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Oak Bluffs

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Thursday’s ribbon cutting ceremony highlighted cooperation between agencies and recreational benefits.

State and local officials joined in the ribbon cutting. From left to right: Bob Whritenour, Rep. Tim Madden, Chuck Casella, selectman Greg Coogan, DFG commissioner Mary Griffin, fishing and boating access director Jack Sheppard, Undersecretary for Environment Martin Suuberg, DMF director Paul Diodati. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Fishermen do not generally mind a little rain. So it was not surprising that Thursday morning’s light rainfall did little to diminish the enthusiasm among those gathered for the official ribbon cutting ceremony to welcome the new Oak Bluffs fishing pier.

Greg Coogan, chairman of the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen, assisted on the umbrella by town administrator Bob Whritenour, said the pier was a benefit for the entire community. To his left is DMF director Paul Diodati and DFG commissioner Mary Griffin.
Greg Coogan, chairman of the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen, assisted on the umbrella by town administrator Bob Whritenour, said the pier was a benefit for the entire community. To his left is DMF director Paul Diodati and DFG commissioner Mary Griffin.

A parade of state and local officials stepped to the podium to describe the cooperation among multiple agencies and the town of Oak Bluffs, and the benefits the pier would provide, now and in the future. Division of Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin did her best to thank all those involved in the decade long project.

Greg Coogan, chairman of the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen, thanked town leaders who had worked tirelessly over the years to support the project, and state and federal agencies that have invested heavily in the town’s coastal infrastructure.

“As a small town we don’t have the resources to address many of the challenges that face a coastal community, sometimes it’s all we can do to keep sand on the beach,” he said, drawing a laugh from those familiar with the town’s struggle to replenish the Inkwell beach.

“Through these partnerships we’ve accomplished great things. This fishing pier is a great addition to this community, and not just Oak Bluffs but the whole Island.”

Mr. Coogan said residents across the Island appreciate the many features that make Oak Bluffs accessible. He said the new pier will give “everyday citizens, young and old” direct access to a first class fishing resource, or just a spot to stroll.

Referencing future plans, Mr. Coogan said, “In an era where public access to the waterfront is often threatened, we’re expanding it. And this is only the beginning. By the fall, we expect to start construction on a new seawall, here to my right, and a pedestrian boardwalk that will protect us from storms and bring more and more people to this lovely place.”

Project construction was overseen by the Department of Fish and Game’s Office of Fishing and Boating Access with assistance from the Division of Marine Fisheries.

The new pier cost $1 million and is the largest recreational fishing pier in Massachusetts. About $188,000 of project funds came from Massachusetts recreational saltwater fishing permit sales. The $10 charge for individual permits, collected by DMF, along with donations and charter boat permit revenue accrued more than $1.2 million in Massachusetts in 2013 for fisheries research, conservation and public access projects, according to a press release.

Chuck Casella, a charter captain and chairman of the Marine Recreational Fisheries Development Panel, a citizen advisory group established to provide oversight over the Marine Recreational Fisheries Development Fund, spoke about the battle to create a saltwater fishing license.

“The saltwater license was created from the ground up and it one of only three dedicated funds in the state that is truly a user pay, user benefit fund,” he said.

Referencing the pier and fisheries programs, Mr. Casella said fishermen could be confident that all the monies collected for the license fee are well spent.

Speaking on behalf of local fishermen, Bob Lane of Oak Bluffs, former president of the Surfcasters Association, thanked those who conceived of the idea of a fishing pier and persisted, undaunted by the long permitting and funding hurdles. Mr. Lane singled out Walter Lisson and David Nash of Edgartown.

The Oak Bluffs Fishing Pier will complement improvements planned for the North Bluff sea wall and boardwalk, according to a press release. Energy and Environmental Affairs awarded the town of Oak Bluffs $3.6 million in January to repair the damaged North Bluff. That grant is part of a total of $8.5 million in outside funding for Oak Bluffs, a figure that includes $1.9 million in seaport improvement money from the state Seaport Advisory Council, and $2 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance.

To see a fine art slide show of the pier, by Island photographers Steve Myrick and Alison Shaw, among others, click here.

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The person who strikes it right scores a fun-filled evening.

The planned bowling alley in Oak Bluffs needs a name. — Courtesy Sam Dunn

What’s in a name? For the person who suggests the winning moniker for a new bowling alley to be constructed in Oak Bluffs, it could be worth dinner and a free evening of bowling for four people.

Developer and architect Sam Dunn is building a 13,500-square-foot bowling alley/entertainment center on Uncas Avenue, at the edge of the town’s business district. He and his partners, landowner Barry Reeves and real estate advisor Bob Sawyer, decided they would ask Islanders for some feedback and suggestions before they make a final decision on the bowling center’s name.

The idea was to let the community be involved in deciding this,” Mr. Dunn said. “We’re hoping it will generate some interest.”

To vote, use the link, https://apps.facebook.com/my-polls/lvwkmk or visit the Facebook page, “Bowling Center on Martha’s Vineyard,” and click on “vote for name.”

The name choices include MV Bowl, Vineyard Bowl, Bowl MV, OB Bowl, and Cottage City Bowl. If none of those strike anyone’s fancy, there is a box marked “other” where people can type in their own suggestions.

