In November, 1967, the Vineyard Conservation Society organized the first conservation umbrella partnership called the “Martha’s Vineyard Conservation Council”. It included VCS, Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, Felix Neck Wildlife Trust, Friends of Tisbury, and the East Chop Association. Its purpose was “to coordinate and work effectively with all efforts and all programs in the conservation field to prevent duplication of effort and to make possible, as nearly as possible, a unanimity of approach and a prompt mobilization of conservation opinion, experience and expert knowledge in relation to Island problems.”
By 1975, the seeds of a Conservation Center for the Island were planted. VCS facilitated discussions “to increase the effectiveness of the Island's private conservation groups by coordinating and unify actions in a communications alliance”. The roundtable was called the "Vineyard Alliance", in which each participating group agreed to retain individual identities and roles, but coordinate activities, particularly landowner outreach. It would form the model both for the Wakeman Center, and for a similar roundtable assembled in 1997 in which the public Land Bank Commission would participate, called the “Conservation Partnership”. The Partnership still meets regularly.
In 1984, the legal framework for the Center was built. The Mary P.Wakeman Conservation Center Trust was established “to acquire facilities and operate a Center” for the mutual benefit of five non-profit environmental organizations which were signatories to the trust agreement. The organizations are Vineyard Conservation Society (VCS), Vineyard Open Land Foundation (VOLF), Sheriff's Meadow Foundation (SMF), Martha's Vineyard Garden Club (MVGC), and the Trustees of Reservations (TTOR). The Nature Conservancy (TNC) occupies space nearby and coordinates closely with the Wakeman groups. The five signatory organizations manage the affairs of the Wakeman Trust, its two acres of real estate and its 3,000 square office building through a trustee appointed from each of the governing boards of participating organizations.
The purpose of the Wakeman Trust is to assist colleague organizations and to foster cooperation between organizations as each pursues specialized missions involving conservation efforts on the Island of Martha's Vineyard. These include:
1. Public education and advocacy, environmental legal defense and land protection in the case of the Vineyard Conservation Society (VCS). http://www.vineyardconservation.org/
2. Fee-for-service conservation land planning services and strategic site acquisition with "limited development" specialization in the case of the Vineyard Open Land Foundation (VOLF). http://www.islanderis.net/users/VOLF/
3. Conservation land ownership and management primarily for wildlife habitat protection in the case of the Sheriff's Meadow Foundation (SMF). http://www.sheriffsmeadow.org/
4. Land ownership and management of large "museum quality" examples of the Massachusetts landscape with particular attention given to accommodating the public on these lands in the case of the Trustees of Reservations (TTOR). http://www.thetrustees.org/
5. Island-wide beautification programs and management of the Wakeman Center greenhouse and West Tisbury mill in the case of the Martha's Vineyard Garden Club (MVGC).
6. Science-based research and management of land for protection of rare species and biological diversity in the case of The Nature Conservancy (TNC).