‘Making tomorrow’s history together’

Vineyard Futureworks looks to create the best possible future — together.


Vineyard Futureworks, one of the Island’s newest nonprofits, was introduced at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum Thursday to a group of Island community leaders and stakeholders. 

The nonprofit was established on June 2, according to records filed with Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin’s office, and is led by Bob Johnston, Dennis da Rosa, David Forbes, Rick Estabrook, and Debbie Jernegan.

Hospital officials, Island selectmen, housing advocates, nonprofit leaders, business owners, and police and fire officials were among those who attended Thursday’s event. The evening began with a tour of the museum, broke for a reception where people could write ideas on a large board, and ended with a series of speakers talking about regional planning on the Vineyard.

One of Vineyard Futureworks’ first goals is to host the first OneVineyard Summit 2020. The summit is billed as “an Island-wide conversation to foster intelligent cooperation, creating a better future for the Island.” In addition to inter-Island town conversation, there will also be regional expert talks and workshops for Islanders. 

One of the key questions Vineyard Futureworks wants to answer is, What will the Vineyard look like in 150 years?

“Vineyard Futureworks is a growing collaborative of concerned Islanders seeking to preserve all that is best about the Vineyard as we know it today, while leading the way toward a Vineyard future that protects the Island from the challenges it faces and fully realizes the potential it holds,” a mission statement filed with the commonwealth states. “We seek to unite and create a collective among those working for the good of the Island, so that information is shared, redundancies are avoided, and maximum cross-fertilization takes place. We seek further to infuse learnings from other organizations around the country into this information base, so the Vineyarders don’t waste precious time reinventing the wheel. We hope to introduce scientifically grounded processes for group management and vision development, to enhance creativity and productivity efforts, and we intend to join directly into the fray, with additional efforts where more effort is needed. Our goal is nothing short of one Island, united against the challenges that face us, and inspired by a common vision of a better Island future.”

According to the mission statement, Vineyard Futureworks will focus on four key areas: economic sustainability, environmental stewardship, strengthening cultural vibrancy, and engaging communities: “We will work to strengthen our traditional industries, while evolving to a more balanced, diverse, and sustainable year-round economy that allows people who grew up on the Island to stay on the Island.”

To begin addressing the question of what the Vineyard will look like in 150 years, author and ecologist David Foster gave a presentation on the Vineyard’s past 150 years. Foster said there are no six towns as close together physically, but completely different culturally as the towns on Martha’s Vineyard. 

Foster ran through a quick history of the Island and how its topography has changed and developed. While aware that many community leaders filled the room, Foster said it would take the whole Island working together to create a positive future.

“The people in this room are the tip of the iceberg of what is needed,” Foster said. “Part of the focus on the diversity of the Island, from natural to human, is a recognition that you need to have all those voices. My optimism comes from the fact that people are so passionate that they will come together and put their energy into it.”

Martha’s Vineyard Commission executive director Adam Turner spoke about his experience working in urban planning in the Florida Keys, seeing firsthand how conservation, preservation, and full-blown development turned the Keys into what they are today. Turner fears the Island could go from a rural area to a suburban one. “We on the Island are involved,” Turner said. “It will be tricky, but I have no doubt it will be greatly successful.”

At the end of the event, David Forbes, a director at Vineyard Futureworks, asked attendees for donations for the OneVineyard Summit 2020 and other projects in the future.

Speaking to The Times, Forbes said one of his ideas is to develop a grant-writing engine to bring resources, professionals, and collaboration to the Island. “If you build it, they will come. Especially when it involves cash,” Forbes said.

The common theme among all those who spoke was that the Island is a special place, quite unlike any other.


