MVC forms wildfire committee

There's a sign outside the Manuel Correllus State Forest warning of fire danger, but the MVC wants to know what the state's doing to prevent forest fires. - Lucas Thors

Following concerns brought forth by commissioner Christine Todd, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) opted to form a wildfire committee. The committee will lobby state officials to better manage the Manuel Correllus State Forest and explore preventive measures to help protect the Vineyard from wildfire. 

Todd told the board she was concerned about the state of the forest and the absence of any on-Island manager for it following the resignation of superintendent Chris Bruno. She made it clear the Vineyard and the state were experiencing drought conditions. She also noted there are homeless encampments in the forest.

She said she was “very fearful” of a forest fire. 

MVC executive director Adam Turner said he’s spoken with state officials, and anticipates a new superintendent is on the horizon. He also said the MVC meets with emergency managers and the Vineyard’s fire chiefs quarterly. 

“The problem is the State Forest is very much under the authority and jurisdiction of the commonwealth, and frankly we can’t touch it,” chairman Doug Sederholm said. 

He went on to say, “It’s a tough place to fill. Not a lot of people want to be the superintendent of our State Forest because it’s on an Island.” Turner said there have been housing issues relative to that position too.

Todd said she felt it wasn’t enough to rely on the state or wait for them to act. Todd said work needs to be done to diminish the risk of fire.

Sederholm noted California, though of much larger scale, suffers from unmanaged fuel loads like the Vineyard does.

The commission decided to draft a letter to the state outlining their concerns.

“I spent about six years in the forest when I had the Vineyard Pine Lumber Co., and I have a pretty deep knowledge,” Commissioner Clarence (“Trip”) Barnes said.

Commissioner Christina Brown said she’s hopeful the committee can come up with “strategies to lean on the state to get some help out here.”

Sederholm named Barnes, Brown, and Todd inaugural members of the committee. 

In other business, the MVC postponed a hearing on an expansion of the Hob Knob Inn until Sept. 24. The commission also finalized a written decision to deny the development of regional impact (DRI) application for the Meeting House House Place subdivision, and also finalized its written decision to approve an adult use or recreational cannabis outlet, co-located with Patient Centric’s West Tisbury medical marijuana dispensary.