Our fragile Island


To the Editor:

As a subscriber, I have always found The MV Times to be a fair and balanced newspaper covering life on Martha’s Vineyard from different perspectives, which is why I was so disappointed by George Brennan’s article (Dec. 23) titled “Festival has people energized.” 

Reading like a PR fluff piece for Beach Road Weekend festival founder Adam Epstein, the paper presented a slanted, one-sided view of the festival. The omission of any mention of the negative environmental and quality of life impacts of the festival was glaring. The only voices the piece included were those from people who benefit financially from the festival. Any criticism opposing the festival was sidelined to one dismissive sentence stating there were “inevitable complaints from a handful of neighbors.”

The permission for the festival was passed in 2019 by the Tisbury select board, but one has to wonder if they anticipated the true ambition of Epstein’s goals, and how quickly it would balloon. Next summer’s bonanza includes a staggering 30 bands and 25,000 attendees! Despite quotes comparing the Vineyard’s storied musical history with the current Beach Road plans, this is no small county fest. Beach Road Music Festival is a big operation with big profits and big ramifications for our fragile Island that desperately needs protecting. I too love celebrating at our cultural gatherings, but unlike the Ag Fair or Fireworks Night, this musical festival is not commensurate with the scale of our Island, nor is it sensitive to the pressures bearing down on it. 

Where is Brennan’s reporting about capacity, or concerns regarding sewage, waste, plastic pollution, noise, traffic, and of course the carbon emissions that come with 25,000 tickets sold (Epstein brags that people are traveling from as far away as France). Where were the questions for Epstein on crowd control and carbon offsets? How big is too big? Why August? 

Why did the select board approve it for the already bursting at the seams, stressed month of August, when the Island is already teeming with visitors? Other festivals including the Food and Wine Festival are scheduled in the off-season, when bringing tourists to the Island makes more sense for the Island economy and the community at large. 

Of course we want local businesses to thrive and hotels to make money, but that cannot be the only metric by which we measure things. Locking out housing, hotels, car rentals, reservations, months in advance may not be what is best for Martha’s Vineyard and the many people who count on enjoying the Island in the summer with their families. The Vineyard is also home for a lot of people that moved here to be surrounded by nature, and enjoy a slower pace, far from crowds. They deserve to enjoy the end of August too. 

Beach Road is a business operation for Epstein and his partners, not the goodwill, community-building event that this article painted, and definitely not a venture with the sustainability of the Island at heart. Clearly Epstein has big plans to leverage the uniqueness of Martha’s Vineyard, but at what cost to the Island?

With coverage like The MV Times piece (an entity that also benefits financially from the festival’s advertising), Beach Road Weekend will likely continue to grow beyond the scope of what was initially pitched and what is reasonable. 

When the festival was first approved by the town, select board member Jim Rogers said, “It could be the smartest thing we’ve ever done or the dumbest thing we’ve ever done.” I fear that without holding Epstein and his company accountable, it may end up being the latter. 

Laurie David