Land Bank is a rare and valuable gift

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To the Editor:

I am the conservation commission representative on the Oak Bluffs Land Bank advisory board. In your June 27 editorial on the fence controversy at Trade Winds Field Preserve you stated, “There is plenty of blame to go around.”

Blame is a waste of energy, yet here I am compelled to address it.

True, the Land Bank Commission’s reputation for being aloof has merit, and more public outreach would have been useful in the transition to a fence at Trade Winds.
True, the Oak Bluffs Land Bank advisory board should more effectively communicate with the Land Bank Commission.

True, some dog owners who visit Trade Winds have, for years, ignored Land Bank signs, brochures, and staff urging them to stay on the paths and avoid the field. When the fence proposal was announced, the opponents were quick to comply with the rules, asserting that there was now 95 percent compliance and thus a fence was not needed. Adults should not need ultimatums to obey rules. The outrage over the fence glosses over the fact that some users’ poor behavior created the problem.

Let’s talk about conservation for a moment.

The dog owners’ opposition to the fence has been loud. People have a right to lobby and fight for what they believe in. The natural environment does not have that luxury. It is the role of the Land Bank commissioners, staff, and advisory boards to be the voice of the environment.

Land Bank property and all open space protects our groundwater and ecosystems, filters pollutants, absorbs carbon dioxide, and provides places for humans to wander and enjoy the natural beauty of the Island. Open space helps prevent overdevelopment, which requires more town services and thus increases taxes.

The Land Bank relieves pressure on the fiscally strapped towns to acquire land for conservation. Land Bank land is open to the public (with some limitations aimed at protecting the environmental values of the properties). If the many Land Bank properties were developed, the Island would lose the character that makes it such a special place. And the character, the natural environment, is the foundation of the local economy.

The Land Bank does not compete with affordable housing goals. Land purchased by the Land Bank is generally not conducive to affordable housing projects; it is either coastal property that has building limitations and is extremely costly, or land that is outside the town centers, far from schools, amenities, and public transportation. The Land Bank works with affordable housing groups to provide land for affordable housing (see the Land Bank website for details.)

The fence situation could have been handled more gracefully by all parties. But this is also true: Unlike some institutions that wobble and waver in their mission, the Land Bank is steadfast in its legislative mandate to acquire and manage land for conservation and passive recreational use. The Land Bank is a rare and valuable gift to the Island.

Liz Durkee
Oak Bluffs