Three years too long
It's been three years since the Land Bank bought 12 acres on Ice House (Old House) Pond. For the private property owners on the pond, who were horrified by the Land Bank's acquisition on behalf of the public, those three years represent success. They do not want public ownership on their pond. They do not want members of the public swimming or fishing or kayaking or canoeing or picnicking at Ice House, although the private owners and their friends, families, and tenants have enjoyed all of these recreational pursuits for years. Their own houses, decks, stairways to the pond shore, docks, and swim rafts please these private abutters. But, the Land Bank's plan for the property that it calls Manaquayak Preserve includes no buildings or septic systems, no decks, no rafts, no docks, no stairways, no fishing, no tenants and only room for four cars at a time threatens the health of the pond, these private pond owners claim.
We report this morning that one of the abutters, John Scherlis of Washington, D.C., in a letter dated Sept. 11, wrote to the West Tisbury conservation commission that he had spent 40 summers on the pond and that the conservation commission must "do everything within its power as guardian of the town's wetlands" to help the pond. The issue is construction of a swimming perch on the Land Bank property, so that visitors who want to swim will not traipse across the sandy beach, stir up sediment in the shallow water and threaten turtles and insects who live nearby. The conservation commission has approved the perch plan, but now it may consider imposing conditions on its construction and use. The abutters demand conditions that would de facto make the perch and swimming from it impossible. Although these private owners have over decades done nothing to test and safeguard or improve water quality of the pond, they argue that the public's use via the Land Bank ownership will be an order of magnitude more intense and destructive to water quality.
Utter, self-serving hogwash. The Land Bank's record of judicious property management and environmental protection is topnotch. Ice House Pond's natural environment and water quality will be improved by the Land Bank's tightly limited public access plan and the public conservation organization's scrupulous attention to the well-being of its property and the pond. The Land Bank will be the careful conservator of Ice House pond that the private owners have not been.
The opposition of the private owners around Ice House is familiar in its tone and tactics, and it is as shamefully disingenuous as the efforts of Chappy homeowners to block affordable housing in their neighborhood on account of moth habitat, even as one of the parties to the lawsuit was mowing down the habitat to create a helicopter landing zone. James Lengyel, the Land Bank director, has heard it all before, about so many other Land Bank holdings, acquired, like the Ice House Pond property, for our benefit.
"All of those properties today are beautiful natural refuges permanently protected from development, and also well-loved and enjoyed by the Island public," Mr. Lengyel reminds us.