had hiked and explored every part of it, but since using the quadcopter I’ve found spots I never knew existed.

Such as?

One of the new spots I found was across from the Gut on North Neck Road. I had been to the Gut many times before, but had never been on the other side on Cape Pogue Bay. After flying over the Gut, I saw another pull-off by The Trustees of Reservations, which I then decided to stop at and have a look around. I ended up getting the intro shot to my video from that location through the winding pines and out over the steady drop to the bay. Unfortunately, I was not able to fly at my favorite stop, the rock pile, along East Beach due to wind conditions, but it was great to see the Cape Pogue Lighthouse looking back, from the ocean’s point, of view.

How long did it take to film this and edit/produce it?

The whole process took me about two weeks to complete. All of the filming for this video was done over a few days when the winds were just right, and the rest of two weeks was spent editing. I took over an hour of footage, which got condensed down to almost three minutes. I can get around 15 minutes of film from one flight, so there is a lot of footage to go through.

What do you think of the fisheye distortion effect you get with aerial photos? Do you like it, or does it pose a problem when editing video, etc.?

I think the fisheye is a defining characteristic of the GoPro cameras. I have learned to embrace it over the years, and feel that it gives a much broader perspective and feeling of landscape. It is actually fairly easy to get rid of the fisheye effect of the GoPro. There are settings where it can shoot in a narrower field of view, negating the fisheye lens. GoPro also has free software that can take the fisheye effect out of the video and pictures.

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The Chappy ferry and Edgartown beyond. — Photo by Carl Treyz

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The Chappy ferry and Edgartown in the fog. — Photo by Carl Treyz

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Chappy —Photo by Carl Treyz

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Chappy —Photo by Carl Treyz

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Chappy —Photo by Carl Treyz

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Chappy —Photo by Carl Treyz

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Chappy —Photo by Carl Treyz

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Chappy —Photo by Carl Treyz

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Chappy —Photo by Carl Treyz

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The breach. — Photo by Carl Treyz

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The breach. — Photo by Carl Treyz

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Wasque. — Photo by Carl Treyz

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The Chappy Community Center. — Photo by Carl Treyz

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Dyke Bridge. — Photo by Carl Treyz

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Dyke Bridge. — Photo by Carl Treyz

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Cape Pogue Pond to Cape Pogue Bay. — Photo by Carl Treyz

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Dyke Bridge and Cape Pogue Pond. — Photo by Carl Treyz

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The Gay Head Light —Photo by Carl Treyz

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The Gay Head Light —Photo by Carl Treyz

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Oak Bluffs —Photo by Carl Treyz

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Oak Bluffs —Photo by Carl Treyz

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Oak Bluffs —Photo by Carl Treyz

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Oak Bluffs —Photo by Carl Treyz

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Oak Bluffs —Photo by Carl Treyz

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Oak Bluffs —Photo by Carl Treyz

Any other Vineyard projects? What’s next?

I have flown briefly over Oaks Bluff and Gay Head, but am planning on making a similar video containing all of the lighthouses on the Island. I am also producing films and working on more projects for the EnTidaled Project.

Tell us more about EnTidaled.

I co-founded the EnTidaled Project with several friends I have met over the years through my time in the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. In a nutshell, we’re striving to connect people to conservation and sustainability efforts around the world, using engaging photos, stories, and short films. We hope to help bridge the gap between science and the public, because there is a lot of amazing, important work being done that people just don’t know about. In a time when everyone is connected to the Internet, fewer and fewer people are connected to the outdoors and things happening in their own backyard. Most people would rather watch a short, two- or three-minute entertaining video than read a scientific paper. We just started, but are getting ready to launch our community page, which will be featuring several well-respected organizations and individuals who want to work with the EnTidaled Project to increase visibility for their efforts and hope to reach new audiences.

What else do you do?

I am currently living in Westchester, New York. Right now I am working as a dental assistant for a private dentist as well as at a local dental clinic. I recently applied to dental school, and hope to start next fall. Outside of dentistry and videography, I am an avid fisherman, PADI divemaster, and just love spending time outdoors.

For more info on EnTidaled: enTidaledproject.org.