Based on the poll, Mr. Dunn said that he, Mr. Reeves, and Mr. Sawyer will pick a winner from the first group of names, and also select one from those suggested by the community.

The two final selections will be put to a final vote, again on Facebook. If the winning name is suggested by someone in the community, that person and three guests will be treated to dinner and an evening of bowling at the new center.

My personal favorite so far is OB Bowl,” Mr. Dunn said. “I think it has great alliteration and would lend itself to a really cool logo.”

But people have been coming up to me and making some fun suggestions, though, that we never thought of,” he added.

The bowling alley/entertainment center will house 10 bowling lanes, a bar, a restaurant, two golf simulators, a game room, an event room and two apartments that will qualify as affordable housing. The new facility will replace a long-vacant laundromat, demolished in May. Perhaps that will inspire a few contest participants to work the word “suds” into their entries.

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission approved the bowling alley project in March, with conditions regarding sound and light mitigation, landscaping, and limited use of the function room. The Oak Bluffs selectmen approved Mr. Dunn’s liquor license application on March 25.

At the selectmen’s June 9 meeting, a group of abutters of the Uncas Avenue property asked that all construction be halted until September 15. As a compromise, the selectmen voted to allow construction to continue from 8 am to 4 pm, Monday through Thursday, during the summer months.

Mr. Dunn previously told The Times that his goal is to have the bowling alley open by the holidays.

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This morning, Oak Bluffs town leaders and representatives of several state agencies, including the Office of Fishing and Boating Access and the Division of Marine Fisheries, are scheduled to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Oak Bluffs fishing pier. Islanders and visitors have already begun to make good use of the handsome structure, which expands on the town’s already inviting waterfront boardwalk and strolling opportunities.

The state picked up the cost of construction, about $1 million, using a combination of funding sources that included Mass saltwater license revenues and federal Wallop-Breaux Trust funds, money generated through excise taxes levied on sport fishing and boating equipment.

Under the terms of its agreement with the state, Oak Bluffs is responsible for day-to-day maintenance, public safety, and policing.

The idea for a fishing pier began with the rebuilding of the Oak Bluffs Steamship Authority terminal. The original idea was to incorporate a fishing platform into the pier. That plan disappeared after 9/11, due to security concerns, but not the idea.

For several years, a group of fishermen led by David Nash of Edgartown quietly pressed for a fishing pier. They found support among Oak Bluffs town leaders and in the Office of Fishing and Boating Access, led by longtime director Jack Sheppard, a man who has worked mightily over the years to provide public access to the state’s waterways for all citizens.

The fishing pier project ties in with efforts by Oak Bluffs leaders to revitalize the downtown area and generally enhance the town’s welcoming atmosphere. Work will soon begin on a multi-million dollar plan to rebuild the entire seawall and add a boardwalk at North Bluff.

In the years to come, Island fishermen will take advantage of the pier to introduce kids to the fun of catching a scup, lovers will stroll along its length in quiet conversation, and visitors will be able to sit on one of the many wooden benches and admire the view.

Today’s ceremony marks the end of a long navigation through a series of local, state, and federal permitting agencies. In all, the project took more than a decade, but the end result was well worth the effort. Oak Bluffs can take pride in the latest addition to its public projects and the entire Island will be the beneficiary.

A salute to Edson Rodgers

Islanders who attended the Flag Day concert by the members of the Navy Band Northeast from Newport, R.I., at the Tabernacle on Saturday night enjoyed quite a treat. The band performed a medley of tunes to the great delight of the audience, many of whom waved small American flags, purchased prior to the concert from entrepreneurial Boy Scouts.

American Legion Post 257 in Vineyard Haven organized the free concert as part of a celebration earlier in the day to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Veterans Memorial Park. The evening began with neighbors greeting neighbors and the excited chatter of children. It was a quintessential Island event that reflected the spirit and patriotism of our small community.

Wielding a conductor’s baton and smiling broadly, Lt. Commander Carl J. Gerhard stood erect in a finely tailored, white dress jacket and led the Navy band through its paces with the precision of an aircraft carrier takeoff. But the star of the show was retired Navy chief Edson Rodgers of Edgartown, who conceived of and organized the band’s Island visit.

It was no small task, given the logistics and paperwork involved. Navy Band Northeast is attached to the Naval War College at Naval Station Newport. The group performs over 500 engagements annually in an 11-state area. Band members travel in four 15-passenger vans and carry their equipment in a 26-foot truck.

Mr. Rodgers served with the Navy Band Northeast before he retired in 1987. Lt. Cdr. Gerhard, who will retire in two months, worked with Mr. Rodgers when he was one of the senior instructors at the Naval School of Music in Virginia. His affection for his former teacher was obvious when he invited Mr. Rodgers to bring his trumpet on stage and perform with the band.

At the conclusion of the performance of “My Way” — done “The Navy way,” Edson Rodgers said —  Mr. Rodgers received a standing ovation from the crowd and a salute from his former pupil. Both were well deserved.

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Victims of time, the elements and technology, the Strand and Island theaters continue to deteriorate.

