To the Editor:
I made the unfortunate decision to attend the August 20 meeting of the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank Commission. The meeting began with public comment on the fence at Tradewinds in Oak Bluffs. It was almost immediately apparent from the chair’s impatience and irritability that no proposal from the opponents of the fence would be seriously entertained. The Friends of Tradewinds had made such a proposal at the previous meeting. The Land Bank staff had responded with a memo incredibly dismissive and patronizing. It was so full of misstatements of fact and ludicrous comments that it was clear they had not really considered the proposal at all.
I have been going to and across Tradewinds since I was a kid in the ’50s. It was a lovely, open, peaceful spot. Very special.
A board member reminded those present that the Land Bank enabling legislation put recreational use very low on the priority list. However, open space is a supremely HIGH priority. The fence at Tradewinds is the antithesis of “open.” It is a pen. It is a big playpen for Land Bank staff to play at growing endangered grasses. This is not the Land Bank’s primary purpose. To pretend that the fence is conserving open space is like saying that a tiger cage in a zoo is conserving the African veldt.
I would have thought that the first question put by the commission to anyone proposing a change in the use of Land Bank property would have been, “Does the proposal meet the requirements of the enabling legislation?” The fence proposal does not. The Land Bank Commission “shall not permit … removal or destruction of vegetation without approval of the town advisory board.”Of course, the Land Bank did and continues to destroy quite a bit of vegetation in putting in the fence and the paths, and did not get approval. The Land Bank has frequently denigrated the Oak Bluffs advisory board. It apparently gave far greater weight to the aircraft advisory board. The Land Bank will allow planes inside the fence. But tell Bambi, Thumper, and the lovely little wildflowers that are being ripped out that they aren’t welcome any more. The Land Bank apparently holds the town in as little regard as it does members of the public.
Throughout the many meetings about the dogs and fence, the Land Bank staff has been asked repeatedly to provide real data to support its contention that degradation in the habitat required this drastic, hideous solution. The only real study done in 2014 definitely does not show this. Nor do several comments over the years by the staff ecologist. No data has been forthcoming to prove the Land Bank’s contention. Why didn’t the commission insist on it? The Land Bank has put the public’s right to know at zero. If the Land Bank Commission is just a rubber stamp for the Land Bank proposals, perhaps it is time for a change.