To the Editor:
As a resident of Oak Bluffs, I am dismayed to see how the Land Bank Commission is desecrating one of our town’s most treasured resources, Trade Wind Fields Preserve.
I will avoid testing your patience by listing the multitudes of reasons so many of our townspeople are devoted to Tradewinds. Suffice it to say, there is an entire Facebook page dedicated to people’s experiences at Tradewinds, including photos of snow, deer, rainbows, turtles, and, yes, plain old grass and fog. This is truly a special place.
And now the Land Bank Commission is building a 2.5-mile-long fence in the center of this property — the very area that defines this beautiful preserve. The massive structure is made of ugly pressure-treated posts and even uglier galvanized steel fencing (much heavier-duty fencing, I might add, than they informed the Oak Bluffs Land Bank Advisory Board they were going to install).
Since its formation, the Land Bank Commission has done a lot right. It has got this very wrong.
In its management plan for Tradewinds, approved in 2003 by the Oak Bluffs Land Bank Advisory Board and the Commonwealth, the Land Bank Commission lists several goals. The second of these goals addresses “Recreation and Aesthetics.” The document states that its goal will be to “maintain attractive views and landscapes” and to “maintain view of property from County Road.” It is impossible to reconcile the Land Bank Commission’s current actions with this stated goal. You cannot maintain attractive views and landscapes by placing something large and ugly right in the middle of these views and landscapes!
I cannot believe the Oak Bluffs Land Bank advisory board would have approved the purchase of Tradewinds in 1989 if it knew that the Land Bank Commission would eventually build such a fence and despoil this beautiful open space in our town.
This 2.5-mile-long fence will shut people out from large areas of this property, a property that has been used for decades by Islanders from all walks of life, but particularly these days by senior citizens and working people who live in Oak Bluffs and other down-Island towns. How ironic that on its website home page, the Land Bank Commission tells us it came into existence because here on Martha’s Vineyard our “‘freedom to roam’ was curtailed as fences were erected across trails.”
The Land Bank Commission is claiming that the habitat at Tradewinds is threatened by excessive use of the property. And yet it has never provided any evidence that this is the case. In fact, anyone who has visited Tradewinds recently cannot fail to recognize that thanks primarily to the efforts of those who use the property, Tradewinds has never looked better.
For the above reasons, in December 2017 the Oak Bluffs Land Bank advisory board voted 5-1 for the Land Bank Commission to postpone construction of the fence. Shockingly, the vote was rejected by the Land Bank Commissioners, who refused to even visit the property to make an onsite assessment. Note that the 1985 legislative act creating the Land Bank Commission states that “the adoption or change of any … management plan shall be subject to the approval of the town advisory board of any such town or towns.” The Land Bank Commission will tell you that it is not changing its management plan, but this is patently and obviously untrue. By choosing to ignore one of its primary goals of maintaining the aesthetic value of this property, the Land Bank Commission is de facto changing its management plan.
To repeat: The Land Bank Commission has got this very wrong. It has backed itself into a corner and will not admit it. This despite strenuous opposition in the form of a petition signed by hundreds of people, many letters to our local newspapers, a newspaper editorial, an overwhelming down-vote by the Oak Bluffs advisory board, and vigorous protest at Land Bank Commission meetings.
The grotesque barricade the Land Bank Commission is building at Tradewinds defies common sense and the spirit in which the preserve was acquired, and the clumsy and disingenuous excuses the Land Bank Commission has employed to build it say much more about its management style than any effort to practice conservationism.
I say, Stop the construction of the wall, and remove what has been built so far, so that Oak Bluffs can be proud again of this wonderful space.