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Edgartown selectmen. Left to right: Margaret Serpa, Art Smadbeck and Michael Donaroma. — Photo by Rich Saltzberg

A large group of Chappaquiddick residents aired their concerns about spotty wireless telephone reception on the small island and the need to improve coverage at a meeting with Edgartown selectmen Monday night. One overriding question remained: whether to continue to pursue a distributed antenna system (DAS) or turn efforts to erecting a more conventional tower in the Island’s easternmost community.

Many of those who spoke framed the issue as one of public safety. The danger of spotty service resulting in the failure of emergency transmissions was a recurring theme in audience anecdotes and statements.

The Chappaquiddick Wireless Committee has directed its efforts towards a DAS , which relies on a network of small antennas, often placed on utility poles, as an alternative to conventional towers. In June 2012, selectmen accepted the only response to a request for proposals (RFP) to build and operate a DAS on Chappaquiddick. In a joint venture, Grain Communications Group, Inc. of Sarasota, Florida, and Broadband Service Group, Inc., a Michigan-based company, submitted the proposal, which was also expected to provide high-speed data communications, in addition to voice. But the developers were unable to attract any mobile carriers to sign up.

Much of the discussion Monday night focused on the scope and merits of the committee’s current RFP and its limited scope focused on DAS. Responding to an overwhelming show of hands in support, the selectmen agreed to expand the RFP in order to explore “other systems,” presumably towers.

During the discussion, wireless committee member Bob Gurnitz laid the blame for the delay in the sole focus on DAS. Mr. Gurnitz said that DAS had no appeal to cell providers due to its cost and reliability and such a system only had the support of a minority of residents.

In a followup email, Mr. Gurnitz told The Times, “The selectmen appeared to be very much in support of the direction suggested by the clear majority of those in attendance and we look forward to an expedited process which will result in high quality cell service on Chappy. Besides being an issue of convenience, lack of such service is clearly a public safety issue.”

Roger Becker, president of the Chappaquiddick Island Association and a member of the Wireless Committee, disagreed. Mr. Becker said the selectmen’s desire for a conventional tower on town-owned land was at the root of the delay.

“I was able to get my neighbors to email and request the selectmen get input from Chappy residents before moving ahead with plans for such a tower,” Mr. Becker said in a followup email to The Times. “It was easy to see the DAS was far superior in every way to the over-height tower as we were advised by a consultant hired by the town to get cell coverage for underserved areas of Edgartown, Katama and Chappy. The issue for Chappy is simply this: the cell providers aren’t interested in coming here because the demand for connection is very small. The signals from the tower in Edgartown cover the island to Sampson’s hill in the middle of the island leaving only about 300 houses without a signal and the beaches.”

While stating no preference, Chris Kennedy, the Martha’s Vineyard Superintendent for The Trustees of the Reservations, the conservation group that owns or manages much of the island’s extensive beachfront, highlighted the safety concerns. Mr. Kennedy said there is no reliable cell phone signal on the beaches from Wasque to Cape Poge and calls are routinely dropped or garbled, which could cost valuable minutes in an emergency.

In other business Monday,  selectmen accepted with regrets a notice of retirement from longtime Edgartown Police sergeant Ken Johnson. Prior to adjournment, selectmen canceled the August 18 meeting due to an anticipated lack of quorum.

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Comcast has extended the deadline for at least 270 homeowners to pay a minimum of $2,139 each to bring service to the island.

The island of Chappaquiddick on the eastern end of Martha's Vineyard is without cable service. — File photo by Bill Brine

The hard fought and sometimes fractious campaign to bring Comcast high speed Internet/cable TV/phone service to Chappaquiddick appeared as though it was about to hit a wall in the form of a Monday, July 21, deadline by which at least 270 homeowners were required to pay Comcast a minimum installation fee of $2,139, which the cable giant said it needs to make its $1.58 million initial investment to wire the tiny island commercially viable.
However, island proponents of the multi-step deal fashioned by Edgartown officials were recently given a boost when the cable giant moved the deposit deadline back to March 1, 2015. If Comcast had stuck to the original deadline, the prospect for cable on Chappy would be extremely dim.

According to residents involved with negotiations, as of Wednesday, July 16, there were 92 deposits on the books.

The deadline has been extended in part because there was so much sturm und drang surrounding the previous benchmark of 270 commitment letters by October 1, 2013.

