Land Trust Public Priorities Poll results

Wed, 11/27/2019 - 4:30pm

The Block Island Land Trust unveiled the results of its Public Priorities Poll at its meeting on Thursday, Nov. 14. The poll showed that there is strong support for continuing land conservation on the island, with 70 percent strongly in favor and 18 percent “somewhat” favoring protecting additional open space.

The poll, which was conducted between Oct. 10 and 14, by the Kitchens Group utilized random sampling by telephone. Others responded via an internet survey site. All were screened for residency on Block Island. In total, 137 residents were interviewed.

That conservation ethos was echoed in the responses to questions gauging concern for the effects of climate change on the island, support for changing state laws so that pesticide use could be restricted, and support for ordinances banning plastic bags and balloons. There was also support for expanding town regulations to ban “other single-use plastics such as straws, Styrofoam, water bottles and non-recyclable food containers.”

When it came to concerns about exposure to tick-borne diseases, a whopping 94 percent were either very or somewhat concerned. Land Trust member Keith Lang noted that the poll took place before a well-attended talk on the subject by Yale researcher Dr. Peter Krause, held at the Island Free Library.

That particular question was followed by one asking about reducing the size of the deer herd. The 88 percent who were in favor of herd reduction were then asked a subset of follow-up questions on hunting. While answers to whether weekend hunting should be allowed were mixed – 48 percent “yes”, 42 percent “no,” 91 percent of respondents were in favor of managed hunts, and 67 percent were in favor of baiting.

Responding to the statement: “While tourism is important, there are too many visitors to Block Island,” a total of 38 percent said they strongly agreed, and 31 percent somewhat agreed. The percentage of those somewhat disagreeing with the statement was 18, and 10 percent strongly disagreed.

In a separate question, 71 percent thought “growth, development and overcrowding are hurting the quality of life on Block Island.”

Recognizing the economic importance of tourism to Block Island, “People think too many people is detrimental to tourism,” said Lang. “No one is saying they’re against tourism.”

Land Trust member Wendy Crawford noted the unusual crowds of visitors this past summer on the island. “It’s the [number of] day-trippers that really got to people this summer.”

So too did mopeds, evidently. Land Trust Chair Barbara MacMullan pointed out that “59 percent strongly think the town should find a way to ban them.” Another 21 percent somewhat agreed with banning mopeds, for a total of 80 percent, but what seemed to surprise the trustees the most was the number of people who said they would support spending taxpayer dollars “to pay for a solution to ban mopeds.” That number came to 70 percent.

Lang said the question was put on the poll because he had heard, “anecdotally,” that people felt the mopeds were “detrimental to life on Block Island.”

The perception of overcrowding may have been a factor in the response to a question regarding the town’s efforts to create a new harbor facility for boaters. Although still in the majority with 53 percent either strongly or somewhat supporting the endeavor, twenty percent were not in favor, and 27 percent were unsure.

The final questions on the survey pertained to demographics. Only five percent reported that they were between the ages of 18 and 34, while 54 percent were over 65 years old. There were also questions regarding how long respondents had lived on the island, and how many months of the year they stay here, whether they own or rent their homes, and whether they are registered voters. The trustees appeared to be surprised that a full 52 percent reported they made more than $100,000 per year, although 13 percent were “unsure” or refused to answer the question.

The trustees will be sending the results of the poll to various boards and commissions in the town including the Town Council, the Zoning and Planning Boards, and the Deer Task Force.

“Should we take an advocate role on some issues?” asked McMullan.

“Hunting jumps out. Mopeds jump out,” said Lang, also noting the concerns about tourism and tick-borne deceases.

“The question is, do we need to state the obvious?”

“We’ve done our bit,” said Lang. “It’s important to let people in town know.”

“We can draft a summary,” said MacMullan.

The full results will be posted on the Land Trust’s page on the town website, where the results from the last poll, conducted in 2011 can also be found.