Our local heroes
To the Editor:
As the Block Island community continues to navigate through incredibly trying times, we all have recognized our EMT heroes.
Hopefully everyone knows who they are and they know how grateful we are for their dedication and expertise.
We also need to recognize the staff of the Block Island Medical Center. Dr. Warcup, Laurie Anderson, Linda, Claire, Greta, Susie, Yann, Kyra, Alison, Tom Hobin, Tracy Fredericks and Elsa.
Every one of these people are heroes, day in and day out. They do their jobs with skill, compassion and commitment. This community cannot lose anyone of these extraordinary people.
Chair, BIHS Board of Directors
Won’t take the bait
To the Editor:
Regarding the recent letter from Gerald Zarella, I will not take the bait. Instead, let’s focus on the one item we do agree on. I, too, will be voting for Keith Stover for Town Council.
West Side Road
A rough year for the Labyrinth
To the Editor:
This has been a rough year for the MacDougall family. People do not obey the signs that say no mopeds, no motor vehicles. We’ve always welcomed walkers on the path to West Beach as it is a public right of way. Our problem has been the multiple mopeds and cars that ignore the signs and use and abuse our property, even parking behind our cars so we can’t get out so they can more easily access the Labyrinth or the right of way.
The Labyrinth is a spiritual place and it attracts people from all walks of life, near and far. The labyrinth itself is cared for by walkers and not abused by walkers. They are not the issue. We’d hate to have to close it down.
Would you have any suggestions?
PO Box 1228
A rough summer for the OVF Pavilion
To the Editor:
The Ocean View Pavilion and its precious downtown open space has been the site of gross violations numerous times this summer.
The perpetrators are rarely apprehended in spite of a security team coordinated between the Land Trust and the Ocean View and the Town’s Police department.
The vicious and malicious damage has been more significant this summer than any prior. Besides serious physical damage to the building, a delightful community art work has been demolished and pitched away.
Staff and volunteers work hard to restore the horrors of reckless and disgusting behaviors.
Encounters with unruly visitors are unpleasant.
Our situation may be familiar to others this summer; we believe we are not alone in being taken aback by the acts of visitors who are anti-social, uncivilized, and even criminal in their acts of trespass and destruction.
May our island home be protected and defended against this offensive wave of debasement before our collective community spirit is broken.
Josie Merck, Kim Gaffett, and Barbara MacMullan
For the Ocean View Foundation
A modest proposal
To the Editor:
While signage can be informative, it can also be visually unattractive. Therefore, I would respectfully suggest that all stop signs be removed immediately, as they are, for the most part, ignored and there is no accountability for doing so.
Scenic Block Island, this one is for you. Kind of like wearing a mask. If it is not enforced, what’s the point?
Some suggestions on moped operations
To the Editor:
On Saturday afternoon, Wendell and I took a ride from Southwest Point to Settlers’ Rock. We witnessed lots of runners, walkers, bikers and mopeds. A majority of the women on mopeds were either wearing flip flops or backless sandals. At North Point, I had a very nice conversation with a young mother and her daughter on a pink moped. She was wearing flip-flops. I asked her if she had been informed that shoes were required on mopeds. She said “absolutely not.” They were in such a hurry they barely showed her how to operate the moped. They did tell her to wear a helmet. She grabbed a pair of shoes from her travel pack and thanked me for the information.
It was good to see all the police last weekend, but they can only cover so much territory. During our travels Saturday we saw yet another ambulance going to an emergency call. Two weeks ago a gal in a black Jeep ran us off the road passing a moped — twice within an hour. Yes, the same girl.
These issues distract from all the visitors who want to enjoy the beauty and nature of our island, go to the beach, walk nature paths, enjoy shopping, eat ice cream, outdoor lunches and dinners. Are we attracting the wrong type of people? Reckless party-goers and drinkers?
Our narrow, country-like roads are not meant for all this traffic and irresponsible people. I know this problem will not be solved soon, but can we come up with a plan over the next year to return our island to all the people who love it, residents, cottagers and tourists alike?
Southwest Point Rd.
To the Editor:
Two letters in last week’s Times capture so compellingly our community’s struggle with public safety, moped and traffic issues – Kay Lewis’s eloquence on the grief we feel as a community over senseless loss and our failure to adequately intervene to stop it, and Lisa Sprague’s outrage — she has spent decades performing valuable, life-saving work, and through that lens sees what we all see: the problem is only getting worse.
I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I feel the island community has been held captive this summer: by overwhelming crowds actively disregarding simple COVID rules; by mopeds that are not only a menace to public health and safety, but whose vendors have been actively permitted to take over an entire public street; by pedestrians who cross Dodge and Water Streets notwithstanding signs, crosswalks or any good sense; by belligerence, drunkenness and a fundamental disregard of a basic social construct, both in public and in private outdoor commercial locations on the island. When things are so bad you have to think about a plan and timing for going into town to get your mail because the crowds and behavior are so bad, when you sit in your backyard for an afternoon and see Life Star helicopters flying by every half hour, when you have a father gravely injured by a runaway moped driver while walking on the sidewalk with his children; when you have two senseless deaths on our roads, the time really has come – not just for conversation, but action.