The commitment letter required no payment from the homeowner. It simply gave Comcast permission to survey their “dwelling unit” to determine if logistical complications, namely the distance from the main cable under Chappaquiddick road, would require additional charges above the $2,139 deposit.

“The deadline extension was mutually agreed upon in the spirit of cooperation as we continue to work with Edgartown leaders in our efforts to have Comcast serve the island of Chappaquiddick,” Comcast cable spokesman Marc Goodman said Wednesday in a phone call with The Times.

In the meantime, cable proponents hope they can enlist more signups from people who were initially uneasy about sending in a commitment letter or were simply unaware of what it entailed.

Woody Filley, Chappaquiddick Island Association (CIA) utilities committee member, said in a phone call with The Times that 294 people sent in commitment letters by last year’s October 1 deadline.

He said there are another 140 homeowners that were not part of the initial commitment letter inventory. Comcast is going to allow those people another opportunity to sign a commitment letter. Once signed, Comcast will send out engineers to evaluate the installation charges. At that time, homeowners can decide whether they would like to place a deposit for service.

First hurdle
By July 2013, there were only a handful of commitment letters on file, due in part to confusion over the terms. Some residents thought that the letter left them vulnerable to an open-ended financial commitment. Some proponents of the deal thought the Comcast estimate of “dwelling units” contained guest houses and detached garages, thus making the goal more difficult to reach. Comcast denied appeals for a recount.

At the Chappaquiddick Island Association (CIA) annual meeting in July 2013, it was apparent that the Comcast commitment letter had created a great deal of confusion. Many people were put off by the brief missive which stated that each homeowner had to sign up for for two years of basic cable in addition to paying the Aid in Construction Fee (AIC) of at least $2,139. But over the next two months, the tide turned.

That 294 letters of commitment were tallied at Edgartown National Bank on October 1 was a testament to a core group of people on the CIA utilities committee, headed by Mr. Filley, a technology teacher at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, who relentlessly worked the phones and bent ears whenever and wherever they could. Chappy ferry owner Peter Wells, a strong advocate of the technology upgrade, kept a running tally on a scoreboard on the Chappy side of the ferry. He was also uniquely situated to lobby his captive audience, in his own genial way.

Keep counting

It’s one thing to get 270 people to send in a letter, it’s another to get them to part with more than $2,100 dollars. Mr. Filley said that while the deadline has been pushed back to March 1, 2015, the goal is still to get 270 deposits in as soon as possible. “The sooner we hit 270, the sooner Comcast gets going,” he said.

Comcast completed its survey of Chappy by March of 2014, and the estimates were sent out. While some proponents thought Comcast might try to get out of the deal with exorbitant AIC fees, very few of the houses that could be wired required additional funds. “Most homes were not to be charged anything but minimal installation fees,” Mr Filley said.

Mr. Filley said lessons have been learned from last year’s commitment letter campaign and changes have been made in the collection process. “We’ve been working with [Edgartown town administrator] Pam Dolby and she’s been taking payments,” he said. “A lot of people have been dropping them off at her office.” Mr Filley said deposits can also be sent to: Town of Edgartown, PO Box 5158, Edgartown, MA, 02539, Attention: Pamela Dolby “Confidential.”

The original Comcast proposal stated that if the required deposits were in by July 21, 2014, Chappy would have a functioning cable system by February 15, 2016.

Banding together for bandwidth
To help Chappy residents who want hi-speed Internet but can’t swing the high up-front cost, some Chappy residents have established the Chappaquiddick Community Fund (CCF). “The long-range purpose of the CCF would be to provide financial help to face a variety of issues and needs that might arise within the Chappy community such as emergency fuel assistance, emergency medical costs and other such needs,” former CIA president Lionel Spiro wrote in an email to The Times. “In addition, our application to the IRS described the need to raise funds to provide Comcast with half their costs of installing cables under town roads. Thus far, various members of the Chappaquiddick community have indicated a willingness to donate as much as $153,000 if needed, for this purpose.”
Mr. Filley advises people who are content with their current Internet service with Verizon or ChappyWISP to consider the explosive pace of technology growth. “This is not just going to fix a problem for a year. This is going to be a long-term improvement to the infrastructure,” Mr. Filley said. “Consider how much technology has changed in the past 10 years. Medical technology is exploding on the Internet. That’s especially important for remote areas like Chappy. And look at the convenience that it brings. It wasn’t that long ago when you had to drive to the steamship to get a reservation. Infrastructure decisions are made on anticipated lifestyles instead of present lifestyles.”

