Tribe Consumer Expo focus is on health environment


By Jack Shea

The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) will sponsor an exposition designed to provide participants with access to a wide variety of environmental health and energy expertise. The guiding theme for the day is “stewards of our Island.”

The Wampanoag Environmental Health Consumer EXPO, Local Concerns, Local Solutions, is centered on outreach and collaboration with the entire Island community, tribe officials said. The free event takes place April 10, from 9 am to 4 pm, at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

The expo will feature an exhibitor’s hall in the high school cafeteria where visitors may speak with representatives from public health, healthy housing, local nonprofit environmental organizations and Island green businesses, covering a wide range of environmental health issues, Cynthia Robinson, the tribe’s environmental health coordinator, said.

Tribe organizers have also lined up a list of speakers on topics such as clean water efforts, composting and eco-gardening, and methods for safe and energy-efficient home construction.

The presentation schedule includes “Container Composting and Eco-friendly Backyard Gardening,” with Joanne Scott, at 10 am and “Make it Tight, Ventilate Right, Balancing Energy Efficiency and Health in Your Home,” with Rob Meyers of South Mountain Co. and Kim Vermeer of Urban Habitat Initiatives at 3 pm.

Ms. Robinson said this year’s fair will differ in several ways from the first event held in 2009. “Last year we provided food for the exhibitors, but this year, we’ll have food available for the public,” she said. She noted that Kitchen Porch Catering chef Robert Lionette will prepare a menu, including locally grown food at the food concession, with efforts from high school students fresh from a schoos-wide environmental “Green Week.”

The expo, at a cost of $30,000, is part of a larger three-year grant funded by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC grant, now in its final year, has been trimmed as a result of diminished federal spending, but the tribe has done some cost cutting to maintain the expo budget, Ms. Robinson said.

“Last year the expo was held at the Harbor View Hotel, which was a great venue. We moved to the high school this year because the rent was lower,” Ms. Robinson said. “We have a funding mandate that calls for collaboration with the entire community — hospitals, businesses, county and local health agents.” She added that the Island-wide Water Alliance and individual town health agents will make presentations.

“Our goal is to have the community understand our environmental issues and to become familiar with the resources, people and organizations that can help them,” Ms. Robinson said. “For example, mold is always an issue but, we have a presentation that explains how to deal with mold issues and prevention.”

“We also have made an effort to bring in exhibitors who deal with household maintenance, such as roof, gutter and mold,” Ms. Robinson said. Exhibitors include Felix Neck Sanctuary, Morning Glory Farm and Sparkle Window & Gutter Cleaning.

Bret Stearns, director of natural resources for the tribe, along with his four-member staff, will use the expo as an opportunity to describe tribe projects. “For example, to explain the community benefits of tribal projects implemented on the Island, such as restorative programs for plants and landscape, things people can see, touch and experience and that have direct effect on them,” he said.

Mr. Stearns noted that another tribe program would provide training for Island workers who work on houses where lead is present, so that they do not have to go off Island to meet the federal Environmental Protection Agency requirements.

Mr. Stearns said he also wants to highlight the tribe’s focus on water quality and testing. He said the tribe has the only accredited water testing laboratory on the Island and will make published data on Island water available.

“We are fortunate to live in a place where environmental health is a central part of our existence every day,” Mr. Stearns said. “People always mention how long they’ve been here. The tribe’s been here a long time as well, thousands of years. This is less of a fair and more of an event, treating things that we live with on a daily basis in our environment.”

For more information and schedules, call 508-645-9265.

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