  1. Slash through the red tape, and obtain a tiny chunk of the State Forest… maybe just 100 or so out of the 5,190 acres. Erect low-rise apartment buildings. A compact K-8 school on site. Open space with a park and, naturally, a pre-school/day care center. Perhaps a new zip with a Menemsha-style post office. Yeah, and a resident constable probably. However many hundred units of affordable apartments deemed necessary to make a real dent, for sale or rent-to-own. (CPA funds, land bank revenue, state/fed grants, big fundraisers? I don’t have the answers on how to subsidize it, but “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. Obviously it’d need millions. In an ideal world, some generous philanthropists who care about the Vineyard’s future would step up. Have their names on the entrance if they want.) This is an idea that begs for much more rapid response to our affordable housing crisis. We could stop the endless bickering & dickering about how to squeeze in little single-family home developments on postage stamps here and there – which we all know are mere drops in the bucket, with no end in sight. Who doubts that hundreds of people would gladly plink down for a modest affordable apartment first thing tomorrow; it’d be like Black Friday when the shopping malls open. Mandatory year-round residents, of course (and I personally would consider longest duration islanders first)… who knows, maybe a building or two could be set aside for long-term island elders looking to downsize; that’s yet another wait list only getting longer. Anyway – if I owned the island ha – that’s how I’d go about ending our affordable housing drama pronto. I myself spent part of my childhood living in an apartment. Big deal, so did billions of other humans. I suggest that we lose the bias against (at least low-rise) apartment buildings. I really don’t think that the Vineyard’s quaint special-ness would suffer. If anything, there could be a net gain in those using public transport, less environmental impact per household, more revenue for towns, and perhaps even more collective community spirit… or whatever that help-your-neighbor thing is called. That’s just me speculating. What’s not speculation though, is that the island’s unique character will shrivel right the heck up if our entire labor force winds up being all commuters – and we know that percentage only keeps growing. Once all the unsafe overcrowded illegal housing finally gets curtailed, and what little remaining year-round rental housing converts to seasonal, it will become virtually all workers commuting. That sounds like a mighty grim scenario to me. (Personally, if I were a younger worker commuting here today, and debated my potential for future living on the Vineyard.. I’d be long gone.) So, assuming the State would transfer a tiny section of forest, do islanders consider a cluster of low-rise apartment buildings, located well away from town centers and right on popular VTA routes, unacceptable? (Oh, and right near the high school too… let’s see more bike racks!) Or are we content with continuing to be a place for affluent homeowners only? Is the island’s future served best by appointing committee after committee to peck away at the housing problem piecemeal, ad infinitum? Shall we just keep cheering the precious few who get to cut ribbons after winning the occasional affordable housing lottery – while hundreds and hundreds keep languishing on lists for years? I know a hardworking single mom who entered all those lotteries from the time her kids were in kindergarten until they graduated high school, all the while bouncing from one cramped rental to another. I bet you’ve heard of unlucky families like that too. And the odds are only getting worse. There’s virtually no affordable land left – yet there are 5,190 acres of largely unused, directly accessible land smack dab in the middle… this concept requires but a sliver of that… and please don’t dismiss the notion that the State could cede a minuscule fraction of the forest. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”. (Hey, they did say they were seeking ideas. BTW, FYI, and FWIW – my family’s lived and worked on MV year-round my entire adult life, I’m 60-odd years old… we built our house on the cheap way back when, in the halcyon days. Before home prices went nuts. Before prop taxes tripled. Before houses were getting bought sight unseen. And still we’ve only survived all these years here by virtue of continuously renting rooms to other year-round workers – most of whom would sob in ecstasy at the prospect of owning an inexpensive apartment on the island.)

  2. “According to the mission statement, Vineyard Futureworks will focus on four key areas: economic sustainability, environmental stewardship, strengthening cultural vibrancy, and economic sustainability.” You repeated “economic sustainability” so there are only 3 key areas. Was housing mistakenly left out?

  3. If only… NO. It’s a GOOD THING. Just imagine if…They invited the old crew from the Martha’s Vineyard Chief’s of Police Association… Especially after having a few pops together before attending. No disrespect intended. At least somebody picked up the ball again…

Comments are closed.