THE SOLSTICE CELEBRATION HAS BEEN CANCELLED
The race against time to save the Gay Head Lighthouse is now the focus of a mini-documentary.
“The Light at the Edge of the Cliff” is a short documentary written, narrated and produced by Rebecca Taylor, a former television reporter who now serves as director of the broadcast journalism program at Siena College outside Albany, New York.
“I thought it was an important story to tell, about preserving a part of the past for future generations before it’s too late,” explains Taylor, who shot the short doc during visits to the island this summer.
Captivated by the island’s profound connection to the Gay Head Lighthouse, Taylor sought to chronicle the historical significance of the landmark. The documentary features archival photos courtesy of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.
“The photographs really illustrated what a staple this landmark has been throughout the island’s history,” said Taylor, who expressed sincere gratitude to library assistant Bow Van Riper for his cooperation in obtaining archival materials.
Taylor plans to submit the project to various academic conferences and festivals. She is also exploring funding opportunities to return to the island this spring to create an extended version of the project featuring additional interviews.
After a lengthy and emotional debate Thursday, Aquinnah voters narrowly approved the purchase of two properties near the spot where the Gay Head Light is expected to be relocated next spring.
The two properties, known collectively as the Manning-Murray property, consist of about .37 acres and will be purchased for $590,000. About half the cost will be paid for by community preservation act funds and the half will be borrowed in notes and bonds.
The final vote on the article was 29 in favor, 12 opposed and 1 abstention. The article required a 2/3 majority vote, and passed by two votes.
A total of 42 voters attended Aquinnah’s special town meeting Thursday evening at the old town hall. There were seven articles on the warrant.
Discussion focused on purchase of the Manning-Murray property, specifically the importance of the property to the heirs of the original owners and the property’s value for tourism.
June Manning spoke passionately about her sister Jill’s childhood home, which stands on the land. “Our family built that property,” she said. “That was our legacy.” She said the property, which was owned by her stepmother, Helen Manning, had earlier been placed on the market for $2 million.
Ms. Manning said her stepmother had intended for the property to be left to Jill Manning but that she had been coerced in a “fragile state” to sign a will stating otherwise.
Some voters sympathized with Ms. Manning, but others argued that purchasing the two properties would prevent unwanted development in an area that is central for tourism.
“As tourism comes to Martha’s Vineyard, everybody benefits,” said Berta Welch, who owns a shop at Aquinnah Circle.
“It’s a trickle down effect,” she said. “It’s for all of us to benefit, to have and to enjoy.”
Wendy Swolinzky questioned whether .37 acres was worth the price. “We’re not a rich town,” she said. She also worried about the cost of further development at the site. “It’s just the beginning of a money pit,” she said.
Bettina Washington argued that $590,000 was a relative bargain. “That’s a million dollar view, and I think we need to think about that,” she said. She worried that a private development might detract from the site’s appeal to visitors. “We need to start bringing money here,” she said. “We need to put our minds together to make this a place that people want to see.”
Len Butler also worried that a private development could ruin the site. “This is an opportunity to protect that land by making it part of the town. And what better tribute would it be if the town decided to make its use connected with the lighthouse?” He suggested using an existing building as a museum dedicated to the heritage of Aquinnah residents who had connections to the lighthouse.
The vote on the land purchase was done by handwritten Australian ballot.
All other articles passed easily.
Voters unanimously approved an article asking for up to $2.5 million for the restructuring of the Martha’s Vineyard Refuse District transfer station in Edgartown. Based on an assessment, Aquinnah’s contribution is 3 per cent, or up to $75,000 over the life of the bond. The project needs approval from all four refuse district towns; Chilmark approved the project at a special town meeting this fall, while Edgartown and West Tisbury have not voted. The district is aiming to begin the project next fall.
An article allocating $5,000 in community preservation money for restoring a historic stone wall behind town hall and $20,000 for restoration and emergency repairs to the Old Parsonage Building had one abstention, with all other votes in favor. The Old Parsonage is rented for affordable housing.
Island poets and poetry lovers gathered on November 1st at Vineyard Haven’s Midnight Farm to share poetry about the Gay Head Lighthouse. A collection of lighthouse-themed poetry, “Legacy of Light”, is available in hand-bound or digitally printed versions. Gay Head Lighthouse tee shirts, mugs, and totes are for sale at Midnight Farm and Aquinnah Town Hall. You can also order the poetry books by clicking here. Any of these items would make a perfect gift for those who love the island and want to help save the Gay Head Lighthouse.
