Stick to the facts


When you’re attempting to make a case for change, it’s a good idea to base your opinion on facts.

For several years, Woods Hole residents have been complaining about the Woods Hole terminal project being done by the Steamship Authority. Specifically, those residents have expressed concerns about the size of the terminal building.

Those complaints have led to meaningful changes in the design of the building. The SSA board has instructed its architects to design a one-story building, and it’s considerably smaller than what was originally planned. The architects have also incorporated suggestions made by the public into the landscaping and use of space surrounding the terminal building.

During some of the discussions about the building designs, Woods Hole residents have said the building should be more in keeping with the terminal buildings in Vineyard Haven, on Nantucket, and in Hyannis.

Well, it turns out those residents should be careful what they wish for — particularly when it comes to size.

According to publicly available information, all three of those terminals are larger in square footage than the terminal building still in the design stages in Woods Hole. And the terminal building that was removed from the Woods Hole waterfront — the concrete behemoth — was nearly four times the size of what’s proposed to replace it. Granted, the SSA now has administrative offices at Palmer Avenue, and there is a significant utility building proposed in Woods Hole, but the facts are that the terminal building size is in keeping with the sizes of what’s in Vineyard Haven and Nantucket, and is nearly 2,000 square feet smaller than the terminal building in Hyannis.

It was Robert Jones, the representative of Barnstable to the SSA board, who brought up the square footage comparison during the board’s last meeting. In bringing it up, Jones said he was “not necessarily trying to prove a point.”

That was a lot more diplomatic than James Malkin, the Vineyard’s representative to the SSA board. “Let’s stick to facts and deal with facts,” Malkin said of the revelation, a suggestion that Woods Hole residents are not doing that.

Those comments came on the heels of Malkin suggesting a Woods Hole resident had skewed the number of trucks going to and from the Vineyard through Woods Hole in a letter published by the Cape Cod Times. The letter writer wrote that there are 600 round trips a day by trucks going to and from the Island. SSA statistics put that number of freight trucks at 190 round trips.

“We all share issues of growth in our communities, but we have to stick to facts and not a false narrative,” Malkin said.

These types of exaggerations by Woods Hole residents harm their credibility in dealing with the SSA board, and damage the real progress that’s been made in the relationship over the past several years — leading to changes in what types of trucks are allowed on the 5:30 am boats in Woods Hole, as well as the working group and task forces that have been established to deal with concerns raised by Woods Hole residents. The SSA board has also shown a willingness to seek off-Cape ports where freight service to Martha’s Vineyard can be accommodated, but that’s going to take time, and it’s also going to have to be economically feasible. Translation: Someone is going to have to be able to make a buck if they’re going to give up valuable port space for a freight service to the Island.

It was John Adams who said, “Facts are stubborn things.” But it appears that opinions based on false narratives are also pretty stubborn.

Confronted with the facts that the size of the proposed Woods Hole terminal is smaller than the other terminals in SSA port communities, there were some “yeah, buts” from the most vocal Woods Hole residents.

Suzanne Kuffler, who helped launch a petition drive, called the discussion of the terminal size a “distraction.”

And frequent SSA critic Nat Trumbull told our reporter, “This huge building footprint leaves all the less room for cars and trucks coming and going to maneuver.”

While we agree that the SSA can and should do better about moving traffic along through its terminal parking lots and staging areas during peak periods, both in Woods Hole and on the Islands, it’s a stretch to say the building will reduce the space, given the size of the terminal it’s replacing.

We also agree that the SSA could have handled this terminal project better from the get-go, and the agency’s communication — a frequent target of our vexation — could always be better.

However, the facts are squarely in the court of the SSA when it comes to how they’ve worked with the community on this terminal project.

It would behoove the residents of Woods Hole to stick to them and continue to work toward the best solutions possible for all involved.