Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank buys Gay Head cliff acre

The fabled Gay Head Lighthouse overlooks the cliffs. — File photo by Ezra Newick

The Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank announced Monday that it has purchased one acre abutting its Aquinnah Headlands preserve, a property that overlooks the Gay Head Cliffs and Moshup Beach.

The price was $225,000, and the seller was the Vineyard Open Land Foundation (VOLF).

Although small compared to many Land Bank acquisitions, the small parcel will allow the public conservation agency to take steps to protect an overused path that is subject to considerable erosion. That path, after improvement by the Land Bank, may give public access to the beach below, called Pilot’s Landing, where steamboats once stopped.

James Lengyel, Land Bank executive director, told The Times the public conservation agency tries to add to its existing properties whenever possible. “Now, as a result of this, we are nearing fifty acres for the whole preserve,” he said.

VOLF acquired the acre as part of an earlier unconnected land deal. “Pilot’s Landing did not fit the Foundation’s current conservation management goals,” Eric Peters, VOLF chairman, said in an email to The Times. “VOLF felt that the Land Bank was in the best position to manage this historic property for the future by adding it to the Aquinnah Headlands Preserve.”

The purchase forecloses the possibility of any future development.

“The property abuts an area of some environmental damage,” Mr. Lengyel said in a press release. “A path cuts across the cliff face here and use of it has led to considerable erosion. In order to protect the resource while it studies the land, the Land Bank intends to install fencing and gates, in order to prevent additional destruction.”

Mr. Lengyel said town and tribe officials ill have access for public safety purposes. A management plan will be drafted to address all of the use issues, he said.

Environmental concern for the property that the Land Bank has just acquired. And that concern was the spur for a lawsuit brought by nearby property owners, Hugh and Jeanne Taylor, owners of the Outermost Inn, filed June 11, 2010, against the Land Bank in Massachusetts Land Court.

The lawsuit contends the Land Bank’s proposed use of the property and use of a path over the property to access trails, boardwalks, and lookout sites would significantly overburden the property.