Like many locations on the Island, the Ocean View Foundation (OVF) Pavilion site has had a hard summer, and as usual, it is a tale of two communities.
The OVF Pavilion was built in 2000, presented to the community of residents and visitors, an open-air oasis in the Old Harbor. Over the last 20 years it has been the venue for many wholesome activities: environmental education programs, school gardens, annual community pot lucks and Earth Mothers’ Day celebrations, films have been shown, state and federal senators have attended community gatherings, memorial trees and shrubs have been planted to honor friends of the Pavilion community, orbs have been hidden there, and individuals have found it a useful and safe place to practice life skills — everything from playing a musical instrument, to yoga and exercise routines, to teaching a young son how to ride a bicycle. For many, the Pavilion site is a sacred place where friends meet to share a conversation as a respite to their work-a-day lives. And, folks near and far have gathered there to celebrate life events, and to remember and mourn the passing of loved ones.
Alas, there is a bad side to the Pavilion site. It is suffering from the same abuses that plague the island in the summer – especially, it seems, this summer. For the past 10-plus years we, and our B.I. Land Trust partners, have found it necessary to have night watchmen on duty to dissuade after hour revelers from completely trashing the place. This year most of the leaving of bottles, cans, food containers, damage and mischief, etc. seem to be predominantly day time activities. Who are these people who think it is ok and acceptable to litter and drink in a public space? They are not family groups having ice cream after a day at the beach, waiting to take their ferry home. They are young people, apparently with time on their hands, doing what teenagers do – hanging out. Which would be fine if they were not drinking alcohol (spiked seltzer the beverage of choice in 2020), and not commandeering the Pavilion, and not being a deterrent presence with their loud voices and foul language.
A good thing about the Pavilion site is that it is not marred with what should be unneeded signage – but it is not working. Apparently, people need to be specifically instructed not to litter, not to ride mopeds in the field, not to consume drugs and alcohol in public, not to engage in loud, inappropriate, antisocial behavior and language; and, must be instructed to clean up after your dog.
I have been looking after the Pavilion for 20 years. The disrespect and abuse has never been so ugly; mischief has become vandalism. Actual pieces of wood have been pried off the structure. Graffiti has been carved – not scratched – in 3/4-inch wide lettering into the wood. When kids have been approached about curbing their language and getting rid of the alcohol they have answered with rude, surly, disrespect. And, heartbreakingly, the free-standing environmental sculpture — work of 2018 interns — was purposefully destroyed. The violence and mal-intent inherent in these actions, and interactions, is maddening, sad, and unintelligible. I wish I could say that none of my interactions with youths displaying rude, disdainful, entitled and condescending attitudes were island kids – but, I cannot.
The environmental education and community work of the OVF has been one of collaboration with many island entities, The Nature Conservancy, the Land Trust, the School, and the Housing Board, to name just a few. Now, we need your help. When you go to the OVF Pavilion for the beauty, rest, and community that it can provide, please be proactive if you see or experience untoward behavior. Call the police if you see illegal activities such as vandalism or public consumption of alcohol. If you come upon rowdy or intimidating behavior it is ok to ask the offenders to share the space with civility. Or, if that feels too daunting, please call me at (401) 595-7055. Likewise, if you find the Pavilion littered with beverage or food containers also call me. The Nature Conservancy staff works hard to keep the Pavilion site clean and presentable with daily morning clean-ups, mowing and ground maintenance, regular sanding of graffiti, etc., but we cannot be there at every hour, so please help by alerting me if immediate attention is needed.
Yes, it has been a hard summer at the Pavilion, but we are undeterred in our work. Even with the difficulties of operating in a pandemic our new Pavilion Bag with its jaunty bee stands ready to facilitate a Carry In – Carry Out policy. There are community gardeners at the site this summer. Native, perennial flowers and shrubs have been planted in a collaboration with ConserFest. One day these plants will produce seed and fruit that will nourish the birds and add beauty to the site while serving as a reference sampler for consideration by island-wide gardeners and homeowners. In addition, four large Red Maples have been generously donated. These trees will provide shade, habitat, and contribute positively to earth’s air quality. As for the destroyed driftwood sculpture illustrating the perils of micro plastics on marine animals, new driftwood and submissions of creative replacements are being collected now for a re-creation in the coming months. (See the August Summer Times.)
So, it is also true that it has been a good summer at the Pavilion. Many people have worked hard and volunteered their resources — time and money — to make the Pavilion a community site. The OVF Pavilion stands as a community oasis for shared conversation, play, education, and rest, amidst the hub-bub of transactional commerce on this island haven.
P.S.: I don’t know what number this Ocean Views is, but I know the first one was published on Aug. 24, 2002 – 18 years ago. www.blockislandtimes.com/article/ocean-views-kim-gaffettlimits/15558. My message and plea today are very similar: it is time that this island community of visitors and residents (year-round and seasonal) have a gut check and a conversation about our community vision.
Are we going to be the good, the bad, or the ugly?