On Thursday, painters were busy sprucing up the Strand Theatre in Oak Bluffs. — Photo by Steve Myrick

As summer rolls in, two anchor buildings in downtown Oak Bluffs, the Strand Theatre on Oak Bluffs Avenue and the Island theater on Circuit Avenue, remain in disrepair, their marquees that once heralded summer blockbusters now blank.

The Strand houses a bike and moped business. The Island is vacant. Representatives of the Hall family, owners of both buildings, said they are doing their best to address structural and cosmetic issues with both buildings but continue to encounter unforeseen problems.

The Island theater is in need of structural repairs.
The Island theater is in need of structural repairs.

For Oak Bluffs town leaders it all seems like a rerun. At the conclusion of the May 27 meeting of the selectmen, selectman Walter Vail commented on the continued inaction of Halls to address the situation.

“I don’t know of anyone in town who is not frustrated by the condition of these buildings and how long they’ve been in such a sad state,” Mr. Vail said. “I’m fed up; we’re all fed up. The selectmen have been looking at all kinds of options, but it doesn’t look like anything is going to happen soon. I’m open to any ideas anybody has.”

Paint job

An email exchange earlier in the month and obtained by The Times through a public records request provides a glimpse into the source of Mr. Vail’s frustration.

Jim Tetrealt was busy painting the Strand Theater on Wednesday afternoon.
Jim Tetrealt was busy painting the Strand Theater on Wednesday afternoon.

In an email dated May 20, Mr. Vail wrote to Ben Hall Jr., co-owner of the theaters and the family attorney, “I have not seen any work being done on the Strand theater, as you told me in March would happen this month.  Am I rushing things?”

Addressing the Island theater, Mr. Vail wrote, “It is in such awful condition that it ought to come down and be replaced by a building which could be something you (and Oak Bluffs) could be proud of and even turn a profit!”

Mr. Vail concluded, “We are getting good feedback on how everything on Circuit Ave. is being dressed up, and I am hoping you can also give me an update on your plans for the Island theater. It still looks as awful as it has for years!”
Ben Hall responded to Mr. Vail on May 21. He pointed his finger at tenants of the Strand who he said are responsible for painting and said repairs to the Island theater had been delayed due to various problems with contractors, weather delays, and a town bylaw that prohibits outdoor construction in the B-1 district during the summer.

“Nobody likes to hear excuses, and I am now more disappointed and angry than you are about these matters,” he wrote. “The tenants at the Strand promised me back in March they would have the painting at the Strand undertaken, presumably before Memorial Day weekend.”

Brian Hall, co-owner of the theaters, said in a recent conversation with The Times that the Strand is leased to a moped group managed by Jason Leone. “They’re responsible for maintenance. It’s in the lease that they signed. They keep coming to us saying we want to do this and that, we say ‘Fine, bring us a proposal.’ We have yet to see any proposal from them.”

Town administrator Robert Whritenour told The Times that he had received assurances from Mr. Leone that exterior painting and repair of the sign would take place this week and next. On Wednesday, a painter was busy applying a coat of white paint to the side of the building.

Roof work
The Island Theater’s most recent use as a movie theater was in August 2012, when the Sony Corporation leased the auditorium for a private screening and the Island premiere of the movie “Sparkle.” Almost 200 invited guests attended, including producer Debra Martin Chase, President Barack Obama’s advisor Valerie Jarrett, and Attorney General Eric Holder.

Winter storm damage that year to the roof and associated water issues created a long punch list of needed repairs.

“The first thing we have to do is get the roof finished,” Brian Hall told The Times. “We started work on the truss a few days ago. That shouldn’t take that long. How fast the rest goes is out of my control.”

Chris Lowe is the contractor in charge of truss and roof repair, according to Mr. Hall.

Brian Hall said Oak Bluffs building inspector James Dunn has indicated they could possibly get an extension on the summer outdoor construction moratorium for the B-1 district, which began June 1. “If we have to the end of June, we can make a boatload of progress,” he said. “We can at least get the roof waterproofed, so the tarps would be gone. We’ll go as far as we can with the time we have.”

Brian Hall estimates the repairs to make the Island “leasable” will be in the neighborhood of $100,000.

Asked if the financial liability and the public relations liability that the theaters have become for the Hall family were inducement to put the the buildings on the market, he replied, “We have a lot of people ask ‘would you consider selling?’ Make an offer, we’ll listen. But we never hear a solid offer. I don’t expect a premium, but I don’t expect a low ball either.”

No tear down

In his May 21 email to selectman Vail, Ben Hall Jr. cited contractor issues as the major cause of delays on the restoration of the Island. “We are unable to count on our original contractor to complete the truss repairs and roofing work at the Island for which we finally got specifications and the go-ahead in late March, early April. As you know, we had been stalled until then because we had not found an engineer who could find a solution to the issues seen by others that suggested the building be torn down.”

John Lolley, a civil and structural engineering consultant with 41 years of experience, is the engineer that recommended demolition. Mr. Lolley was engaged by the Halls to make recommendations on repairing a rotted truss last summer.
“In my opinion, that building was never sound to begin with,” Mr. Lolley said in an interview with the Times. “At the time it was built, people knew more about masonry probably than they do now. I was suprised how the masonry wasn’t up to the standards and empirical rules that were used at that time. They built the columns and infilled the walls, which means the walls and columns are not connected.”
Mr. Lolley said the heavy wind load coming off Nantucket Sound and 99 years of Island weather have taken a heavy toll on the structure. “I think it’s dangerous enough that it if it’s not demolished, it should be addressed structurally in a significant way,” Mr. Lolley said. “Just because they inherited problems with the building doesn’t mean they’re not responsible. Something should be done. I’m surprised more hasn’t been done by the building inspector.”

