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Almanac Archive for June 26, 2020

The Conservation Almanac
     Fresh Air & Fresh Trails
          Meetinghouse Subdivision Update
                Behind the Tennis Courts
Find Fresh Trails and Fresh Air with Walking Trails of M.V. 
Last week, we were thrilled to find an unexpected letter in the MV Times by Melissa Lawry, writing to call attention to our long-running publication (now in it's fifth edition), Walking Trails of Martha's Vineyard. Of course, we agree that this pocket-size book is truly a wonderful resource, even more so in these troubled times! But VCS can't take all the credit – we’d like to spread Melissa's thanks around by telling a bit about the history of the book, and the work it represents. First and foremost, the book’s creator, former staffer and longtime friend Will Flender, deserves a huge thank-you for his years of work on the project. While it may be a labor of love for Will, it is still a lot of labor.

We also want to extend our thanks to the conservation groups who shared their maps and other information for the project. As an advocacy group, VCS has over the decades helped shepherd many of the properties you see in the book to a conservation outcome. But it is those capable landholding organizations that manage and maintain them, both for public walking trails and as natural resources that sustain our Island’s environment. Collectively, private nonprofits, including Mass Audubon, Polly Hill Arboretum, Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, The Trustees, and Vineyard Open Land Foundation, along with our publicly funded MV Land Bank, town governments, and the state Department of Conservation of Recreation, should be thanked for ensuring that these lands provide the ongoing benefits of open space that we all enjoy.

Will Flender’s “Walking Trails of M.V.” is currently available at Bunch of Grapes, Edgartown Books, and Fo'c'sle Locker in Menemsha. Other places that usually carry the book include Alley's General Store, Morning Glory Farm, Polly Hill Arboretum, Cronig's, Felix Neck, the M.V. Museum, and the Allen Farm store. It can also be ordered (with $5 extra for shipping) on the VCS website. 

The Work is Not Done
Near the end of her letter, Melissa shares an impressive statistic from Will's book, that 37% of the Island’s acreage is under some form of conservation protection. Indeed, this is a great testament to the historic success of the conservation movement; unfortunately, there is also a less rosy side of the equation. Approximately another third of the Island’s land is already built out, while another third is currently open space that is available for development.

The implications of that math are striking. As a rough approximation, what we see today as we hike, bike, and drive around this Island is two-thirds open and one-third developed land. Without further conservation efforts, in the future that ratio will be reversed. Another way to visualize it is that our existing fields and woodlands that support wildlife, but also nurture human needs for a connection with nature, will be cut in half.

Few of us want to see that future vision of Martha’s Vineyard, so we must be careful as a community to steward wisely the ultimate fate of that final third. There is no doubt that our expanding year-round population will necessarily take up some portion of it. But it is also clear that the work of conservation is far from done.
Content adapted from our letter in this week's MV Times

Meetinghouse Way Subdivision Update: Just Say No 

Next Thursday (July 2), the MV Commission holds what is intended to be the final hearing to evaluate the "Meeting House Place" proposal, a plan to build a suburban-style subdivision on 54 acres near the Edgartown Great Pond. If you haven't done so already, now is the time to make your voice heard. To register to speak during the meeting (via Zoom, beginning at 7 pm), or to submit written comments to be included in the record, email Lucy Morrison at the Commission. Or, contact your town's Commissioner(s) directly, and let them know what you think!

Thankfully, this week's letter to the editor by Edgartown resident and VCS member Jeff Agnoli has saved us the hardship of trying to yet again come up with something new to say about this development. (Glutton for punishment? See our most recent testimony, and previous commentary in this space, here, here, and here.) With each iteration of the proposal the finer details may change, but the big picture remains the same. Despite efforts at mitigation, there is no way the project can be done that doesn't add nitrogen to an already-imperiled great pond (please see Great Pond Foundation testimony); more fundamentally, it is simply the wrong type of development for an Island with dwindling open space. As Jeff writes:

. . . the Island has reached the tipping point of development, is seeing ever increasing amounts of traffic, is losing much of its intangible but very real, and once treasured, character, and that actions must be taken to at least slow down the degradation. (Link to letter)

Behind the Tennis Courts

Beyond the expanse of chain link fence

And pine-shingled houses,

Through a tunnel of brambles

And wood-planked paths,

Along the quiet footbridge,

Accompanied by trickling waterfall,

Sits my mental center,

The anchor point of relief.


This special bench,

Sees the seas and gulls,

And swans drifting behind,

Feels the breeze,

Smells, the pungent,

grass-streaked marsh,

Hears the rustling of,

Fluffy cattail husks,

And tastes the salty

Brine in the distance.

There, thoughts dissolve,

Into floating dandelion seeds

Of sheer tranquility,

Reveling in the present

And the simple pleasure,

Of relaxing on

A shrub-shrouded bench.

                                                -Spencer Pogue

One of four First Place winners among the high school participants in this year's Art of Conservation. For the first time, our annual art contest invited entries in creative writing, and the students did not disappoint!
Solace & Insight
The Art of Conservation 2020
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