Land Bank adds beach, pasture
The Martha's Vineyard Land Bank Wednesday announced purchases in Chilmark and West Tisbury. The latest additions to the public conservation organization's portfolio provide access to a coveted Tisbury Great Pond barrier beach and extend existing trails along the Tiasquam River.
In the first of the two purchases, the Land Bank signed an agreement to purchase an approximately 11-acre sheep pasture off scenic Middle Road owned by Polly Murphy for a price of $1,650,000.
The Chilmark-West Tisbury town line bisects the Murphy land, which leads down to a pond, known as Murphy's Pond, created by a dam on the Tiasquam River. The purchase includes trail easements and will boost the size of the Land Bank's existing Tisaquam River Reservation to 110 acres.
A view of the Murphy sheep pasture off Middle Road located in Chilmark and West Tisbury that will be purchased by the Land Bank. Photo by Ralph Stewart
Polly Murphy, the widow of the late artist Stan Murphy, and lives in the family home on the property.
Land Bank executive director James Lengyel said the purchase agreement includes a provision to subdivide the property in order to create a lot for Ms. Murphy's house.
Mr. Lengyel said that a long-term Land Bank priority is preservation of agricultural lands, especially along public roads. In that sense, this property accomplished both purposes, he said.
The Land Bank purchased the 90-acre Tiasquam River Reservation in 2004 and added an 8.5-acre sheep pasture last April. Preliminary management goals call for the installation of a trail system and maintenance of scenic views.
Chris Murphy of Chilmark said his mother turned to the Land Bank because she is trying to be a good steward of the land she and her husband bought more than 45 years ago. He said the family spoke with several conservation organizations in an effort to protect the land and avoid the crippling estate taxes that might have forced a decision to develop the property.
Mr. Murphy and his wife Barbara said the family has always enjoyed using Land Bank properties, and the agency does a good job of management. He said it just seemed like a perfect fit. "My hope is that the land will always look the way you see it," said Mr. Murphy.
A map of the Tisbury Great Pond barrier beach shows the location of the four lots the Land Bank purchased.
The Land Bank also acquired four barrier beach lots on Tisbury Great Pond for $120,000 each. With the new acquisitions, the Land Bank's property now totals 3.8 acres and provides 400 linear feet of beach.
Long-time West Tisbury seasonal residents Nicholas and Lydia Katzenbach of Princeton, N. J., were the sellers of three of the lots. The sellers of the other lot were Richard and Diana Reische of Wilton, Conn., also long-time West Tisbury seasonal residents.
Mr. Katzenbach's long and distinguished government and academic career included an appointment as US Attorney General in the Johnson administration. Reached at his home in New Jersey for a comment. Mr. Katzenbach said simply that the property was for sale and the Land Bank bought it. "I believe in public beaches; not everybody does, but I do," he added.
Ms. Reische said that the Land Bank purchase of the Katzenbach property would have left her property sandwiched by the Land Bank, and the agency made a fair offer, so there was no reason not to sell.
She said public use of a spectacular property she and her family bought more than 30 years ago to protect their own access is welcome. "If I were making the rules for the state of Massachusetts," she said, "I would say that all beaches have to be open."
The four lots come to the Land Bank with no deed restrictions. The purchases ease the onus of existing deed restrictions on the earlier purchase that limited to 26 the number of people who may enjoy that property.
In November 2004, the Land Bank announced it had bought four 50-foot-wide lots totaling approximately 1.9 acres on the barrier beach for $320,000 from Anthony, Eliza, David, and Mia Lewis. The Land Bank's use of an agent in the transaction - to mask the agency's interest in the waterfront - sparked a howl of outrage from the sellers, who are now unhappy with the Land Bank's plans to provide public access.
Last year, the Land Bank approved a management plan that provides the first public access to the barrier beach. The management plan allows for activities that include swimming, shellfishing, and fishing.
The management plan also provides the public with coveted towel space on a very exclusive stretch of beach, normally accessible only through a locked gate. The going price for a key to that gate and deeded rights to a sliver of beach is approximately $300,000.
Those slivers add up to a long stretch of beach to the west of the parcel the Land Bank acquired. They are owned by members of the Quansoo Beach Association (QBA). The barrier beach property is opposite the Land Bank's Sepiessa Point property, which provides public boat access to the pond and the beach.
"The Land Bank was drawn to the barrier beach in the first place," said Mr. Lengyel, "because we knew there was a great public desire to enjoy that beautiful stretch of beach land, and anything the Land Bank can do to expand that experience will always be a priority."
Mr. Lengyel said the commissioners are delighted to know that the public will be able to enjoy the beach this summer.