Chris Bruno is the new Manuel F. Correllus State Forest superintendent. He will oversee the 5,343 acres of wooded land in the center of the Island, and the miles of hiking and cycling trails that many residents, visitors, and their dogs enjoy throughout the year. Mr. Bruno’s tenure began Jan. 8.
Mr. Bruno, 36, who lives on Chappy and is originally from New Orleans, says his experience has prepared him to handle land management, visitor engagement, and program development for the State Forest. He was the land manager for Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, and most recently The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR) Chappaquiddick superintendent.
“I feel like coming into this position, I have a well-established rapport with a lot of the community and a lot of the organizations here, as well as the land management aspect, knowing the flora and fauna, and some of the habitat’s needs,” Mr. Bruno said in a recent interview with The Times.
The state created the forest in 1908 as the Heath Hen Reserve, in an attempt to prevent the bird’s extinction. The last heath hen was seen in 1932. Today, the forest is managed for recreation, mostly hiking and cycling on its bike paths.
In a conversation with The Times, Leo Roy, Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) commissioner, said his agency is “excited” to install Mr. Bruno as the new superintendent because of his familiarity as an Island resident with the Vineyard, its habitat, and its people.
“He had a lot of preexisting relationships with conservation groups and locally elected officials, so we’re delighted to find such a strong candidate to take over the management of the forest,” Mr. Roy said.
Several dozen applicants sought the job, according to Mr. Roy, and after a committee at the DCR interviewed several of them, Mr. Bruno’s candidacy stood out.
The job, Mr. Bruno said, was “essentially something I was aspiring to get to.”
At Sheriff’s Meadow, Mr. Bruno managed properties across the Island, maintaining trails and kiosk entrance stations. He worked with various agencies to conduct prescribed burns, mow open spaces, and manage invasive and exotic species.
On Chappy, Mr. Bruno had similar duties, and also handled beach management. He ran a 20-person crew throughout the summer season, helping visitors who were driving, walking, or boating to the beaches.
He described his role as “an ambassador, not only for the organization but for the Island,” managing the forest for visitors to enjoy what the Vineyard has to offer.
Mr. Bruno’s responsibilities include maintaining trails for hiking and cycling, overseeing habitat management, mowing, and conducting prescribed fires. He also plans to continue the pheasant-release program for hunters.
As for the superintendent’s house in the forest, according to Mr. Roy, the state is renovating it to improve the office for Mr. Bruno and to house the various crews who come to the Island to do work in the forest, including environmental police officers and forestry and fire-patrol staff.
Mr. Bruno says he is especially looking forward to the development of new programs and educational initiatives, and he would like the State Forest to be a place where people can hear ranger talks or local experts discuss matters that are specific to the Vineyard. He intends to involve Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS), taking students out for hikes. The goal of these programs, he said, is “to really open up people’s eyes to this amazing resource that we have here on the Island.”
“I have a lot of good momentum and a lot of experience I’m bringing into this, and I’m going to work with an amazing group of folks to help bring all that together,” Mr. Bruno said.