Brian Hall disagrees with that assessment. “His [Mr. Lolley’s] solutions were over the top elaborate,” Mr. Hall said. “The building is not unsafe. It’s not going to be occupiable, but it’s not going to fall over either.”

Mr. Hall said a second engineers report, completed over the winter by Reid Silva of Vineyard Land Surveying and Engineering, provided the way forward.

Mr. Silva said that he made no formal design for the repair of the walls. “I had more to do with the truss repair than evaluating the building,” he said in a phone call with the Times. “There are plenty of items that need to be addressed.”

Building push

In a conversation with the Times on June 6, Oak Bluffs building inspector James Dunn said he spoke with Brian Hall last week. “I told him he had to get moving,” Mr. Dunn said. “If he doesn’t, I’m going to declare it unsafe and have it torn down.” Mr. Dunn indicated that he could use Mr. Lolley’s engineering report to justify the demolition.

Mr. Dunn agreed to extend the June 1 downtown building moratorium until the end of June so roof repairs could be completed. Mr. Dunn’s definition of completed means weatherproofed and shingled, not just weatherproofed, as Mr. Hall indicated in his conversation with the Times. “There’s no reason the entire job couldn’t be done in three or four days with a professional crew,” he said. “You just have to spend the money.”

Even though he is retiring at the end of the month, Mr. Dunn said he has a personal interest in seeing the situation resolved. “I love this town,” he said. “I live in this town; I want to be involved.”

An asset

In a lengthy email to The Times, Ben Hall Jr. described the history of repair projects on both theaters and the challenge faced by small movie theater operators. He defended his family’s stewardship of both buildings, and he said his family had been repeatedly victimized by news coverage.

“It’s easy to throw stones at the owners of such large places,” Mr. Hall said. “These buildings are significant economic assets and it is ridiculous to even suggest that the maintenance and repair of such buildings are being ignored by the owners.”

Mr. Hall said his family had invested close to $1 million in the past decade in the Strand but the film exhibition business is no longer viable.

As for the Island Theater, Mr. Hall said, the severe wind storms of fall and winter 2012 running on through March of 2013 damaged the roof which then damaged the interior walls of the building. Once repair work could begin, he said, engineers were brought in who questioned the structural integrity of the entire building. “As you can understand, this was a real shock,” he said.

Mr. Hall said that as much as townspeople complain, his family is certain town leaders would not permit the building to be torn down without a viable plan for its replacement.

This spring, Mr. Hall said, his family was able to retain an expert who designed “an elegant, but detailed method to knit the building together. This report was provided to the authorities who approved of the concept, and the contractor was asked to re-mobilize to undertake the needed, but more extensive, work.”

Mr. Hall said work was halted due to a town bylaw prohibiting work in the business district during the summer months. The space is unlikely to be operated as a movie theater in the future, he said. “Like other properties in the business district, the Island Theater building continues to be on the market for a long term lease to permit the prospective tenant to amortize whatever investment they may wish to make on the property with uses that would create an additional diversity of services to the residents and visitors to Oak Bluffs,” he said.

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The Oak Bluffs Water District tank painting project is coming to an end with the final stages of filling, disinfection, bacteria testing and refilling this week.

“The tank will be back online on Friday,” said superintendent Kevin Johnson in a phone call with the Times. “Although the tank will be online, there is still ancillary work to be complete, such as relocating the communication towers, making the new control building operational, as well as general cleanup. During the initial week of the tank being back on line, residents may experience discolored water and a slight taste of chlorine from the disinfection process.”

Despite discoloration or chlorine, the water will be potable, he said. The Water District will attempt to keep occurrences to a minimum while the project is completed.

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Construction will be limited to four days a week until September 1.

Construction on the future bowling alley in Oak Bluffs is under way. — Photo by Michael Cummo

The negotiating skills of the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen were put to the test at their regular meeting on Tuesday night, as they tried to reach a compromise between developer Sam Dunn and a group of abutters of the Uncas Avenue property where Mr. Dunn is building a 13,500-square-foot bowling alley/entertainment center which will replace a long-vacant and recently demolished laundromat.

In a letter to Oak Bluffs building inspector James Dunn dated May 28, Edgartown attorney Ellen Kaplan, who represents several abutters, asked thatall construction on the bowling alley be halted until September 15, in accordance with a town bylaw that was approved by the selectmen on July 23, 2013.

According to Ms. Kaplan’s letter, the bylaw “was enacted to prohibit construction or renovation of B-1 and B-2  zoned properties in the downtown areas of Oak Bluffs” during the summer, defined as June 1 to September 15.

Following a lengthy and at times heated discussion, selectmen voted 4-1 to allow construction to continue from 8 am to 4 pm, Monday through Thursday.