To inquire about any of these items, please use our contact form, below:
Since the Save the Gay Head Light project began in the summer of 2013, we’ve raised over half of the $3 million needed to move and restore the lighthouse. We’ve had concerts and a footrace and a solo kayak circumnavigation of the island and two summer solstice parties. We’ve sold mugs and tee shirts (lots and lots of tee shirts), bumper stickers and tote bags. A tennis tournament, art show, winter solstice party, poetry project and even lemonade stands rounded out the year of fund-raising and awareness-building. We’ve had big donations from all the towns on the island, and donations of all sizes from islanders and visitors. Here are a few memories of the past year:
You may hover over the photos to see the larger version.
~ Dana Gaines on-water photography by Tad Thompson
The Save The Gay Head Lighthouse Committee would like to thank everyone who helped to make the second annual Gay Head 10K, a Race Against Time, the resounding success that it was.
The race would not have been possible without our generous and supportive sponsors: Cronig’s Market, WBUR, Artforms, Rotary Club of Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, Flanders Up-Island Real Estate, Hinckley Lumber, Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank, Santander, South Mountain Company, Thunderbird, Wynn and Wynn, Beetlebung Tree Care, Cape Air, CB Stark Jewelers, Heartbreak Hill Running Company, Martha’s Vineyard Insurance, Coca Cola of Martha’s Vineyard, DaRosa’s MV Printing Company, Island Source, Martha’s Vineyard Sightseeing, Orange Peel Bakery, Stop & Shop, Tilton Tent Rental, the Tisbury Farm Market, and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah).
Volunteers came from every island town and included: the Aquinnah Police and Fire Departments, Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), police officers from Chilmark, West Tisbury, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, Tri-Town Ambulance, MVRHS Cross Country Team, and anyone else we may have inadvertently missed.
Joe and Marylee Schroeder added a wealth of information and help up to and during the race. And the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce also rallied for our cause.
We would also like to extend special thanks to the Aquinnah Police Department, especially Chief Randhi Belain, and Jay Smalley, Frank Perez and their crew. Thanks also to Paula and David Eisenberg for donating & manning the pace car. And a very appreciative thank you to Marshall and Joseph Lee for putting in the time and effort to measure the course for certification by USA Track and Field.
And, of course, many thanks to all the runners, for without your participation this could never have happened.
The project to move the Gay Head Light will bypass a major hurdle in the regional planning process. The Martha’s Vineyard Commission decided Thursday that the project will not need review as a development of regional impact, or DRI.
The Aquinnah planning board review committee had referred the project to the MVC in September due to the archeological sensitivity of the site. But the committee had recommended that the MVC not review the project, since local, state and federal processes were already in place to protect any archeological resources.
“We feel there are more than adequate measures in place to deal with the concerns that you would have,” said Aquinnah planning board chairman Peter Temple who attended the MVC meeting Thursday night along with town administrator Adam Wilson.
Watch our new 10K video! Click here.
Under sunny skies and facing a stiff autumn wind, 146 runners followed the scenic State Road/Moshup Trail course for 6.2 miles on Sunday, starting and ending at Aquinnah Circle in the lee of the Gay Head Lighthouse. Overall winner was Jamie Smadbeck, 27, of Edgartown and Worcester, with a time of 40:18:00. The female leader was 24-year-old Lianne Swanson of Somerville, MA, who came in at 42:08:00. Click here for overall results and here for age group results.
According to Save the Gay Head Lighthouse Committee chairman and Gay Head 10K organizer Beverly Wright, the race will return next year. Co-director Martha Vanderhoop said, “It was a fantastic day for the lighthouse and we could not have pulled it all together without everyone’s hard work and time. The plan is to move the lighthouse to its new, safer location in the spring of 2015. The proceeds from this event help us climb further toward our fundraising goal. We hope all the runners will join us again next year and for many years to come.”
“We’ll keep holding the race as a community event and also to keep raising money to maintain this historic structure,” said Ms. Wright.
Volunteer Betsy Blake, visiting from Wellington, FL, marveled at the community spirit she saw on race day. “Everybody is just so kind and happy to be here, and they made me feel at home. I hope I can run the race next year and also see the lighthouse in its new location.”
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