No dirt bikes at Greenlands

To the Editor:

In light of a recent increase in dirt bike and ATV riding within the conservation property owned by the town of West Tisbury known as the Margaret K. Littlefield Greenlands, the conservation commission would like to remind the public of the history behind the acquisition of this property and its value to the Island.

In 1982, a small miracle happened at the annual town meeting in West Tisbury. That night, after several years of work by the West Tisbury conservation commission under the leadership of chairman Peg Littlefield, voters unanimously approved the expenditure of $450,500 to buy 380 acres of open space at the northern edge of town abutting the State Forest. (In 1985, 15 of those acres were transferred to the Division of Environmental Management, in exchange for a 30-foot-wide strip of land to be used as an access to Greenlands.) The effort involved several transactions among three Island towns and the Department of Environmental Management and many, many hours of dedicated work by the conservation commission. This work included a grant application to the state Office of Environmental Affairs for Self-Help monies which provided a matching grant for one-half the purchase price of the land. On that May night, West Tisbury voters affirmed the wisdom of preserving that land for the future. In 2004, this land was re-dedicated to the memory of Peg Littlefield. It is now called the Margaret K. Littlefield Greenlands.

The unassuming piece of land in question happens to sit over the area of the Island’s sole source aquifer, at the point where the lens of that aquifer is closest to the surface of the land, making it particularly susceptible to pollution from development. Protecting this land protects the pure water underneath for the future needs of the Island. It also provides habitat to a number of species that are listed as being of special concern, threatened or endangered under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act.

In the years since then, this land has also been a source of sanctuary for the people who now live around it. Two simple loop trails provide the general public places to walk, bicycle, birdwatch, ride horses, and enjoy the beauty of the open space and quiet afforded within its boundaries of Great Plains Road, Checamo Path, and the Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Vineyard Haven town lines off of Airport Road.

While such permitted activities are part of the Greenlands original management plan, other recent activities are not permitted. The conservation commission reminds the public that riding dirt bikes or ATVs in the Margaret K. Littlefield Greenlands and along Checamo Path is not permitted, either as part of the management plan for the property, or under a local town bylaw passed in May of 1986. This bylaw states that no motorized vehicle use is allowed without the property owner’s permission.

The West Tisbury Police Department and the Environmental Police have recently stepped up patrols in the area. Under a 1986 town of West Tisbury bylaw, violators are subject to a $25 fine for a first offense, and $50 for each subsequent offense. Illegal riders are also subject to a State fine of $250 for the first offense, and $1,000 for a second offense, plus seizure of the vehicle.

To report illegal dirt bike activity in this area, please assist us by calling the Environmental Police at 1-800-632-8075, the West Tisbury Police Department at 508-693-0020, or the Communications Center at 508-693-1212. If you have questions about this matter, please call the conservation commission office at 508-696-6404.

Prudence Burt

Chairman, West Tisbury conservation commission