Missing the point on Mill Pond dam


To the Editor:

In response to Bill Haynes’ letter of Dec. 16, “Manmade Mill Pond,” I think Bill is missing the point here. The Mill Pond debate is not about “manmade” versus “not manmade.” As he points out, if that was the case, none of us would be here. Martha’s Vineyard would look just like Nomans Land (without the unexploded bombs).

No, the debate is about being good stewards and periodically asking ourselves if the impediments to nature we’ve built serve a purpose any more. My house, your house, manmade structures for sure, serve very important purposes in our lives today, as do most roads and bridges for that matter. Ocean revetments, like the North Bluff that Bill mentions, require a harder look. In the North Bluff area, we are protecting significant infrastructure — things we’ve pretty much unanimously judged to be important to our lives today. It was a different story with the lighthouse in Aquinnah, though, wasn’t it, where we moved the structure rather than impede the natural process of cliff erosion?

The only purpose the Mill Pond serves today is aesthetic — some people like looking at it. Is that aesthetic preference more valuable than the important ecological gains that would happen if we removed the dam? Obviously, many think so. However, I and many others, in fact most of the scientific community, disagree. Dam removal is happening all over the country, and to good result.

It’s really about our basic values — aesthetics and nostalgia versus ecological imperatives such as biodiversity and habitat restoration. And I think that in a civil society, it’s important to keep an open mind and continue the dialogue about these basic value differences, respecting one another’s opinions rather than stooping to name-calling. What’s the real purpose of labeling an opinion different from yours “insanity”? Another letter writer derisively (Nov. 24, “Beware sidewalk biologists”) calls anyone in favor of dam removal a “sidewalk biologist.” A third (Dec. 12, “Fond support for the Mill Pond dam”) taunts those who support dam removal with “Go back to New York.”

Can’t we aim for civility and mutual respect in the future? Can’t we talk about the issues of the day without denigrating one another? Or has the bitter tone of so many of our national debates infiltrated West Tisbury now?

Ebba Hierta

West Tisbury