An island. What a romantic notion! But there are realities to an island. Many of our natural resources are fragile and need to be treated with respect.
Vinalhaven sits atop what is called a 'sole source aquifer'. That means there is a lens, or bubble, of fresh water under the island, supplying the bulk of our needs. In the dry summer months of heavy water usage, that lens gets smaller as it is drawn down by human use, and salt water can intrude into wells near the shore, ruining them. Shallower wells run dry. There is no 'river' of fresh water running from the mainland to here: all our needs are supplied by precipitation that slowly perks down through cracks in the granite to replenish the lens. The water needs of the downtown area are supplied by water pumped from Round Pond. We have had summers where the demand for water has exceeded Round Pond's replenishment rate, and we have watched the level of water in the pond drop almost daily.
Vinalhaven is an ancient volcanic mountain rising from the ocean floor, dotted with huge granite outcroppings. It is covered by a thin layer of soil, which has taken centuries to develop. The lichens and mosses growing on the rocks, the plants that grow in the shallow soil pockets, even the roots of the giant spruce trees can be easily damaged by foot traffic. When the plants die, erosion can start, and years of soil buildup can wash down hill in one heavy rainstorm. Feel free to enjoy our trails, but please stay on the marked paths. Practice the 'leave no trace' ethic: what you carry in, carry back out.
Each year winter storms, often with winds of 90 knots or more, level mature spruce trees. Examine one of these blow downs and notice the thin layer of soil that held it to the granite below.
Nearly everything we use is transported here by ferry. Likewise our trash is hauled back the same way for disposal. Please make an effort to reduce the amount of waste you generate. There is a 'swap shop' at the transfer station where usable but no longer needed items can be dropped off, hopefully to find a new home.
Fire danger is often very high in the summer. Please be EXTREMELY careful with any open flame, barbecue or cigarettes. Outdoor fires are usually banned in the summer months. We have a first rate and well-trained fire department. However, there is no backup company that can race to their rescue!
Stay on marked trails, and leave no trace.
Reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Be extremely careful with fire!
Enjoy your time on this lovely island. Use it gently, respect its fragility.