TTOR – a winter’s preparation for Martha’s vineyard summer

— Photo by Susan Safford

They’re the unsung heroes of Martha’s Vineyard, the volunteers and staff of The Trustees of Reservations who work tirelessly through the winter and spring to ensure the Island’s beaches, properties, and other attractions are primed and ready for the enjoyment of visitors and residents during the summer. Significantly, their mission includes actively managing the lands for the care and protection of our wildlife habitat.

Typical of this year’s spirited effort is the more than 350 hours of labor contributed by the Island Girl Scouts, Community Corrections, MV Surfcasters, and individual volunteers. More specifically, they’ve helped The Trustees’ staff clean the beaches and erect five miles of shorebird and predator control fencing on Chappy and Norton Point.

The list of projects successfully completed across the Island is both diverse and plentiful. It includes the burning of more than 50 acres of land at Wasque and Long Point to improve rare species habitat; clearing a trail to a new swimming beach at Wasque Reservation (where the erosion has thankfully been slowed); mowing previously burned grasslands at Wasque; and assisting the US Army Corps of Engineers in its efforts to locate World War II era ordnance. In addition, The Trustees of Reservations are creating a plan to relocate over-sand vehicle (OSV) trails and repair roadways that have become prone to flooding at Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge.

Shorebird protection

Already widely recognized for their commitment to shorebird protection, The Trustees identified this spring 14 pairs of plovers on the beach stretching from Cape Poge Gut to Katama. Of the eight pairs that established nests on Norton Point Beach, Leland Beach, and at the Elbow, seven were enclosed in protective wire cages by staff members and volunteers. Moreover, the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife (MDFW) is expected to mandate several OSV beach closures this summer to further protect the vulnerable plovers.

The Trustees know the disappointment these closures may cause for visitors this summer, but we are committed that the strict guidelines of the MDFW regarding vehicular access to Island beaches be followed.

Vulnerable baby seals

Concerns for habitat extend this season to the Island’s seal population. At least 15 harp and grey seal pups with illnesses chose Norton Point, Wasque and Cape Poge to convalesce. Sadly, many of them have died over the past couple of months.

The Trustees received many calls from Islanders offering assistance, and we appreciate the concern. But the fact is these young seals — which come under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 — must be left alone. Indeed, authorities have advised that interaction with humans could increase their stress levels and prematurely force them back into the water.

Best fishing in years

We’ve all grown accustomed to the sight of early season fishermen at Cape Poge, Wasque and Norton Point. And this year their numbers have grown, thanks to some of the best spring fishing in years for bass and blues, according to summer fishing tour guide Peter Johnson. As a result, The Trustees have deployed some of their seasonal staff earlier than usual, in order to monitor the beaches and respond to the needs of fishermen.

Staff enhancements

As many of you know, The Trustees recently made several key staff appointments. Chris Kennedy moved from his previous role as The Trustees’ southeast regional director to the newly created post of Martha’s Vineyard superintendent. Thanks to his 23 years with The Trustees, Chris is eminently qualified for his new responsibilities. Likewise, Sarah Trudel, a Vineyard native, transitioned from the position of southeast engagement manager to the new role of part-time educator for the Claire Saltonstall Program.

The Trustees are also pleased to welcome new Seasonal superintendents David Bouck for Long Point and Kate O’Donnell for Chappy, both of whom have solid histories with The Trustees. Kate worked in education and administration at our Weir River Farm in Hingham, while David served for five seasons at Long Point Wildlife Refuge as a beach ranger and chief ranger.

For more information on the upcoming summer season, please visit Also, mark July 2 on your calendars for The Trustees’ community Forum at the Chappy Community Center, at 11 am. At that time, the organization will welcome comments from the community on its management, staffing, and land and resource protection practices.

Thomas Healey is chairman of The Trustees of Reservations Chappaquiddick committee. Katherine Abbott is executive vice president of The Trustees of Reservations.