To people who resist the deal because they resent having no other choice in cable provider, Mr. Filley says that when it comes to something as crucial as technology, it’s better to have one monopoly than none at all.

Don’t touch that dial
Not everyone on Chappy wants Comcast to come. Seasonal resident Jay Hunter is an outspoken opponent of the deal. “One of the reasons people come to Chappy is the serenity and the wilderness,” he said in a phone call with The Times. “It’s one of the reasons why we’re here, to get away from things you’re inundated with. My bookcase is full of books that actually get read. We go hiking and blueberry picking and fishing. My 26-year-old was just here with a buddy, the TV or the computer weren’t on once.There were too many other things to do.”
Mr. Hunter also questions the current Comcast strategy from a technological angle. “Communication is going to be wireless, that’s the direction technology is going. For now, Chappy WISP works just fine. I was working this morning on the Internet and we stream Netflix no problem.”

Long time coming
The battle to wire Chappy began in early 2011, when negotiations began for a new 10-year contract between Comcast and the Island Cable Advisory Board (CAB), a committee representing the six towns on Martha’s Vineyard. Initially, Comcast said it had no interest in serving the remote, sparsely populated, island on an island. Service to Chappy became a major stumbling block to renewing the Island-wide deal. The CAB and Comcast extended the contract several times over the long and increasingly strained negotiation. In December 2011, Ms. Dolby refused to attend any more meetings until Chappy was included in the conversation. In September 2012, Comcast agreed to include Chappy, and finally, in late January of 2013, the selectmen from the six towns endorsed a 10-year, Island-wide agreement with Comcast.

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The On Time provides Chappy residents with a reliable link to the Island. Improved wireless service without a cell tower remains a challenge. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

Edgartown selectmen told members of the Chappaquiddick wireless committee Monday that they’ve reached a dead end in their efforts to improve wireless service without a tower.

Asked for a progress report, committee member Fran Clay told selectmen that the committee remains steadfast in its determination to seek a Distributed Antenna System (DAS) system, which relies on a network of small antennas, often placed on utility poles, and provides an alternative to conventional towers.

“The Chappaquiddick wireless committee recommends that selectmen do not issue an RFP for an over height cell tower on Chappy at this time,” Ms. Clay said. “The committee has determined and agrees, that a Distributed Antenna System (DAS) is the best system for Chappy and allowing and encouraging a cell tower developer to propose to build an oversize cell tower will undermine the effort to interest a DAS developer to build a less intrusive and superior facility for Chappy.”

“This has been going on for what, three years?” selectman Margaret Serpa asked. “And nothing has happened. I just think we’re at a dead end.”

Selectman Arthur Smadbeck echoed Ms. Serpa’s sentiments. “We’ve sent out an RFP three times, and we haven’t gotten any response, and you guys don’t want anything but this system, so I would say that the wireless committee has done its job and, like Margaret said, we’re at the end of the road,” he said. “And it’s too bad it didn’t work out.”

Chappaquiddick Island Association president and wireless committee member Roger Becker was undeterred. “We feel that we can get it, eventually DAS will come to Chappaquiddick,  assuming you don’t undermine it with some secondary proposal for something less,” he said.

Town administrator Pamela Dolby proposed that selectmen hold a public hearing to solicit more views. “I’d suggest that you want to give them more time,” Ms. Dolby said. “And I think we should have a public hearing in July, when everybody’s here from Chappaquiddick. We’ll have a big public hearing and hear from the entire community.”

Selectmen agreed to schedule a meeting.

Books, wine and lighthouses

In other action Monday, selectmen approved a liquor licence request from Edgartown Books.

“The purpose of seeking an alcohol licence is just to enhance the experience,” said Sean Murphy, an Edgartown lawyer representing Edgartown Books. “They’re not looking to open a bar, they’re not looking to have any time issues, they’ll be closed when the book store closes at 10 o’clock.”

Selectmen also signed the lease agreement for the Edgartown Lighthouse.

The Martha’s Vineyard Museum will continue to act as stewards of the lighthouse.

“We’re thrilled to be able to continue this work, and we hope everybody has a chance to go down there this summer,” museum finance director Betsey Mayhew said.