From the Jan. 2, 1998 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

Across the Island, hundreds of acres of beautiful land were designated as conservation property and protected from development. Meanwhile, throngs of cars were increasingly viewed as villains on the Island’s two-lane roads.

And taxpayers said “no” to an Oak Bluffs golf course, to a Menemsha bathhouse and to other big capital expenditures — partly out of frugality, but also out of reluctance to change the Island landscape without urgent cause.

This was 1997.

It was a year in which people seemed concerned about preservation of the Vineyard land and lifestyles, a year when they favored old things, like the design of the 50-year old MV Islander, as opposed to the newer MV Martha’s Vineyard, and the name “Aquinnah.”

At the same time, it was a year in which the Vineyard’s glittering popularity continued to beckon the new — including visitors, tens of thousands of them during a crowded Fourth of July holiday and, later, President Clinton et al. Real estate prices skyrocketed. The service industry boomed and a new car dealership opened.

Of course, like any year, there were notable events independent of such trends. The regional high school varsity football team won the Super Bowl for only the third time in history. Members of the community staged a dramatic rescue of the schooner Alabama, after she broke free in Vineyard Haven harbor in hurricane winds. The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) celebrated its tenth year as a federally recognized tribe.

When confronted this spring with nonbinding referendum questions on whether the number of cars brought to Island shores should be limited, and visitors served by a system of mass transit, voters in all six towns said yes. Still, while many elected office holders have spoken eloquently on this topic, it’s unclear who will emerge as a leader and how this problem will be pursued.

On the other hand, when it came to preservation of the Island’s farms, meadows and beaches, a detailed plan was unveiled.

After several of the Island’s most prestigious organizations joined together to form the Conservation Partnership of Martha’s Vineyard, the new organization immediately released a detailed report on trends in development.

As a solution, the new organization presented an ambitious plan for protecting 5,400 acres within the next eight years.

Quality of life was also foremost in the minds of those Island residents who established new nonprofit organizations in 1997. One was the Vineyard House Inc., which this year opened two houses for recovering alcoholics. There was also Just About Music, a group dedicated to bringing live musical performances to Island people all through the year. The Family Center opened at the regional high school, offering a place for families to play together and a classroom for parenting courses.

The Vineyard economy was strong. There was a summer labor crisis but the season was healthy. The Island experienced tremendous residential real estate sales, including the biggest single week of revenues ever — $9.7 million. In the commercial world, car mogul Ernie Boch paid $875,000 for the Vineyard Haven marina.

There were also smaller transitions: A new Mobil station on Barnes Road. The brew pub in Oak Bluffs. A new bagelry, the Island’s first, on Main street in Vineyard Haven (with satellite sales at the Edgartown A&P). Biga Bread closed. And little red bottles of Mr. G’s hot sauce began showing up more regularly on kitchen tables.

It was a year in which some issues fizzled out. The SSA’s reservation policy, such a hot topic in 1996, seems to have cooled. In August, Commonwealth Electric’s $7 million electric cable to the Island, buried earlier in the year, failed and caused a power outage, which many starstruck residents attributed to some aspect of President Clinton, the Secret Service or a big house full of news reporters in Edgartown that had recently been equipped with several new phone lines.

Other things dragged out. A fight continued between the Vineyard and the would-be developers of a $55 million luxury home development at Herring Creek Farm; the conflict moves to Middlesex Superior Court next year.

Still other things were reborn — like the concept of a regional septage plant.

And people were honored.

Laura Gliga, a special education teacher at the regional high school, was teacher of the year, and the Tisbury School was honored for excellence. Jim Gordon of Vineyard Haven and Hanni Dzubar of Edgartown were the Big Brother and Big Sister of the year. And writer Dorothy West of Oak Bluffs turned 90; she was honored with an adoring birthday party at Union Chapel.

The day is remembered still, with a new street sign in Oak Bluffs, renaming Miss West’s street after the writer herself, a “favored, favorite and most beloved daughter of Martha’s Vineyard,” in the words of Randi Vega, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce and a guest at the event.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox