Guest Post: The Changing Face of Martha’s Vineyard

by Rick Conti

It’s tempting to believe that Martha’s Vineyard and everything else are changeless and permanent.  Alas, the fact is that all things of this earth change, our precious island among them.  I’m not just talking about the opening or closing of businesses or the building of new homes.  Those are well known and easily observed phenomena.  I’m talking about the island itself.

Yes, the shape of Martha’s Vineyard is constantly changing.  The progress (or regress) has been slow but steady, punctuated now and then by more dramatic events.  Just Google “Martha’s Vineyard erosion” and you’ll find lots to see and more to think about.  It’s more than a little sobering to consider such changes in view of our own transience.

My stark introduction to this reality occurred when I was staying on the island during a storm in April 2007.  I vividly remember the Edgartown Harbor parking lot flooded as the water overflowed the seawall by the yacht club.  That was just a benign symptom of a much more devastating effect.

The same storm tore through the sands of Norton Point to create a breach that changed the nature of the Harbor and all of Katama Bay.  Where the Chappy ferry once traversed calm waters, it now had to deal with a strong current flowing through the harbor.  Boating, fishing, and driving (across to Chappaquidick) were all affected.

There was talk of trying to artificially fix the breach, but this seemed like a bad idea all around.  Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and nothing came of it.  Trying to stave off erosion is a short term and futile plan at best.  Eventually, regardless of the outcome of the battle, you’re going to lose that war.

In recent years, Lucy Vincent Beach and Wasque Point have also witnessed massive changes that have altered not just the landscape but the way we view and use the island’s resources.  Just last year more damage was done.  Another breach has appeared on Cape Poge.

Are all these changes permanent?  I’m told that a breach broke through Norton Point many years ago, but it “healed” itself over time.  The Cape Poge breach is also expected to repair itself.

In truth, the only permanent thing is change itself.  I’m just grateful to have experienced the snapshot that is Martha’s Vineyard today.


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