By Rev. Candace Whitman
We live on an island that is unique and beautiful. It offers serenity, simplicity, and a sense of home that feeds our souls. Yet the time has come for us to mobilize toward revitalizing our island and ensuring that our way of life continues into the future.
Our dwindling year-round population is our key challenge. Without more affordable houses, more jobs, improved infrastructure, better access to healthcare, etc., it is too easy for people to choose to live elsewhere. It will soon be a struggle to find people to serve as firefighters, EMTs, or to volunteer on boards. In addition, we must heed the call for more intentional efforts at conserving our stunning natural setting, our wildlife and other assets that attract people here, summer and winter.
With these trends it is no surprise that discouragement has begun to take hold among residents. But to those who haven’t quite given up I say, hang on. If you’re frustrated, don’t lose hope. There are reasons to have faith that we can turn things around.
We can have faith because under Tom O’Neil’s excellent guidance, the ICB I am privileged to serve on is becoming more committed to making things work again. We are newly organized to multi-task. We have built up membership and investment in the ICB. And among the many encouraging developments, we are poised for a new, positive relationship with Southold.
We can have faith because we have at our fingertips recent, thorough proposals for restoring our population and our island. There are also other small towns in America who have used innovation to solve similar issues. With a little elbow grease, we can build upon what has been done, and apply some new strategies, too.
We can have faith even in the face of the resistance to change. Change is hard, especially in a community whose appeal is very much based on doing things the way we have always done them! Ironically, in my view, carefully considered change is actually the way to keep things the same. In other words, the forces of decay are at work, even here, where time seems to stand still. Embracing the new now means we have a chance at preserving what we cherish most.
The best case scenario would be the community coming together to articulate our shared values, and then working collaboratively to oversee the changes that would maintain those values.
We may not be there yet. But my faith for this island is strengthened by my belief in the power of persistence…and prayer. I include Fishers Island in my daily prayers, and ask for a spirit of hope to prevail, until we have made the changes necessary to realize our goals for our beloved island home.