It has a winter population of just 20, a one room school house and no year-round grocery store. But a Massachusetts community is hoping to attract new residents.
Cuttyhunk, is the last stop along the Elizabeth Islands, which make up the state’s tiniest town of Gosnold.
“The mail comes twice a week, but sometimes it doesn’t,” says long-time resident Lisa Wright. “We are a pretty rugged community.”
There’s one way in, and one way out. By boat.
“People come to rely on the steadiness of our ferry,” notes Captain Jono Billings.
People, packages, and provisions all cross Buzzards Bay just twice a week in winter, weather permitting.
“I think you have to be very resourceful, which is a hard thing in our society these days because everyone wants something instantaneously, and that doesn’t happen here,” Wright adds.
She is one of just twenty people who lives in Gosnold year-round, and wears many hats as a result.
“The Town Clerk. I’m the Auditor, Secretary to the Selectmen, the Central Billing Clerk,” she says proudly, later adding she serves on many town committees as well.
Next to Wright’s office in Town Hall is the island’s one room school house.
Eleven-year old Gwen and 13-year-old Carter make up the entire class and are brother and sister.
“When you have friends at school, at least if you had a bad day you go home and you don’t have to see them-opposite-you got to see them, and you go home and see them,” Gwen says of seeing her brother all day, every day.
A normal day in their class, like one anywhere else, is English, math, science, with some perks as well.
“We go home for lunch every day. We walk to school, not many kids get to do that which I think is pretty cool,” Carter adds.
Teacher Michelle Carvalho works hard each day to keep the children challenged, and motivated. She connects with classrooms on the mainland regularly using Google Hangouts. That allows Gwen and Carter to take part in larger class lessons and demonstrations, something they couldn’t do without technology.
But Carter soon graduates, with Gwen following two years later.
“At that point if there are no students the school will close,” Carvalho says.
Facing that reality, the town of Gosnold is now trying to reverse the trend of a dwindling full time population. It’s working to attract younger people around 30 who may be looking to escape the rat race of daily city life.
“You realize what you don’t need in life,” Wright says of the simple lifestyle on the island.
And things people do need, the town is working to improve.
A new ferry dock is under construction, soon allowing the ferry to drop passengers off away from the refueling area. A multi-million dollar solar project is also nearly done, and will come online shortly.
Power Plant Manager Wayne Perrier says the panels will power the island most of the time during the winter. That will greatly cut down on the amount of fuel the town needs, limiting the environmental risk of a spill during transport, and potentially cutting the cost of electricity.
All of the improvements will make winter on Cuttyhunk a bit more like summer, which Gwen calls “paradise.”