Having lived for better than 80 years (40 full-time on this Island) I know climate changes. I was here for the blizzard of ’78, and plenty of hot humid days since. And I was also here when the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) began. So I am a little put off by last week’s commentary (“A weighty choice awaits the MVC”) by the directors of 350 Martha’s Vineyard Island (350MVI) that the most important thing for the next director of the MVC to deal with is “climate change/global warming.”
The MVC is a regional organization. Can our Island region change climates? Or cool the earth?
According to Steamship Authority (SSA) traffic reports, we are toting about 1 percent more people to this Island every year — people you can count — not just computer-modeled temperatures. Now that seems to me to be a regional issue. What are we going to do with all those people?
The answer is simple; we will crowd them on to ever smaller lots. But how will we feed them? Not with local farms alone. How will we heat all those houses? Fuel all those cars and pickups and SUVs? The SSA will just have to do it — more boats — bigger boats — more trips per day.
I am sure that Stop & Shop, UPS, and all the other transporters can make bigger trucks, longer trucks, and plenty more of them. The problem is, what will we do with them when they arrive? Will we remove the Vineyard Haven Post Office so a wide curve can be made at Five Corners for the ever-longer trucks (or the articulated truck trains) to make the turn up the hill?
Will we be stuck in ever-longer lines to get up the hill or down Beach Road ourselves, in ever more cars or shuttle buses? Since these turns must be negotiated before we can eat, I think we have come upon a real “regional” issue. It perhaps is not as sexy as climate, but it is a damn sight more realistic an issue for the MVC.
So what is the answer? Move the Steamship terminal, of course. Where? Down Beach Road past Packer’s terminal, where traffic can exit both ways on the straightaway. Will it be easy? Of course not, but compared to slowing climate change it will be a slam dunk. Cost? Have you seen the national budget lately? It’s full of local projects like this.
And once the SSA has vacated that area, Vineyard Haven would have an opportunity to create a charming, income-producing town marina that incorporates eateries and shops along the waterfront, which would draw residents and visitors alike to shop, to stroll, to enjoy the area, while some of the land becomes available for badly needed parking. Is that a natural, or what?
This is not a new idea. Almost 24 years ago the MVC produced a drawing of a design concept of the move by John Schilling Sr., a member of the planning staff at the time who also served on the Tisbury board of selectmen. Will the Commission noodle around for another 24 years talking about changing the climate, while something doable here at home deteriorates further into deleterious fuel-spewing gridlock? Why not prioritize finding a new director who will work with Tisbury’s visioning effort and assist the Commission in worthy work which will win accolades from Islanders and visitors for decades to come?
J.B. Riggs Parker of Chilmark is a former Martha’s Vineyard member of the Steamship Authority, Chilmark selectman and planning board member.