Communication breakdown

Initially there was confusion among the board about the geographic and legal scope of the July 23, 2013 vote, which chairman Greg Coogan quickly cleared up. “This was a policy, not a bylaw,” he said, holding up a copy of the minutes from the July 23 meeting. “When we voted, Kathy [selectman Kathy Burton] asked that we change from B-1 and B-2 to downtown, and that vote was unanimous. The original intent was not to block the sidewalks.”

Selectman Gail Barmakian said she had no recollection of the vote, and she maintained that the building moratorium should apply to all of B-1 and B-2 zoned property.
“We voted on July 23  after we discussed it at length as we do with every policy,” Ms. Burton said. “I think several of us believed we were voting for Circuit Ave., Kennebec and Circuit Ave Extension. I don’t understand why it was left in [the printed policy] after we voted on it.”

James Dunn apparently never received the amendment that changed the building moratorium from B-1 and B-2 to the “downtown district.”

“There’s a lot of confusion,” Sam Dunn said, adding that he’d received verbal assurances from town officials this spring that the building moratorium restriction would not apply to the Uncas Ave. location. “It would be great if we had a set of rules.”
In a letter to the selectmen dated June 10, James Dunn wrote, “the policy is very clear; and states; ‘to include all B-1 and B-2 zoned properties,’ applicable to ‘any and all construction, reconstruction, installation, demolition, maintenance, or repair of a building, to include painting.’”

In his letter, Mr. Dunn said he’d met with Sam Dunn three times over the past month hoping to reach a compromise that was “impartial and reasonable to all.”  He suggested three options: stop all work as of June 30and resume on September 15; stop all work on July 14and resume on September 15; or stop all work on July 14 and resume the first week in September. Sam Dunn rejected all three proposals, according to the building inspector.

“A two-month delay has a significant impact,” Sam Dunn told the selectmen. “A steel building has been ordered, deposits have been made. I see nothing in this policy that is intended to protect abutters from noise. It’s about business. I believe we behaved honorably.”

John Folino, the general contractor on the project, also supervised the construction of MVTV building on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, which has a similar steel frame design. He said noise was never an issue.

“We had compliments, not complaints,” he said. “The loudest noise was the demolition, which is done.” Mr. Folino said that the prefabricated steel structure doesn’t require the sawing and hammering of a wood framed building, and that there would be no exterior work once it was erected. He also said the site will be fenced off and that safety and security will be maintained “religiously.”

“I know John, he’s a good builder,” James Dunn said. “I do think abutters deserve a certain amount of summer.”

Mr. Dunn reiterated his preference to stick with the B-1, B-2 moratorium that was on the books, regardless of the July 2013 amendment by the board.

Abutters appeal

Abutters to the Uncas Ave. location were again out in numbers to voice their objections. Noise and safety complaints were repeatedly stated.

“I’ve owned my property for 19 years. My life has changed forever,” abutter David Harte said. “This is five feet from my property. I’ve had my foundation shake, I’ve had my hedge taken down. This has not been easy. Give us a break and let us have our last summer.”

Ms. Kaplan said she had visited the site that day. “A large piece of equipment was moving earth and it was noisy,” she said.
Several abutters and attendees said that the fence surrounding the project was encroaching on the street, making it difficult for two cars to pass on an already narrow thoroughfare.
During the proceedings, Mr. Santoro repeatedly suggested a shortened work week as a compromise — restricting work to Monday through Thursday, and restricting hours from eight am until four pm. After a lengthy and sometimes heated discussion, the selectmen voted to endorse Mr. Santoro’s suggestion, 4-1, with selectman Gail Barmakian voting against.
In addition to time restrictions, the selectmen required Sam Dunn to keep the fences and all personal vehicles and construction vehicles within the property line. Holidays were also added to the work moratorium.

“I have had building on all sides of me for years, so I empathize” Mr. Coogan said. “But to stop a project cold is not fair to other areas in town.”
In response to an email from the Times on Wednesday, James Dunn weighed in on the decision. “I don’t feel the compromise is in keeping with the policy. As it stands, this continues the construction throughout the summer and basically giving eight Fridays of relief from what will be typical construction site activities.”

“It’s not ideal, but we’ll honor the decision of the selectmen,” Sam Dunn said in a phone call with the Times.”We’re going to work as hard as we can to be open by the holidays.”
Ms. Kaplan did not return a call from the Times.

Inkwell woes continue

In other business, citizen anger about the dredge spoils on Inkwell beach also raised the temperature in the room. Although many people, including the selectmen, thought the problem had been solved after the highway department supervised removal of the much maligned beach nourishment on May 23, a piqued group of attendees told the board that there was still a great deal of odiforous black material on Inkwell and State beach.
“I think Richie [highway department supervisor Richard Combra] took as much as he could,” parks commissioner Amy Billings said. “We can’t take any more off right now. It was a mistake and we’re trying to fix it.”

The dredge spoils that have been removed were placed at the town cemetery until a permanent location can be found. The suggestion that the remaining material could be raked and worked into existing sand only served to further chafe the attendees. Selectman Santoro said the selectmen were told that the problem had been fixed.

“You should go there, take your shoes off and walk around,” Oak Bluffs resident Greg Herman said to the selectmen. “Then decide if you think the problem is fixed.”

It subsequently became apparent that none of the selectmen had been to the beach since the highway department took action. “We’ll check into it tomorrow,” Mr. Coogan said.

