Land Bank Commission unanimously backs fence at Trade Wind

A 1.4-mile post-and-wire fence will be erected at Trade Wind. — Stacey Rupolo

The battle over the fence at Trade Wind Fields Preserve is apparently over.

After hearing testimony from fence opponents, who spilled into the lobby of Land Bank headquarters in Edgartown, commissioners voted 7-0 to install the 1.4-mile post and wire fence at their regular meeting on Monday afternoon.

The ruling turns a deaf ear to the Oak Bluffs Land Bank Advisory Board, which voted 5-1 last Tuesday night to recommend that the Land Bank Commission postpone construction of the fence for a six-month period.

Oak Bluffs commissioners voted against the fence primarily because a new trail map showed roughly half of the trail that currently lines the perimeter of the grasslands will be rerouted through the surrounding woods.

On Monday, fence opponents expressed safety concerns about walking in dense woods, where ice clings to the trails for long periods and where bikers can collide with walkers on blind curves. Several women said they felt unsafe walking in the woods alone.

Land Bank biologist Julie Russell told commissioners that the rerouting was to comply with conditions of the National Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) permit, which was granted on Nov. 8. Specifically, all fence posts had to be at least 10 feet from any of the species of concern.

Ms. Russell also said a six-month delay would not help inform biologists if the species of concern were increasing in number. She reiterated that previous methods to keep people off of the sandplain grassland at the property, including signage and a part-time monitor, had been unsuccessful over the years.

Opponents of the fence point to the increased lushness of the fields in the past year as evidence of increased cooperation.

Ms. Russell said there was no drought on the Vineyard this summer, and it was impossible to pinpoint the reasons for the regrowth.

The Land Bank Commission initially voted to install the fence on June 6. Fence opponents have presented the commission and the advisory board with several petitions, and have been a vocal presence at public meetings this fall.

At an Oct. 18 public hearing, opponents asked Land Bank staff and board members to consider the dramatic improvement of the property in recent years, which they said is due in part to 95 percent compliance of Land Bank rules.

According to Ms. Russell, the runway and taxiway at Trade Wind are home to rare flora and fauna — the New England blazing star, sandplain blue-eyed grass, and purple tiger beetle — which are designated as species of “special concern” by NHESP, and also to purple needlegrass, which is classified as “threatened.” The New England blazing star was discovered just this summer by Ms. Russell.