Praise and criticism for W.H. terminal designs

Cahoon Park renewal welcomed,  ‘floaty’ building canopies panned.


Tuesday night the Steamship Authority held the first of four community input sessions meant to let the public comment on the landside portion of the Woods Hole reconstruction project and to pose questions to its architects and SSA brass. Architects Lian Davis and Chris Iwerks of were on hand to walk those on the Zoom through design elements of the terminal traffic layout, the terminal building, and a utility building.

Woods Hole residents dominated commentary and queries over the course of two hours. 

Among other design aspects, Davis and Iwerks told the Zoom audience, solar panels to be mounted on the roof of the terminal building and on columns would help achieve a net-zero energy use rating. With the advent of the pandemic, they said terminal building restrooms would feature “touchless doors and fixtures” and antimicrobial surfaces. They also pointed out bicycle storage capacity would be ramped up. 

“We did have a 100-bike-capacity park in the northwest corner of the site, which is called Cahoon’s Park, and we were asked to take a look at the possibility of moving that bike parking to the rear of the site. So we’ve done that.”

Bike racks were resituated along Railroad Avenue. The move allowed for more bike racks and therefore more capacity — ”a little over 200 bikes,” Iwerks said.

Iwerks described it as an improvement in light of the bike rack demand observed near the temporary terminal building, which he said has exceeded capacity. 

Woods Hole resident Bill Roslansky called the relocation of the bike racks a “major safety improvement” that he was “very happy” about. 

Iwerks described the park space left by the relocation of the bike racks as “an unprogrammed oasis” that had been in part used as a taxi staging area with a landscape buffer. The park would serve as a connection between Luscombe and Railroad avenues to the waterfront. 

Woods Hole resident Albert Fitzelle said Cahoon Park was named for Sam Cahoon, “a famous Woods Holer, and was started by Dan Clark, another famous Woods Holer.”

He added, “[W]hen it was there, it existed well, with salt-tolerant plants, and I’d like to see that it be restored and enlarged, if possible. It wasn’t a taxi stand, it was a park where people could sit down.”

Woods Hole resident Arden Edwards said she hoped the landscape architect who will work on Cahoon Park “is knowledgeable about historical sites and interpretation.”

Edwards touched upon objects from a previous iteration of the park. The first was an anchor, which she said was donated in “the late ’60s.” She asked if it was still on hand for use. The second was a bronze sign of a fish market and an Edgartown fishing schooner. She said it had been damaged by a snowplow: “Has it been fixed so it can be reinstalled?”

She also mentioned bronze fish plaques that were embedded in the sidewalk. She advocated for the use of native plants in the park, as they use less water, and for a granite sitting wall.

Arden also pointed out some area residents are looking to return old horse-watering troughs to Woods Hole, and asked if the SSA would incorporate them into the park. She said they would be enjoyable to view, and a nice place for dogs to have a drink.

SSA general manager Robert Davis said the fish plaques, granite, and the anchor were saved, and the damaged bronze sign was under evaluation to determine if it could be repaired or if it needs to be redone. 

“Yes, we did talk about those troughs,” Davis said. “Someone else just mentioned that they’re actually out on Gifford Street, at the town’s water department.” Use of them, he said, would be up to the town.

“Thank you for Cahoon Park back,” Roslansky said. “That’s a great improvement.” 

Woods Hole resident and frequent SSA critic Nathaniel Trumbull posed a number of questions about trucks, including whether they will “continue to wait and park on Cowdry Road,” and, “Will there ever be a need for trucks to back up like they do regularly today, with their backup beeping?”

Trumbull also said on “some summer weekdays, more than 600 trucks, or at least vehicles classified as trucks by the Steamship, pass through the Woods Hole terminal. What is the maximum number of trucks per day or per hour, if you wish, that the new terminal configuration would allow?” 

“I think all efforts are being made so that way the trucks don’t have to back up,” Davis replied. “That’s not to say that they won’t on occasion, but we will endeavor to minimize any of that.” Davis said the plan is to keep trucks staging on SSA property.

In response to truck capacity, Davis pointed out not all of the 600 trucks a day Trumbull mentioned are tractor-trailers, that some are smaller. “The terminal plans are done based on what our existing traffic levels were,” Davis noted. “We weren’t building in for a lot of growth.”

Woods Hole resident Nan Schanbacher expressed concern over the height of the sloped-roof utility building, and the interference with her neighborhood view. She said she believed an “elevator tower” was at play. She asked if the roof could be moved so as not to block the view, and mentioned previously planted pine trees that were cut down have opened up a lost view. She asked new trees that might screen the view again not be planted.

Woods Hole resident Eugenie Kuffler described the utility building as “enormous.”

Schanbacher said she understood that criticism of a previous two-story design for the terminal building wound up lowering the structure and transferring needed spaces to the utility building and added to its scale.

“Part of the value of our properties living here are the views,” she said. “They’re marvelous water views.”

Iwerks was a bit puzzled by the “elevator tower” portion of Schanbacher’s question.

“The elevator is in the building,” he said. “There’s not a tower. So there’s a building that’s got a sloped roof on it, and wherever you put the elevator, you still have a two-story building.”

Schanbacher said if the high point of the utility building could be positioned more southerly than northerly, the view would be preserved. 

SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll said he and Davis would reach out to her about the roof. 

Kathryn Wilson, Falmouth’s representative to the SSA board, said she recalled the subject had been previously raised, and said it should be revisited to explore options.

“Thank you, Kate,” Schanbacher said, “I really appreciate that. I think, you know, we all realize that there are certain needs that have to be met, and having the privilege of living here includes having to accept some of the negative aspects of being next to the Steamship Authority. I’m just trying to find a way to mitigate those negative effects as much as possible.”

In follow-up comments, Roslansky said he couldn’t “see any value” in the terminal building’s window wall. 

Lian Davis previously mentioned the terminal building would have a wall that “opens the waiting room up to the plaza, the park, and the village.”

“I know they’re expensive,” Roslansky said. “I bet they’re not that energy-efficient.”

He also took issue with the choice of wooden doors and windows. 

“I can imagine the maintenance,” he said. “It seems like aluminium or vinyl or something would make a lot more sense.”

Roslansky criticized cantilever canopies off the roof of the terminal building. While he said they “make the building look very lovely and floaty and light,” he found them to be “so far off the ground that they’re not going to do any good,” because “rain typically comes in at about a 45° angle around here. It’s driven by wind. And those canopies won’t keep anything dry.”

Among the very few Vineyarders who spoke was Martha’s Vineyard Commission senior planner Bill Veno, who asked for specifics on the route of travel for pickups and drop-offs at the terminal, among other questions. 

At the close of the input session, Driscoll said a video of the Zoom would be posted on the SSA YouTube channel and on the SSA website. 




  1. I agree with Mr. Veno of the MV Commission that the site plan is lacking in detail. In addition to the staging questions and a lack of definition for the “plaza”, the plan does not make clear the route for those Vineyarders fortunate enough to have a Woods Hole SSA parking sticker would use to get to the “rear lot” and where the van that takes those folks from the terminal to that lot would be staged. Some clarity on that would be helpful. It’s tough to comment on what still appear to be “conceptual” plans.

  2. What we have now is working we do not need anything else. Please save us some money and stop the madness of bigger and newer everywhere I look. Fix the docks, fix the boats and stop with the buildings all ready.

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