BuzzFeed.com highlights Block IslandIs that good or bad?
Just this week, on March 10, BuzzFeed.com named Block Island as one of the top New England towns that are worth visiting. BuzzFeed is a hugely popular news and entertainment site, and it often posts pop culture lists of no particular seriousness, such as “26 boozy desserts to get you tipsy on St. Patrick’s Day.”
There are also such quirky items as “27 surreal places you need to visit before you die.” Along those lines came the “24 small New England towns you absolutely must visit” list, on which New Shoreham came in at number two, just behind Woodstock, Vermont.
While the list may have been borne out of traveling many miles through the lovely New England countryside, it does seem a bit rote, if not downright clichéd (some of the towns listed seem overhyped). Take Exeter, New Hampshire, for example. Lovely town, its main drag — Water Street — is quintessential New England. But if you drive a long distance to visit it, you’re going to be disappointed that you blocked out a whole day because you’ll soon find yourself headed to the Seacoast of New Hampshire for something to do.
Same thing with Bath, Maine. Not much to do other than gazing at the New England-y-ness of it all. There’s the Bath Iron Works if you like heavy duty shipbuilding.
This brings us to Block Island. In order to differentiate the island from Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket, the BuzzFeed piece begins by saying: “Block Island, located just 10 miles off the southern coast of Rhode Island, has only one town — New Shoreham.” That’s one way to put it. It mentions two places designated as “Where to stay” and two restaurants, one “for an eclectic mix of cuisines” and the other, a seafood place, “for, naturally, seafood.” We don’t want to name them in order to avoid seeming partial, but the references seem to us, while perfectly fine, pretty arbitrary as well.
As for a description of the place, the writer writes, “The main part of town is pretty small, so after walking around a bit, you’ll want to get out and explore the rest of the island.”
This kind of attention is not new to Block Island. Just last year, Yankee Magazine named Block Island as a place to “love.” But it also raises a quandary.
As Jessica Guenther-Decker wrote on The Block Island Times’ Facebook page, the mention on BuzzFeed is “Good because Block Island is absolutely an amazing place! Bad because the more that know, the more that go! I have family that live on the island and we go every summer. Block Island is our second home.”
Jessica Willi, President of the Tourism Council, said she was “happy to be on” the list, but said it brings up the same old dilemma that Guenther-Decker mentioned: “It’s like, ooh, we made it on a BuzzFeed list, but even when we get mentioned, people are like ‘Stop telling people about Block Island.’”
Willi is promoting what she called “sustainable tourism,” which is why she said she and others are constantly seeking answers to how many ferries the island can handle, or how many small commercial flights should be scheduled.
Also on Facebook, Sondra Lintelmann Dellaripa wrote: “Fortunately, the Interstate [Navigation] ferry controls most of the access to the island. So as gatekeepers we rely on them to help in managing the onslaught of visitors. When I was young there were only two or three boats a day. Now there’s so many.” (She added a frowning emoticon.)
“That’s a tough one to answer and how to figure out,” said John Cullen, second Vice President of the Tourism Council. Cullen said he had seen the article on social media sites. (You can see the original article at The Block Island Times Facebook page.) “You see how busy these boats are. I don’t know how many more you can bring here.”
Cullen, who also owns three businesses on the island, including Block Island Tees, said he appreciated the fact that, as brief as the BuzzFeed article was, it highlighted the cultural over the commercial.
“What I thought was really nice was that the pictures are spectacular and the text highlights open space and natural beauty and the outdoors. You’ll want to get out and explore the island. Come out and enjoy the place. You can’t buy this kind of advertising,” he said. “It’s astonishing how many people are looking at the internet, Facebook and other social media, this could go to hundreds of thousands of people who will share it.”
In the end, Cullen said he was pleased to have the island included in the list.
“I like it and I’m supportive of it,” he said. “Our job is to market and promote Block Island as a tourist destination and that’s what it really comes down to here. We have to boost our economy and we have a small window to do that.”
As for more people, Cullen said, “We were all here for the first time at some point, too.”