Until recently, it was assumed by town officials that a solution to the Inkwell imbroglio would be the clean dredge spoils from Little Bridge that were scheduled to be placed on Inkwell beach in the first week of June. However, according to town administrator Robert Whritenour, Little Bridge dredging, which is 75 percent funded by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been delayed because a new FEMA project engineer has taken over, and the town has had to resubmit all documentation that had been previously approved. Mr. Whritenour said there is no timetable from FEMA, but the town is sitting on bids for the $321,000 project and will act quickly when FEMA signs off, again.

Selectmen voted unanimously to enter into a 20-year contract with Cape and Vineyard electric cooperative (CVEC) to purchase excess capacity from solar projects on the Cape and Islands. According to town administrator Robert Whritenour, the contract will save the town 20 percent on half of the municipal load, essentially saving the town $20,000 a year.
Selectmen also unanimously voted to approve a one-year lease for Angels Helping Animals, a nonprofit dog rescue organization headed by Leslie Hurd, for the empty town animal shelter. Ms. Hurd estimated she will be making $4,200 worth of repairs, which selectmen will allow her to deduct from the rent.

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A Navy Band concert will cap a parade and ceremony to commemorate the park's 50th year.

The Navy Band will march Saturday and perform a variety of music in a concert at the Tabernacle Saturday night. — Navy Band Northeast

A Flag Day celebration on Saturday hosted by American Legion Post 257 in Vineyard Haven will include a parade and rededication ceremony to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Veterans Memorial Park. As a special treat, the 45-member Navy Band Northeast from Newport, R.I., will participate.

At the beginning of the 20th century, nothing but swamp lay between the village of Vineyard Haven and where this photographer stood - approximately where Burt's boatyard is today. It wasn't until after the first World War that the marsh was filled in and the stone veterans' monument moved here from the front yard of the Vineyard Haven Library. The tall building visible on the left in this photo is the Association Hall, where the Tisbury Town Hall is today; the large building on the right is the Mansion House.
At the beginning of the 20th century, nothing but swamp lay between the village of Vineyard Haven and where this photographer stood – approximately where Burt’s boatyard is today. It wasn’t until after the first World War that the marsh was filled in and the stone veterans’ monument moved here from the front yard of the Vineyard Haven Library. The tall building visible on the left in this photo is the Association Hall, where the Tisbury Town Hall is today; the large building on the right is the Mansion House.

That evening the band will perform a free concert at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs. The morning parade will be canceled if it rains, but not the evening concert, according to Legionnaire organizer, and trumpeter for all occasions, Edson Rodgers.

The Navy Band Northeast will play the National Anthem and patriotic songs during the park ceremony. At 7 pm Saturday night, the band will perform a 70-minute show under the direction of Lt. Commander Carl J. Gerhard, U.S. Navy.

“I think people are in for a treat and are really going to enjoy it,” Lt. Cdr. Gerhard told The Times in a phone call Tuesday. “We’ll play music for all ages — patriotic songs, popular tunes, Big Band, swing, Dixieland — we’ve got it all.”

Veterans and Tisbury town officials, accompanied by the Navy Band, will step off for the parade at 11 am from St. Augustine’s Catholic Church on Franklin Street. The half-mile parade route takes them down Church Street, right on Main Street, right on State Road, and left on Causeway Road down to Veterans Memorial Park.

A rededication ceremony at the park will pay tribute to the hard work and generosity of American Legion members who envisioned its creation and carried the project through the 12 years it took to complete. Legionnaire Fred Thifault, the only remaining member of the park’s original building committee which he joined in 1962, has been invited to participate.

A living memorial

Over five decades, generations of Islanders of all ages have enjoyed Veterans Memorial Park’s sports fields, grounds, and playgrounds. The public park is the hub for soccer, baseball, softball, and volleyball games.

A plaque in the park notes that the land was purchased and the park constructed by “members and friends of Gen. Geo. W. Goethals Post 257, American Legion, Vineyard Haven.”

According to an early fundraising pamphlet, the Legionnaires decided that a War Veterans Memorial Park was more suitable than a memorial made of bronze and granite to honor those who died in war.

“We don’t want a statue’s face, stuck against a stone,” a poem entitled “Appreciation” said. “We would like a living place we could call our own.”

What few people probably realize today is that the park’s ball fields were once literally diamonds in the rough. As the pamphlet described, the park land the Legionnaires purchased was “an unused and seemingly useless hollow covered with tangled thickets and a jungle of reeds taller than a man.” One section they bought in 1951, where Bass Creek headed up, was a swamp with a deep bog-hole.

On December 7, 1951, the Veterans Memorial Park project received a charter as a nonprofit organization.

“There was a job to be done and Legion volunteers went to work,” the pamphlet said. “Perhaps they found assurance in the fact that their post was named for the man who dug the Panama Canal, and chose the Vineyard as his home. As General Goethals connected two oceans, so they would transform a swamp into a 10-acre park.”

It was no small feat, and the project required vision, sacrifice, and dedication. Legionnaires and their friends put in countless hours of voluntary manpower. Mr. Rogers recalled that many of them put in a full day at their regular jobs, then headed to work at the park in the evening.

They cleared the land, drained it, and brought in a total of 60,000 cubic yards of fill. Owners of equipment loaned them trucks that hauled 10,000 loads of earth.

The Legionnaires raised $20,000 over several years through ham-and-bean suppers, dances, auctions, and entertainment events to fund the project’s start-up. Once they began it, they realized that even with those funds, voluntary labor, and donated fill, it would not be enough. Over the next eight years, the Legionnaires conducted fundraisers that brought in more than $30,000 from year-round and summer residents.

About 12 years after they began, the Legionnaires realized their dream. In keeping with a vote at annual town meeting in 1964, Tisbury accepted the War Veterans Memorial Park as a gift from the nonprofit organization formed by American Legion Post 257. Along with the deed to the park, the Legionnaires also presented a check to the town for $6,000, raised through raffles, dances, and suppers, for betterments and improvements.

In 2008 and 2009, Veterans Memorial Park underwent major renovations, at a cost of about $590,000. Tisbury voters gave the town approval to borrow about $493,000 for the project and to appropriate about $100,000 in Community Preservation Act funds towards it. The park was closed to the public and topsoil removed, and new turf and drainage and irrigation systems installed. Two new scoreboards, bleachers, and fountains were also installed. Tisbury held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on September 12, 2009, to reopen the upgraded park.

Band notes

In a visit to The Times offices on Monday, Mr. Rodgers said the idea for the park’s 50th anniversary rededication ceremony stemmed from a suggestion from Michael Flynn of Vineyard Haven. While on a walk through the park one day, Mr. Flynn happened to notice the date on the plaque commemorating its gift to the town in 1964 from the American Legion. He called the park’s fiftieth anniversary to the attention of Dukes County Veterans Agent Jo Ann Murphy, who mentioned it at a subsequent Legion Post meeting.

“That’s when the lights went on for me,” said Mr. Rodgers, a musician who formerly served with the Navy Band Northeast before retiring in 1987. “It occurred to me that Flag Day is an opportunity to pay tribute to our country, and here is a group that waves our flag 365 days a year. I asked her permission to seek the band out, to see if we could do a rededication ceremony, and at the same time, a concert.”

With Ms. Murphy’s approval, Mr. Rodgers took the reins as the event’s organizer. He said he ran into a few snags, though, starting with the band’s overnight accommodations.

After calling several local hotels, Mr. Rodgers learned they all require a minimum two-night stay during the summer season. He alerted Lt. Cdr. Gerhard, who took up the search and was able to book 21 rooms at the Vineyard Harbor Motel, thanks to general manager Marcia Moore, who agreed to make a special exception.

“Her help was very much appreciated, because we wouldn’t have been able to pull off the parade, ceremony, and nighttime concert in one day and catch the last ferry,” the band director said.

Navy Band Northeast, established in 1974, is attached to the Naval War College at Naval Station Newport. As one of the U.S. Navy’s 13 official bands stationed worldwide, the group performs over 500 engagements annually in an 11-state area. The band travels in four 15-passenger vans and carries its equipment in a 26-foot truck.

The band performs at the request of the public, through an application process. Although many of its performances are day trips, the band receives operational funding from the U.S. Government for travel expenses, Lt. Cdr. Gerhard said.

“I thought this was a great return on investment, to come out to Martha’s Vineyard and not only play one event, but three,” he said.

Mr. Rodgers said Post 257 will pay a small fee to the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association for use of the Tabernacle, which includes paying an electrician to handle the lights.

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Alison Shaw began photographing the pier in the early days of construction. This shot was taken in July, 2013.

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Construction on the pier proceeded, and a deck was added to the pilings. Alison Shaw got this long exposure from underneath.

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Pilings. By Alison Shaw.

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Sunrise on the east facing shore by Max Skjoldebrand.

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Max Skjoldebrand scrambled under the pier to shoot this pastel sunrise.

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Michael Skelton, who participated in Alison Shaw's mentorship program, used a long exposure technique to capture pre-dawn color.

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Another shot from the early days of construction. By Alison Shaw.

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As part of Alison Shaw's mentorship program, Doug Burke arrived on the Island in the rain one March evening. "Saturday morning came," he said, "and I struggled at first to see what the best way was to capture this beautiful structure. What I love about this dock are the simple lines and easy flow [of] the ocean, smooth glass underneath. This was taken at 6:17AM on the 29th of March. The conditions were calm and the temp was in the high 40's.

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Doug Burke took this shot at 7:30 am on March 30th, a rainy Sunday. The tide was high, and he balanced his tripod on the rocks.

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Gwen Norton took this shot at 5:06 am on March 29, as part of Ms. Shaw's group. "I only took about 20 frames – it was very cold. I went out again on April 2 and took another 25 shots, but none of them worked as well as this one."

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Karla Bernstein wrote about this photograph: "I was on MV the first week of April for a gathering of the group of us taking Alison Shaw's Mentorship rogram. The OB pier was the 'hot photo topic' and many of us were there when not at the mentorship. This day I was alone while there – maybe because it was cool with lots of wind. It was April 4th, 11 am." It was, she reported, an overcast day; she took 10 shots at various angles, 1/40 sec @ f/18, ISO 100, focal length 28mm, using a Canon 5D Mark ll. She developed them using "split toning-blue hues for shadows and yellowish khaki for highlights."

