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Martha’s Vineyard could teach Summit County a lesson

Ellen Hollinshead

Even on vacation, I needed my summit fix.

The highest point on Martha’s Vineyard (an island south of Cape Cod) is 311 feet. Three classic East Coast trails take you to the top through hidden roots, slippery leaves and tick-infested undergrowth.

When I’m in the area, I always return to Peaked Hill (pronounced peak-ed) even though numerous other trails network together on the island, many ending favorably on a beach.

I guess it’s my mountain blood. The spot also helps to ease my mild case of claustrophobia I feel whenever I’m back east, with its impenetrable woods and miles of travel with no views. On Peaked Hill, I felt space from the views of the ocean north to south. Between the ocean and the top, a gentle undulation of tree tops peaked in fall colors. Like most New England “vistas,” this one was subtle yet beautiful.

This year, I drove up toward Peaked Hill’s trailhead to see a few changes.

There were three new dirt roads – signs of development.

In typical form, developers had cleared the nasty underbrush and left just the right amount of scrub oak trees.

In an attempt to imitate the 300-year-old stone walls scattered all over the Vineyard, developers had also built their own throughout this new development.

But their walls lacked the thick coating of old moss, and the rock they had used was shipped in because it’s illegal on the island to disturb old rock.

But you know, ironically enough, I liked what this development had done. They had given me more feelings of space, and a few fun, rolling, sand-packed roads saved the trails to Peaked Hill for the end.

I could push the pace a bit on these smooth roads, using my 9,000-foot lungs to my advantage. I even ran across some of the land they had cleared, just because I could.

I decided to explore one of the new roads. I ran for a while, thinking whoever owns this prime real estate on the Vineyard’s highest spot is rich and lucky. But at the end of the road, a tiny well-kept cabin stood behind an incredible ocean view.

I see this a lot on the Vineyard. Small rebuilt shacks on the edge of an inlet. Million- dollar homes are quite modest in size, but are high-priced due to the surrounding land they leave undisturbed.

Martha’s Vineyard is as expensive as Summit County but much less ostentatious. People there seem to appreciate living simply, despite their wealth. 

The Vineyard’s simplicity and quaintness is its charm and attraction. 

Why is this not the case in Summit County? Why aren’t second homes smaller and easier to manage?

Even the tourist attractions of the Vineyard – the Menemsha fishing harbor, the Gay Head cliffs – haven’t changed much in the 30 years I’ve been going there.

I had to run to the top of Peaked Hill. It was a drizzly day and, at 311 feet, I was high enough to feel the wind that had just been noise as I ran. I liked feeling the wind – it reminded me of our mountains.

If I could combine the quaintness of the Vineyard with the mountains of Summit County, it would be perfect. Of course, that’s not possible. Rather, I’ll keep loving the mountains and pray that someday those who move here embrace the concept that less is better.


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