Land Bank puts up fence at Tradewinds

Despite public outcry at meeting Monday, Land Bank holds firm.

The Martha's Vineyard Land Bank Commission has begun construction on the controversial fence at Trade Winds Field Preserve in Oak Bluffs. — Gabrielle Mannino

Updated June 5

The Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank Commission has begun construction of a wire mesh fence along the perimeter of Trade Winds Field Preserve in Oak Bluffs, known by frequent users as simply Tradewinds.

The wire mesh is held up by wooden posts set along the preserve. Land Bank maintenance crew members spent several hours Thursday morning completing part of the fence, with the hope of having the fence and gates completed within the next two weeks.

The fence will close off the current path many pedestrians stroll through and walk their dogs on. A new trail system has been created along the perimeter of the fence.

The construction of the fence has been a topic of hot debate for the past 20 years, as the Land Bank has tried to find an equilibrium with dog owners.

The Land Bank has tried to educate the public on the damage dogs and foot traffic can do to the preserve by placing signs along the trails. “It was really the amount and the repeated use of the property that we were trying to discourage. The fence was a last resort, getting people to stay on the trail system,” Julie Russell, Land Bank ecologist, said in a phone conversation with the Times.

The 71.8 acres of land is a sandplain grassland, a unique type of grassland home to many rare species of flora and fauna such as the purple tiger beetle, purple needlegrass, northern blazing star, and sandplain blue-eyed grass.

When asked why planes can land on the grassland, Russell told the Times, it had to with the frequency of habitat disturbance; some is good, but too much can be harmful. Tradewinds is a federally recognized airfield, but is an “uncontrolled airport,” which means it does not have the same regulations as an airport with a control tower, according to Mike Nagle, who helps manage planes landing at Tradewinds. Each year, pilots must apply to the Land Bank for a permit to land at Tradewinds. This year, the Land Bank has approved nine pilots; the permit allows them to land and take off as many times as they wish, until the license expires on Dec. 31. The Land Bank does not keep a record of the number of landings and takeoffs at Tradewinds, according to Land Bank fiscal officer Cindy Krauss. The big tires and light weight of the planes “don’t have the same impact people do,” Russell said of people, who can go to the preserve daily, “When you step down you dig in with your foot. A tire doesn’t have that kind of impact.”

Rita Brown, a public user of the trails, felt people had used the path for many years and there was never a problem. “I think it’s a real shame that this beautiful vista is being fenced. It’s an outrageous shame,” she said.

Similarly, Phil Cordella, another frequenter of the trails, was not impressed with the fence. “It’s an abomination,” he said. “I truly feel a human element is missing, to disrupt the type of enjoyable use of a lot of people from different towns; it’s very upsetting.”

The Land Bank commissioners, executive director Jim Lengyel, land superintendent Ian Peach, and ecologist Julie Russell fielded a barrage of questions from frustrated Tradewinds walkers during a public comment section at a meeting at the West Tisbury library Monday.

Several of the walkers were taken aback by the $65,000 price tag of the fence project, and the fact that none of the commissioners had been to the property since the construction of the fence began.

The walkers expressed safety concerns, saying parts of the new path led to undeveloped trail area, tick-infested areas, and had limited access in case of an emergency. Concerns over birds using the wooden posts and carrying in invasive species were raised because chemicals might be used. Land Bank chairwoman Priscilla Sylvia explained the Land Bank would maintain the property and never use chemicals, instead hand-pulling any weeds or invasives that might grow near the posts.

“I’m basically here to plead with your senses and to stop the fence now before it goes much longer,” Cordella said.

Peach explained several gates would be put in at the trail heads and near the airplane hangar. Registered pilots, emergency personnel, and maintenance crews would be the only ones given access through the gates.

After 35 minutes of public comment, Sylvia gave repeated warnings that commenting would have to end due to a Land Bank budget meeting, but many of the walkers demanded the Land Bank owed them at least half an hour more.

“The thing that’s the most frustrating is the fact that it has improved so drastically in the last three or four years, not only as a result of improved user compliance,” Oak Bluffs resident Mark Jenkins said at the meeting. “The decision to build the fence was not, ‘This place is going to hell, we have to build a fence,’ the decision was, ‘This place is improving drastically, and you know what, we’re just going to go ahead and build a fence.’ It seemed like the Land Bank was in a corner and felt like we’re just going to go ahead and bust through this, because you know what, opinion’s against us, but we see this small window to do this.”

The decision was defended by Land Bank officials. “The Land Bank’s top goal is environmental protection, and that’s a fence that has been used elsewhere across Martha’s Vineyard with great success, both practically and scenically. The management plan is being implemented according to its terms,” Lengyel said.

Despite public disdain, the Land Bank stood by the fence, saying after rerouting parking, rerouting trails, and putting up educational signs, nothing seemed to be working, and the fence was there to stay.

“We’re not trying to push you up against things,” Peach said. “The fence is where it is, period. You may not like the fence, but we can offer you a place to walk.”

Updated with Monday’s Land Bank meeting. – Ed.


  1. I don’t use Tradewinds but I feel for the people that do….the fence is ridiculous. Many years people have used this land and now it’s an issue?? One person has determined it’s detrimental to grass and a beetle?? I hope someone sues and they rip that fence down, it’s a shame. Hey, Julie Russell, why don’t you publish an extensive report that shows how “dangerous” it is for us to enjoy Tradewinds??

  2. Those DAM arrogant dog owners have been warned literally dozens of times that they were abusing the privilege and they just gave everybody the finger thinking they were entitled!
    I love the fence, wish it was put up with barbed wire and electrified.
    Hopefully when they try to rip it down which they will that will be the next step!