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Michael Skelton took all of his pier shots in the rain, between 5:30 and 6:30 am, in the first week of April, 2014.

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Another Michael Skelton shot, taken during Ms. Shaw's mentorship program in early April.

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Sunrise breaks over the horizon at the Oak Bluffs fishing pier. By Steve Myrick.

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A long exposure by Steve Myrick.

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Symmetry and reflections. By Steve Myrick.

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Overcast skies, a rocky shore, and roaring surf add drama to this view by Steve Myrick.

The new public fishing pier in Oak Bluffs is about to be officially dedicated, and already local fishermen are hauling in lines heavy with their finned prizes.

But even before the pier was finished, the strong lines of the structure jutting out into Nantucket Sound began attracting an eclectic assortment of photographers to the North Bluff. On many mornings before dawn, a shutter-clicking crowd descends on the seawall. They clamber down on the boulder-strewn beach, hauling tripods and camera bags, with Nikons and Canons swinging from their shoulders. It takes a bit of good-natured cooperation to stay out of each others’ shot.

Long lenses, sunrise, short lenses, foggy, long exposures, sunset, cloudy, or clear, the seemingly endless variation in conditions and camera settings provide a creative palette alluring enough to set alarms to 4:30 am.

The reward, beyond the early calls, foot sprains, and water-filled boots, are some stunning images.

The state office of Fishing and Boating Access paid for the construction of the pier, the first on Martha’s Vineyard devoted exclusively to fishing. It will also be the first pier of its type in the state’s coastal waters, a place where kids and families can easily go to fish.

On Thursday, June 19 at 11 am, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Undersecretary for Environment Martin Suuberg, Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin, Office of Fishing and Boating Access Director Jack Sheppard and Division of Marine Fisheries Director Paul Diodati, along with Oak Bluffs and Island officials will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new fishing pier.

Editor’s note: Many of these photographers — Karla Bernstein, Michael Skelton, Doug Burke and Gwen Norton — were students of Alison Shaw, who conducts a six-month mentorship program and used the pier as a “hot topic” over one week in early April.

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Charlie-NadlerCharlie Nadler grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and graduated from MVRHS with the class of 2002. Until mid-March, he lived in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles where he worked in the film and television industry and performed stand up comedy. He’s just relocated to New York City, where he will continue to muse about his life on and off Martha’s Vineyard in his weekly “From Afar” column.

I have stumbled onto a new hobby known as the 5k race, which is where I stumble 3.1 miles in the name of charity and at the expense of my knees.

I could never get into running as a kid. I always needed a ball to chase or a racquet to swing to distract my body from realizing what I was really doing: RUNNING. The progression from “Running is so boring” to “Let’s Google the next 5k” was an organic one evolving out of the following steps:

1) I had a job for a long time where I sat; a lot.

2) I got fat from my marathon of sitting.

3) I left the job and elected not to be fat anymore, so I started exercising.

4) Scheduling my preferred group cardio activities such as tennis and golf were hampered by Los Angeles rush hour, which goes from January 1st to December 24th.

5) I was forced — by default -— to acknowledge running as a positive change of pace and my ticket to reentering a lighter fat bracket.

I completed my first Martha’s Vineyard stumble this past weekend, the 21st annual Oak Bluffs Memorial Day 5k. Proceeds went to Hospice — amazing cause, and the route circumnavigated East Chop — can’t beat that.

I was seriously impressed with the caliber of athlete in this draw. The starting pace out of Ocean Park — if you want my honest opinion — was egregious. The winner finished in just over 16 minutes, which is faster than my first car’s chop speed. It took 10 additional minutes for my worn out sneakers to make it across the finish line. I did set a new personal best for myself, but now I need a fresh excuse for my relative slowness besides “worn out sneakers.”

My favorite part was not the run itself because I was too busy wallowing in thirst and the embarrassing horror of small children lapping me. What I most enjoyed was the personal history at every turn. Other runners at the starting line (notice I didn’t say during the race) included friends, classmates, and Jason Lew who delivered me eight years before this race was even a gleam in our eyes! The course also went right by my old house, which would look a lot better with shutters on the windows and a brown cocker spaniel in the yard if the owners happen to be reading this.

The next day I was surprised to learn that I was in fact continuing a long family line of participation in this race. I spoke with my dad who told me that for years he would post out on our porch on race day and eat a big bowl of ice cream as everyone went by. All races have water stations, but only on Martha’s Vineyard does a hilarious man set up a jealousy station!

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Oak Bluffs building inspector/zoning official James Dunn has resigned effective June 9. In a letter dated May 22 to town administrator Robert Whritenour, he said, “My decision to leave is based solely on personal reasons, the greatest of which is to catch up on my own life. The demands of my position and my uncompromising dedication to the town over the past four years have required me to leave the most desirable part of my life behind.”

Mr. Whritenour said that Mr. Dunn is taking the weekend to reevaluate the timing of his departure and may stay until the end of June.

“Jim Dunn worked very hard for the town, and he did a great job,” Mr. Whritenour said in an email to the Times. “He brought a great deal of construction knowledge and experience, and helped to make significant improvements to our code enforcement, both in the areas of building and zoning. He’ll be sorely missed.”