Land Bank buys Sheriff's Meadow Foundation lot, gains Quansoo access
The Sheriff's Meadow Foundation (SMF) on Friday announced it had agreed to sell a six-acre lot off Quansoo Road in Chilmark on Tisbury Great pond to the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank. The sale marks the first property transfer between the Island's two largest conservation organizations, one a private nonprofit, the other a public conservation agency.
The selling price is $3 million. As part of the purchase the Land Bank will gain rights to a public walking trail on an adjoining 145-acre farm, along with access to the Tisbury Great Pond shoreline.
The Land Bank is a public agency funded through a surcharge on real estate transactions. The more than 2,876 acres the Land Bank owns is open to the public for a variety of recreational purposes.
Sheriff's Meadow is a private nonprofit conservation organization founded to preserve open space and wildlife habitat. It currently owns 2,049 acres and holds conservation restrictions over another 588 acres.
The Quansoo lot is part of a 145-acre farm Florence "Flipper" Harris gave to Sheriff's Meadow. According to a press release from SMF, the sale of the lot was provided for in Mrs. Harris' will, in order to provide an endowment for the stewardship of the remainder of the farm.
SMF enlisted Edgartown realtor Tom Wallace to market the property. The initial selling price was set at approximately $3.7 million and was based on an evaluation of the needs of the farm property now and into the future.
Quansoo Road, the winding dirt road on which the property is located, leads to one of the Vineyard's most exclusive sections of private beach. A deed to a sliver of beach comes with a coveted key to the gate that restricts seasonal access to the road and Quansoo beach. The key generally sells for over $300,000.
Until this purchase there was no public access to the shore in the Chilmark portion of the great pond. The Land Bank purchase includes a trail that circles the farm over one and 3/4-miles. A parking trailhead is planned before the gate. In the off-season, visitors will be able to drive down to the Land Bank lot, park, and go shellfishing.
Photo by Tim Johnson
In prepared remarks Starr Simpson, Mrs. Harris's daughter, said her mother loved the property, and the family is pleased it will be conserved. "We are fortunate that the strong oversight of the Land Bank and Sheriff's Meadow will protect such a beautiful part of the outwash plain that forms the southern shore of Martha's Vineyard," said Ms. Simpson.
Steve Crampton of Vineyard Haven, Sheriff's Meadow president, agreed. He said the cooperation between the two organizations provides a blueprint for the future.
In a visit to The Times on Monday, Mr. Crampton said Sheriff's Meadow explored several different avenues, which included selling the lot to a private buyer, but doing so would have led to a house being built along the shore. The preferred option was another conservation group, Mr. Crampton said.
Sheriff's Meadow turned to the Land Bank. The resulting negotiations focused on the nature of public access that would be allowed. Sheriff's Meadow representatives met with neighboring landowners, and the consensus was that if Sheriff's Meadow could strike a deal that would prevent any improvements, the neighbors were willing to listen. Mr. Crampton said the Land Bank has a good record of balancing public access and land protection.
The Island-wide Land Bank commission and the local town advisory board must approve any Land Bank purchase. Mr. Crampton said the Chilmark advisory board was very keen to provide pond access for shellfishing. He said the board also saw an opportunity to provide access via a hiking trail to the beautiful farm property and protect the natural attributes of the lot.
Mr. Crampton said he is very impressed with the Land Bank and its executive director, James Lengyel. "The whole process was extremely enjoyable," he said.
Mr. Crampton said he believes the public has a right to enjoy certain properties, and when Sheriff's Meadow can find a way to provide that opportunity, it will do so. "When this came up, it just seemed ideal," he said. "This is such a magnificent property."
Mr. Lengyel was equally complimentary about working with Sheriff's Meadow and said the property offers unique vistas. "This property is exquisitely situated," said Mr. Lengyel. "It faces due east across the belly of the great pond and to the north, Indian Hill rises above Town Cove."
As with all Land Bank properties, it will remain closed to the public until a management plan is approved.