To the Editor:
The tone of recent editorials in both newspapers and comments by elected officials and citizens in response to the Land Bank’s management of its Trade Wind Fields Preserve is extremely troubling. To suggest that “we need to be talking about redirecting transfer tax money, including the Land Bank’s 2 percent, and more if we need it, to help pay for the equitable and effective infrastructure all Islanders need” is a shortsighted and narrow view on par with throwing the baby out with the bath water. Since its inception, the Land Bank has preserved 495 acres in the town of Oak Bluffs alone, to the tune of nearly $28 million. This could not, and would not, have happened without the Land Bank and the town of Oak Bluffs working together on this common goal.
The town of Oak Bluffs and concerned citizens should apply their energy and resources to developing a dog park where the level of use is compatible with the land. The only mistake the Land Bank might have made here was letting this situation get to this point, but one might argue that this is to their credit: attempting to work closely with a particular user group over multiple years to achieve compliance with stated management goals. This has proved impossible on the Tradewinds preserve. That this particular user group continues to feel disenfranchised is no fault of the Land Bank. People dissatisfied with the way things work should get involved through the town advisory boards, or run for office on the central commission. They should do so not as a means to further their own narrow self-interest, but to participate in the larger work of the Land Bank’s mission and to serve all of its constituents.
The Land Bank has been quietly doing the incredibly difficult job of walking a fine line of preserving farmland and open space, beach and pond access, creating affordable housing (over a dozen significant projects which would not have otherwise happened), and meeting the needs of diverse user groups for over 30 years. I have not agreed with every decision, but neither have I ever wavered from the belief that creating the Land Bank is one of the finest things we have done here in my lifetime, and its work is nowhere near complete. In particular, I greatly admire executive director Lengyel’s ability to keep this ship steering straight on its course, adapting to the Island’s changing needs along the way, but never deviating from the Land Bank’s central mission of environmental protection.