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Almanac Archive for Jan. 9, 2020

Conservation Almanac Special Notice
          Winter Walk Sunday at Pilot Hill Farm

Winter Walks Resume at Pilot Hill Farm 

Join VCS this Sunday (the 12th) for the first Winter Walk of the New Year, a visit to the 180 acres of hills, fields, and beaches that make up Pilot Hill Farm. We will meet up at 10 am at the Wakeman Conservation Center parking area (directions), across the road from the Farm. The walk is expected to last about 90 minutes.

Because this is a working farm, please leave your dogs at home -- even very well-behaved dogs on leashes frighten the animals.

Family History: Where Farm Meets Sea
Part of Tisbury’s north shore west of Lake Tashmoo, Chappaquonsett likely gained its English name due to the area’s (relatively) high elevation of 120 feet. Pilots of sailing ships would have found it to be a useful reference point as they navigated the crowded and dangerous Vineyard Sound, a bustling coastal shipping route in the days before the creation of the Cape Cod Canal.

For one navigator, Pilot Hill was not just a reference point, but home. The former owners of the farm, Columbus and Nora Iselin, operated a working dairy farm from the 1930s until their deaths in 1971. During the 1940s, Columbus commuted daily from the Vineyard to his job as Director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. (For more on the Iselin family and the history of Pilot Hill Farm, see this account by PHF historian Patricia Carlet.)

Conservation History: A Limited Development Plan
When the property changed hands in 1976, zoning would have allowed the construction of at least 200 houses: more than 100 building sites were available, each potentially with a main house and guest house. Fortunately, the Vineyard Open Land Foundation (VOLF) was able to come to the rescue with a “limited development” plan. Sunday’s walk leader (and former VCS Board President) Rob Kendall, along with former VCS Executive Director Tom Counter, led the planning process for an innovative solution that would slash the development’s density while ensuring benefits for conservation and housing. VOLF’s final plan allowed for 22 market-rate residential sites, each limited to one house within a designated building zone, and five affordable sites reserved for Island residents. Today, 60 acres are in active farm use, and permanent conservation restrictions cover more than 75 acres, including most of Smith Brook and 1,400 feet of beach.

Walk leader Rob Kendall with three former residents of Pilot Hill Farm

Copyright © 2020 Vineyard Conservation Society, All rights reserved.

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