Vineyard walkers rejoice in new edition of primer


The fourth edition of “Walking Trails of Martha’s Vineyard” by William Flender arrived in bookstores just before Christmas. I was delighted to find a copy in my stocking and not just because the author happens to be my nephew. I am an avid walker and this pocket-sized book has been my steady guide since the first edition came out in 1996.

Published by the Vineyard Conservation Society, the new edition features 53 walks, stretching from the Gay Head Moraine in Aquinnah to Wasque Reservation on Chappaquiddick. Walks range from easy strolls at small conservation areas such as Polly Hill Arboretum in West Tisbury to hikes that can take an entire day and lead you from one side of the Island to the other.

The format of the new book is similar to previous editions. For each walk there is a full-page map on the left hand page that shows trails, parking, and special features. Facing it on the right hand page is a concise write-up of the walk. Walks are organized according to which town the property is in. A fold-out map of the Island in the back pocket makes it easy to see where walks are located and how areas and trails are inter-connected. What is new this time is the inclusion of photographs by John Flender, the author’s father, that give you a sense of what you might see.

Comparing this fourth edition with earlier ones, it is exciting to see how much land has been and continues to be put into conservation on the Island. Half a dozen new preserves up-Island are introduced, some of them links in the increasingly inter-connected trail system. The biggest news of the new “Walking Trails,” these new trails connect formerly isolated preserves and now make it possible for the walker to take much longer, more extensive hikes. For example, it is now possible to walk all the way from Waskosim’s Rock off North Road in Chilmark to Quansoo Preserve, just off south shore.

Now an environmental attorney in Burlington, Vermont, Mr. Flender knows what it takes to make preserves and trail possible. A lifelong summer resident of the Island, he has always enjoyed exploring the woods and trails around his family home in Chilmark. Active with the Vineyard Conservation Society since 1990 he has served there as both a volunteer and a staff member.

In a recent phone interview, Mr. Flender emphasized strongly that trails don’t just happen, and he urged people to get involved. He praised the Island conservation groups and individuals that have worked and continue to work together to preserve land and make trails and trail connections possible.

The Nature Conservancy, Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, The Trustees of Reservations, Vineyard Conservation Society, the Vineyard Open Land Foundation, the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank and town boards and committees are all actively engaged in creating and maintaining trails.

Mr. Flender particularly applauded the work of the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank. “The Land Bank are the biggest movers and shakers,” he said. “In the last five years, since the third edition of the book came out, by design or because of the way things are happening in the real estate market, the Land Bank has focused on connecting their properties.”

The results have been heartening, according to the author, whose goals are reflected in the Land Bank’s approach. “I was always looking for new trails and ways to connect the different trails,” he said.

When asked which new preserve excited him most, Flender talked about the newly acquired Ocean View Farm Preserve on Abel’s Hill. “Ocean View Farm is a great trail connection,” he said. “It ties together key conservation areas in Chilmark.” Walkers can now walk from Fulling Mill to Middle Road Sanctuary and beyond.

Curious to see Ocean View Farm for myself (and to try out the book), I arranged to meet a friend at Fulling Mill. After walking our usual loop, we followed the well-marked trail to Ocean View Farm — guide book in hand. Absorbed in conversation as we moseyed along, we were unprepared for the outstanding view from the top of Abel’s Hill out over the south shore to the Atlantic. The panoramic sweep of sky and sea stretches from Chilmark Pond to Squibnocket and out across to Nomans Land. We wanted to continue on to Middle Road Sanctuary, but we were out of time, and had to be satisfied with a promise to take this longer walk soon.

In a world where open spaces are vanishing and restrictions on them increasing, it’s exciting to live in a place where land is being preserved and where there is greater access to it. Thanks to this new edition of Walking Trails of Martha’s Vineyard, walkers of all types can significantly expand their repertoire, and with it their knowledge of the Island.

Today I made a new loop from Blackwater Pond Preserve to Cranberry Acres and back using Shubael Weeks Path. Quansoo Preserve and Brookside Ridge both in Chilmark and Phillips Preserve in Tisbury are all new to the book and new to me. Tomorrow I’ll choose one, grab the book, and go.

If you’re a walker, the new edition of “Walking Trails of Martha’s Vineyard” is an essential resource. I keep my copy in the glove compartment because there’s no telling when I might end up in a new spot with the opportunity to explore. Or I might just need a good suggestion, and this book has plenty of them.