Saturday, August 30, 2014

Saturday scenes and scenery: Martha's Vineyard, August 2014

A reporter for the Martha's Vineyard Times, a local weekly, was both tickled and a little bored to be included among the press pool during President Obama's vacation on the island. He found the national journalists had a very superficial sense of his home turf.

The Times took an informal poll to see if these journalists, who are some of the best in the world at unearthing the truth, still saw the Island as an “affluent, exclusive enclave,” as so many of them describe it, after spending some time here.

The unanimous response was, “Yes.” They were informed that locals bristle at these descriptions, that the average wage on the Island is 70 percent of the state average, that there’s a critical shortage of affordable housing, and that many Islanders are barely making ends meet. ...

Those reporters would have their misconceptions reinforced if they encountered scenes like this. The sign marks the end of a town beach which is open for an affordable charge to town residents, their tenants, and guests. That sandy expanse is private property. There are many such off-limits spaces on the island.

The beach at Aquinnah, under the national landmark red clay cliffs, is open to the public. The Wampanoag tribe charges a $15 parking fee in the summer, but if you can walk a short distance, the wide sands and surf are yours -- even without a bathing suit.

Up on the cliffs, the historic Gay Head Lighthouse, recently transferred out of federal ownership to the Martha's Vineyard Museum, was opened to visitors this summer. This was the first time in my many visits that I was allowed to climb the metal circular stairs to the level of the revolving light. Proximity to the great lens is awe-inspiring. Once upon a time, a light house keeper had to check on it every few hours. We have better generators these days.

The lighthouse is endangered. The cliffs are eroding. If it is to survive, it must be moved in the next few years before too much land crumbles. Fundraising goes on apace.

This local resident is probably not endangered, by tourists or property owners.


Hattie said...

It is lovely,though. Like me,you can't go places and ignore the social conditions.

ellen kirkendall said...

This is also the situation for Cape Cod. For every Robert Kraft there are many making do with two part time jobs, homeless people camping in summer and living in motels in winter. The drug problems here are severe but invisble to vacationers and wealthy Summer People. Summer residents resist taxes for infrastructure and services that benefit the year round community and agitate for bigger bridges and roads to make their trips more convenient.

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