    • I think you meant DAMN? And please don’t generalize. The few that ruined it for everyone by not respecting the rules are a small group. It’s very hard to comprehend. Definitely not what I thought the Landbank was for. So many other constructive ways that money and time could be spent.

  3. LB access without allowing our companion pets to run and interact in an open fields as we have the last 30 years, is an abomination. The pure joy these past years have enabled me to loose 20 lbs and am much healthier. One single healthy result should trump all the heavy duty wire in the world. Also not mentioned or appreciated has been the extremely social/emotional benefits it has given to hundreds of people, interacting, and yes, looking forward to many lovely random encounters with fellow Vineyarders on a daily basis. The Land BANK have loost its’ course and accomplished their very sad goal, ending our use and spitefully hurting the many. Horrible, just horrible.

  4. Good fences make good neighbors. Good neighbors respect one another’s property. Good farmers, for example, maintain their fences in order to keep their livestock from wandering onto neighboring farms. This proverb appears in the poem “Mending Wall,” by Robert Frost.

  5. Not every dog owner is irresponsible; won’t attempt a percentage but it’s not often I can walk a park path and not have to step around where a dog owner missed a deposit.

    As for dog parks, they seem to get avoided. Too much canine camaraderie? Dog parks tend to stink after a bit of use, I’d say the other reason. Is Trade Winds a nature preserve or a dog park?

  6. I will agree that the great majority of dog owners are responsible with their dogs, and create no problems.
    However the land bank’s primary responsibility is not to provide access for dogs. It is to protect the non human organisms that live on their managed properties. Just a few instances of irresponsible human/canine behavior ( and I am not blaming the dogs) can impact a fragile eco system, and consequently, the ability of responsible dog owners to enjoy the property.
    In the end– the land bank is doing it’s job.

  7. The Land Bank clearly exceeded their mandate when they decided to move forward with this fence even after the Oak Bluffs Land Bank Advisory Committee voted to delay the decision. Although I agree that some dog owners abused their privileges at Tradewinds, I truly believe that people started self policing when the Land Bank started trying to protect the middle of the area. So sad that it had to come to this and that such a great property has been ruined by an agenda that obviously had no regard for the public’s wishes.

  8. How many times must you liberal elitist dog owners be warned and threatened with repercussions before you realize that the majority are totally sick of your demands and arrogrances!
    You demand dog parks, abuse then abandon them because no one picks up after you and your dogs.
    You then move on to the beautiful island`s pathways, trails and beaches and abuse those places so much that signage and bylaw reminders must be posted at our expense.
    You have created these problems for yourselves, pushed all of us to the limit now pay the consequences and stop complaining!

  9. Opponents of the fence should take turns hosting dog walkers, at least until this is settled so it shouldn’t be forever.

  10. Tradewinds is not only utilized by dog owners. It is also widely used by cyclists, joggers and nature lovers, not to mention drone flyers. There has also been a popular geocaching spot here. The dog owners may be the biggest group but certainly not the only and I would even say not the only ones that have used well worn trails that exist but were later deemed off limits. Also the LB signs clearly stated that dog traffic was not a threat to these species now the tune seems to have changed to defend this fence that consists of nearly 400 six inch diameter posts with mesh wiring between. It’s easy to target dog owners when they are the most vocal. It’s a slippery slope though. I wonder how many other LB properties are home to endangered species? Do you want to be fenced out of a beloved spot of yours? Do you want to be punished for the recklessness of a few? Fence off beaches permanently because some users leave trash or violate plover signs? I think not.

    • If humans cannot be trusted with our planet, I am willing to be punished for the recklessness of a few. Not happy about it but if the few persist, the planet will be lessened by their efforts.

  11. Celsmo. There are plenty of people who if given authority would indeed close our beaches to defend the plovers. We already see this on a temporary basis but they would love it full time. these same people would be aghast if you told them you pee in the ocean. Meanwhile much of MV looks like a junkyard.

  12. What has become abundantly clear is that the majority of comments in favor of this fence are from people that have never set foot on the Tradewinds property, certainly not before and after the fence. It does not “stink”. Walkers are not trampling all over the grasses. There is ONE well worn path that is the root of this. To my recollection the history is as follows. Years ago we only ever walked the perimeter path (The exception was deep snow). There were far fewer daily walkers. The trails were not managed regularly but the path was well established and the parking was off the one way road on County by the hangar. The gentleman that managed the hangar decided to spread moth balls in that entire area to keep wildlife away. (Not sure what moth balls do to beetles and such). Concerned dog owners called the LB and were told to avoid that area thereby avoiding conflict. We did. The outcome of which was a single path to avoid the hangar which is the County Road leg of the park. Facts are everything here. I hope this debate brings people out to visit the property and make a well informed comment and judgement.

    • Are you saying a person who has not visited (for example) Yellowstone Park may not advocate for Park Service to prevent damage by visitors?

      • I was not saying that at all. I was saying if people visited Tradewinds they could see how beautiful it is and how the plains are prospering, which the Land Bank fully admits.

  13. And there are Americans who do not care about clean air and water, preserving the natural food chain of which we are part, flora and fauna, because of . . . why? What makes them not care if they trash the planet for future generations?

  14. It’s interesting what the Land Bank perspective is on the airplanes. Perhaps they have not seen how this airstrip is utilized. The majority of pilots that i have witnessed land here do it as a training of takeoffs and landings. That is to say, they repeat the practice a number of times ina single hour kicking up sand and grass. Clearly this is not the subtle usage that Ms Russell suggests.

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