Paradise Lost: Can we reclaim our island?

Sat, 08/27/2022 - 2:15pm

The following was sent to the New Shoreham Town Council and copied to the Tourism Council and The Block Island Times:

We’re writing in support of Michael Rock’s perceptive letter to The Block Island Times and the excellent comments of many other residents and visitors who have responded to the increasingly challenging situation the island faces: can we preserve the island culture that makes Block Island so special?
It appears we are being held hostage by a few business owners who seem hell bent on attracting the kind of tourist that cares little for the island’s open spaces, the beauty of its natural world, or the citizens of the island with its congenial pace and culture of island living.
Instead, these tourists come for the quick and easy good time of heavy drinking and crass partying (whether they’re of the legal drinking age or not barely seems to matter). The island has become a party scene where rules are few, respect for others is non-existent, and the entire island suddenly seems like a place where you can do what you want - whenever and wherever you want to do it - with few consequences.
Not only is it offensive to most of us who live here - it’s off-putting to many of the island’s regular visitors who, in the past, have rented our houses and purchased the quality art, food, gifts, jewelry, and clothing that our
island shops offer.
We’re caught in an expensive quagmire: We’re losing our best customers and are instead encouraging visitors who contribute little to island life. In the process, we’re left to support valuable island resources that are
drained by the party goers and rental moped riders – who, we suspect, will be quick to leave as soon as they hear of a better party scene elsewhere.
Worst of all, is the fact that the problems created by the rental mopeds and Ballard’s are usurping much of the time and energy of our police, rescue squad, medical center, concerned residents – and the Town Council – who are left to cope with the havoc when they could be turning their attention to other serious issues that require forward thinking: the possible dire effect of climate change on the island and the sustainability of our sole source of water: the aquifer, to name just two.
The business models of Ballard’s and the rental moped owners may be great for the owners of these businesses, but they do little for the island. We need another kind of visitor. One that’s a better fit for what the island offers – and has offered – successfully to residents and visitors alike for countless years. One centered around the natural beauty and simplicity of the island. Things we have worked hard to preserve.
We propose that going forward the Tourism Council and any other groups promoting the island to prospective visitors include at least one member on their board from one of the excellent conservation groups on the island in hopes that our marketing efforts could better represent what Block Island is – and has worked so hard to become. Perhaps a representative of Respect B.I. could have a seat at the marketing table as well. And island-related businesses could be encouraged to focus their promotions away from drinking and partying. Our island is so much more.
With many thanks for your consideration,
Melanie and Burt King
Turnip Farm