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Almanac Archive for September 9, 2016

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Quote of the Week
". . . whether you’re a CEO or an inmate stuck in solitary confinement, what we have in common is humanity and a connection to nature."
--Biologist and founder of the Sustainability in Prisons Project Nalini Nadkarni, on her efforts to bring nature education to the masses and not just the easy-to-reach ones. Read more at National Geographic.

Save the Date:
Saturday, Oct. 1
Living Local Harvest Festival

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
This year's theme of waste reduction is very near to the heart of VCS Make sure to check out our table at the festival!

Call for Volunteers
To pull off this local tradition requires a lot of volunteers from parking to pumpkin carving to everything in between. Click here to learn more and submit your info online, or email the organizers.
Conservation Calendar

Environmentally Friendly Lawns
Saturday, Sept. 10, 1:00 to 2:00 pm, West Tisbury.
The Polly Hill Arboretum hosts Michael Talbot, co-owner of Talbot Ecological Land Care, for a comprehensive program on how to reduce lawn area and care for lawns in a way that better protects people, pets, and the environment. Free, for more info call (508) 693-9426 or see website.

Related: It's the law now!
Passed at the 2014 Town Meetings and taking effect last year, there is now a bylaw in all six towns limiting the usage of fertilizer on lawns. The regulations apply to everyone: homeowners as well as professional lawn care companies. While the technical language of the law may be confusing, have no fear! Simply follow these six guidelines from the VCS Homeowner's Guide and you can be sure to be in compliance with the law, and have a healthy, non-polluting lawn.

Talking Ticks: Survey Results
Tuesday, Sept. 13, 5:15 to 7:00 pm, Edgartown.
Tick expert Dick Johnson, along with two medical doctors, will present early results from a community survey about tick-borne illness on the Vineyard. The survey was conducted in August by the Vineyard Gazette and Island Boards of Health. At the Gazette office (map), free, but please register by calling (508) 627-4311.

West Tisbury Farmers' Market

Saturdays, 9:00 to noon, West Tisbury.
Fresh-picked produce from local farms, flowers, delicious baked goods and prepared foods from Island kitchens and more. Outside of the Grange Hall in West Tisbury. For more info, see website.

Guided Birding Tours
Saturdays, 9:00 to 11:30 am, MV Reg. High School.
Visit birding hot spots with your guide Robert Culbert. Carpool will depart from the high school faculty parking lot at 9:00. Cost is $30 per adult, $15 for under 18. For more details, call (508) 693-4908 or email.

Fall Wee Farmers
Wee Farmers
Saturdays, 9:30 to 11:00 am, Katama.
Visit animal friends and help with the fall harvest, as the FARM Institute's long-running off-season program for preschoolers returns on September 10. For ages 2-5, $15 per session ($9 for Trustees members), must be accompanied by adult. For more info see website or call (508) 627-7007.

Local News

Could the Steamship Authority Help Reduce Summer Traffic Congestion?

That's nothing there's hardly anyone sitting in the intersection! (Photo by Jeanna Shepard for Vineyard Gazette)

With the peak summer traffic now squarely in the rear view mirror, it’s a good time to exhale and think a bit about what felt like an unusually jammed-up season on Island roads. According to reporting earlier this summer by the Vineyard Gazette, automobile traffic on the Steamship Authority was up about 10% through mid-summer, with little sign of a slow-down on the horizon. So, when the SSA took out a full-page ad on the back of the Gazette asking for public feedback on their new operating schedule, it was really one line, probably not itself intended to be commented upon, that caught our attention:

During peak travel times unscheduled trips may be added to meet traffic demands.”
No one denies that spending some extra time in Woods Hole is an inconvenience, unexpected expense, and/or disappointment (with no offense intended to the good folks at Pie in the Sky, Quicks Hole Tavern, or when things truly go badly, the Sands of Time), but it’s also something of a rite of passage. Adding extra ferry runs at times of peak demand is obviously going to increase traffic on the Island at exactly the time of peak traffic.
Is it worth it? The answer might depend on whether it’s Friday and you’re standing by the car wondering if you’ll make it to the Vineyard that night, or Saturday morning, and you’re sitting in a three-mile backup wondering if you’ll make it to the Farmers’ Market before it ends. But it’s a question worth asking.
Increased automobile trips on the ferry is not the sole, or possibly even primary, cause of our worsening summer traffic. But even if it’s not their fault, the SSA does have the ability to do something about it. Reducing, or at least holding steady, total auto capacity should be a serious consideration. Simply choosing not to add extra unscheduled trips to meet peak demand would be a good start. The SSA has asked for comments to be sent by Sept. 18 via email, or to PO Box 284, Woods Hole, MA 02543.
Proposed Expansion of Athletic Facilities at the High School Must Receive Full DRI Review

On Thursday, Sept. 15 the MV Commission will hold a public meeting to determine whether the proposed expansion of athletic facilities at the Regional High School, including the construction of one or more artificial turf playing fields, will be reviewed as a Development of Regional Impact (DRI). The proposal raises several environmental concerns, including groundwater impacts, increased night-time lighting, waste disposal (the entire plastic carpet must be periodically disposed of and replaced), and increased traffic and vehicle emissions (the project envisions a consolidation of all Island youth sports activity into this newly expanded central location). In addition, many community members have voiced concerns over the possible health impacts of toxic substances used in artificial turf. It would be an understatement to say that it has been a contentious issue from the time it became public.
It should be stressed that the immediate question under consideration by the MVC is not whether the project should move forward, in its current form or with modifications, but rather whether the Commission will review the proposal at all. In general, certain proposals will be automatically reviewed as a Development of Regional Impact because they trigger one or more items on the DRI checklist. In contrast, this athletic field expansion has been submitted as a discretionary referral, meaning the MVC may choose not to review the project.  
VCS recognizes that abundant and equitable access to safe athletic facilities for our young people is an important part of our local quality of life, and we are grateful for the hard work and generosity of the organizers and donors supporting this project. However, we feel that regardless of the merits of the proposal, it is quite clearly a Development of Regional Impact. As we wrote in our letter to the MVC urging them to undertake a full DRI review:

. . . A return to natural grass is likely unfeasible, so for planning and review purposes we should assume that, once installed, an artificial field is essentially a permanent structure for which the long-term environmental impacts depend greatly on future maintenance decisions. For example, grass carpets marketed as lead-free (and Made-in-the-USA) do exist, but they are more expensive than imported carpets containing lead. . . . it is reasonable to fear that more toxic, less environmentally-friendly materials could be used in the future due to budgetary constraints.
Given the magnitude of this project, both in terms of time commitment and scope, we urge the Commission to afford it a thorough DRI review. We believe the effects on traffic, waste disposal, open space, night skies, and watersheds clearly warrant such. Disagreement over issues related to environmental toxicity stem from scientific and medical uncertainty, as well as competing interests and values, such as parents’ risk tolerance. Should the MVC undertake a review, please take the broadest possible scope, considering impacts on the entire community and natural environment.

The meeting will be held at 7:00 in the cafeteria at the MV Regional High School. We encourage everyone to attend and urge the Commission to agree that this is indeed a development that will impact the entire Island for many years to come.
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Original content by Jeremy Houser unless otherwise noted.