There have been a number of good ideas about the moped issue advanced by the community, starting with aggressively pursuing all avenues for ridding our town of rental mopeds. I’ve been especially impressed by Thea Monje’s list and writing, the ideas developing from the #RespectBI group, and the thoughts of many others. Raising the age for rentals, close-toed shoes, stricter enforcement of existing rules, single-rider only, etc., all are good and worthy of immediate action.
I’d like to add just a few other thoughts:
We can immediately stop the moped concessionaires from using a public road to conduct business. It’s an insufferable and inappropriate use of our town resources to allow private businesses, especially businesses that so blatantly tax the town’s resources, to use our road, Weldon’s Way, as an extension of their business premises and it has to stop now. Period. Imagine if Ken Lacoste were showing car renters how to parallel park on Ocean Avenue, or Chris Willi were teaching people to fly cast down the double yellow lines in front of his shop, or Eli’s deciding they’d like to have a couple more tables and moving out onto Chapel Street. This Weldon’s Way situation is far worse than those would be, and we have done nothing about it for years — we have to stop and think before driving down a public road that we pave, maintain and (one wishes) police, because businesses have seized it. It’s an outrage — if a business doesn’t have sufficient space to operate on property it owns or leases, it’s time to move or change businesses.
When a patient is ill, especially with a challenging condition, it’s common to seek multiple opinions. We need the same in our situation: interview and retain additional legal expertise to give us a broader and more aggressive strategy regarding what we can and can’t do in the context of the decades-old agreement with the moped concession licensees, the state statute, and federal court. That lawyer may come from a Rhode Island firm, or from anywhere else in the country — we need additional competent legal minds advising the town and taking additional action, including the possible condemnation or buy out of the concessions, on our behalf.
We also need to have a real and very serious conversation about the island’s carrying capacity. I love the fact that our island is a place where everyone feels welcome, and a place that can and should draw a genuinely diverse range of visitors every day. But it seems clear to me that this summer, especially in the context of the pandemic, we have had more visitors than we can safely and responsibly handle. It has to be consistent with the needs of our small business owners, and it may not just be about the number of people or cars – it may be traffic patterns, policing, transportation infrastructure, staggered ferry schedules, etc., but it needs to be a conversation that occurs over the course of months so that we are not caught in the exact same situation next Memorial Day.
To return to Lisa Sprague’s letter: “now it is time to take back control of our home instead of being bullied and held hostage by a handful of businesspeople who don’t care about our home at all.” And to Kay Lewis’s: “We need our local and state leaders to work together to stop the devastation. Please be bold!”
Beacon Hill Road
To the Editor:
As a Block Island Race Week sailor and a seasonal renter since the early 1990s, I wish to express my gratitude to Block Island merchants, public servants, and residents for trying to resolve the moped situation.
Please consider this suggestion to encourage responsible moped business and renter behavior:
Each moped should display a highly visible, light-reflective rear placard which has:
1. A bright color, assigned uniquely to each licensed business; and
2. A number in large boldface, up to the number of mopeds which a business is licensed to rent.
Whenever a business rents a moped, the signed rental agreement must state the particular moped by its placard number. If a rental moped fails to display that placard properly, the town police can elect to confiscate it, ticketing both the rider and business for violating vehicular identification requirements.
If a road incident occurs, witnesses can easily identify the involved moped, traceable to both the business and individual renter, even if it quickly leaves the scene. Now, Block Island mopeds are not easily identifiable, which enables both the business and renter to ride away from operator accountability.
Moreover, to discourage moped DUIs, the town police can use these identification placards to pre-select randomly the moped renters which would be required to take DUI tests when returning them. The town would require, by openly posted law, that all renters agree to such random testing, as a rental pre-condition. That advance, random selection would prevent any type of discriminatory profiling.
New York, N.Y.
Mill Pond culvert needs attention
To the Editor:
Lest we forget that there are a lot of goings on out here on this island: There is so much more than mopeds, cars, people, social distancing, masks, and Covid-19. People are coming here and remarking that life is so much more normal here than the mainland. Well, maybe not to us that live here but we can appreciate that fact.
In my observations, and they are many, I can’t help but notice the beautiful pond on Old Town Road, called the “Mill Pond” because, literally over 100 years ago, it was just that. It sits quietly just west of the Town Hall and is essentially town property. A restoration of the old brick culvert was accomplished a few years ago, along with a new dam, roadway, sidewalk and all and done beautifully. A problem existed from the start, as I noticed no water over the pre-fabricated new dam but rather water escaping the pond under the dam. I am no engineer but anyone paying attention should have also noticed this.
Attempts were made to remedy the situation but drilling and epoxy injections failed, poured concrete failed, and only a dumping of mud and clay created a quick fix. The quick fix lasted a while but now with a drought at hand and little water in the mill stream the pond is at a dangerous low. Water wildlife is at stake. Turtles older than most of us live there, fish, frogs, eel and a multitude of aquatic vegetation (lily pads) are endangered. There is over a two-foot drop in the pond level and water actually running on the north side of the culvert but under the trap rock after seeping under the dam. After a bit of rain a few days ago it is almost holding its own now, but won’t much longer with this sustained drought. At any rate, the dam has failed and something needs to be done. I can tell you what needs to be done, but only the town can do it.
I’m still waiting for the cable to be buried at the Town Beach.
Beacon Hollow Farm