Residents and regular visitors to Martha's Vineyard know getting on and off the island takes time and patience. I've long regarded the 45-minute ferry ride between the mainland and the Vineyard as an opportunity to downshift and slow down. While the majority of residents and visitors arrive by ferry, a growing number arrive by air, increasingly in private and corporate jets.
To accommodate these visitors, Martha's Vineyard Airport has proposed a $39.7 million "redevelopment and expansion plan." According to the Vineyard Gazette:
"The projects include renovating two runways, removing and reconstructing a taxiway, and paving and expanding several areas to improve safety and to better accommodate parked aircraft. A new aircraft hanger would be constructed to house large corporate aircraft and four existing hangers would be taken down and replaced by up to three larger ones. The fueling area would be paved, and the terminal building would be expanded from 9,800 to 21,850 square feet. The number of parking spaces would be increased from 369 to 918."On an island whose year-round population totaled 16,535 in the last census, and blossoms to well over 100,000 in the summer season, many are scratching their heads about who's best served by a new "hanger to house large corporate aircraft." I don't recall Oak Bluffs being on Amazon's list for its HQ2s. In fact, I can't think of any corporate headquarters on the island, but I can think of a lot of CEOs. Many residents consider affordable housing and water quality to be the Vineyard's most immediate challenges.
In the spring of 1969, at the behest of carrier Northeast Airlines, the federal government sponsored plans to lengthen the island airport's runways to accommodate DC-9 jets. Opposition was fast and deep. Concerned Citizens of Martha's Vineyard mobilized resistance to the plans, and their petition won support from a majority of the island's year-round and summer residents.
Earlier in the decade, President Kennedy had signed the bill establishing the Cape Cod National Seashore, protecting the family's compound in Hyannis Port. In 1969, Senator Edward Kennedy was then one of the state's senators to whom the Concerned Citizens of Martha's Vineyard and many others wrote letters, asking that he use his influence to protect the island from the march of "progress."
Several of these appeals are in the digital archives of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, including this telegram from then resident Jimmy Cagney. They were all for naught.
made headlines on the island, and the tragedy generated publicity that set quiet Martha's Vineyard into a vector of development that has gone unabated since.
Martha's Vineyard Airport's runway expansion was approved that year. Today, more than 100 propeller and jet planes arrive and depart every day, totaling more than 40,000 flights a year.
"Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."
~ Joni Mitchell