Fence, dogs, and people can coexist

14

To the Editor:

Dogs continue to be welcome at the Trade Wind Fields Preserve, on its extensive trail system. The circular path has not been interrupted by the installation of the new fence, which was erected to accomplish the Land Bank’s top priority, that is, protection of the sandplain grassland habitat. This comports with the larger Land Bank philosophy: The institution’s core mission is environmental protection, with public access characterized as a very important, but nonetheless subordinate, goal.

Conflicts between environmental protection and public access arose at Trade Wind nearly two decades ago, and the Land Bank has, since that time, been working to resolve them. In 2001 it prepared a report — Trade Wind Fields Preserve Canine-human Interaction Report — which broached the concept of a protective fence. In 2003 the management plan was updated, in part to identify and sanction various measures, including a fence, that would defend this important area.

I should note that the only thing that the Land Bank asks of its users, on all of its properties across the six towns, is that they confine their use to designated trails. In all of the other properties, visitors have complied, and the properties’ habitats have not been jeopardized. Because of its open configuration, with trails around a wide landscape, compliance has proven impossible at Trade Wind.

The Land Bank has been persistent in seeking to persuade visitors to respect the grassland. Signs were posted, explaining the sandplain’s sensitivity. The Land Bank staff met onsite with users to describe the ecological goals and to field questions. An attendant was hired to roam the preserve and tactfully approach visitors to urge them to stay on the trails.

Nothing worked. We continued to see people leaving the perimeter trail and crossing and recrossing the vulnerable grassland. As a last resort, the Land Bank has accepted that the only way to achieve its conservation goals is to separate the grassland from the recreational trails with a fence.

Available for public review on the Land Bank website are two particular documents. The first is a Nov. 29, 2017, memorandum to the Oak Bluffs advisory board outlining the legal basis for the commission’s actions. The management plan was duly approved by the advisory board and the commonwealth’s environmental affairs secretary, in accordance with both sections three and six of the Land Bank law, thus authorizing the commission to proceed.

The second is an excerpt from the commission’s Dec. 11, 2017, minutes. Trade Wind users attended the meeting and made their case, and commissioners compromised in the fence layout so as to route it in a manner that maximized exposure to the environs of the grassland.

The Dec. 11 public discussion was one of many. There has been no shortage of public meetings where citizens aired their concerns and interests. It should be noted that sandplain habitat cannot speak for itself — that duty falls to the Land Bank Commission.

As for the particular fence design, the Land Bank originally considered a tensile pattern. It was poorly received by users at a public meeting, so the Land Bank conferred with other conservation organizations and settled on an agricultural woven-weave. It happens to be the same design used elsewhere by the commission (participants on June 2’s Cross-Island Hike walked by stretches of it on their trek from Menemsha to Lambert’s Cove Road).

The Land Bank has made two recommendations to Trade Wind visitors. The first is that they should offer suggestions as to additional loop trails and additional benches that could be installed on the preserve for individuals with limited mobility. The second is that they should be seeking out an existing park, in Oak Bluffs or elsewhere, where a dog park can be designed and sited. A dog park in a conservation reservation such as Trade Wind Fields is indeed trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

The following statement, which has appeared on the Land Bank map for many years, summarizes the institution’s reasoning: Neither a sanctuary program nor a park system, the Land Bank is a middle ground where the highest virtues of conservation can be realized: public enjoyment of nature, where limits and restraint secure the natural world’s future and prosperity.

James Lengyel, executive director
Land Bank

14 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for presenting the Land Bank perspective and some recent history of Trade Wind Fields Preserve.

    • new englander read the jenkins post below. there is no useful land bank perspective. you havent done your homework.

      • I read the Jenkins post, it reeks of objectivity. Did you go to the Land Bank page and read their perspective? Seems not.

        • Apologies, meant “subjective.” It’s time for another cup of coffee.

          The Land Bank page link gives more perspective, I can’t access it here at work.

  2. Dear Oak Bluffs Select Board,

    Mr. Lengyel deserves credit for his attempt to defend the Land Bank’s construction of a 2.5-mile-long galvanized steel fence in the center of one of our town’s most treasured natural landmarks. It is unfortunate that he is unwilling to appear before the Oak Bluffs Select Board to address the many glaring errors and omissions in his letter. Some of the questions Tradewinds users would have liked the Select Board to ask him include:

    “Where is the evidence the Preserve is in decline?” Since this matter hinges on the health of the habitat we all care about, why hasn’t the Land Bank ever produced any evidence that the sandplain or any of the species there are threatened? Never has the ecologist produced any data of the sort that says, for example, there are fewer purple tiger beetles per square yard than there were 10 years ago, or that the percentage area of northern blazing star grass has declined in the last 5 years. The reason no evidence has been provided is clear – Tradewinds is anything but imperiled. It is obvious to anyone who has spent time there the last few years that the Preserve is in fact flourishing.

    “Why not acknowledge the fact that user compliance has improved dramatically?” Of the total number people who use the Preserve, only a very small number stray off the trails. User compliance has improved dramatically in a short period of time. One of the main reasons it took time to reach current compliance levels is that the Land Bank had the habit of changing its messaging frequently, a fact the Land Bank acknowledges. This has caused frustration on the part of Preserve users who sometimes ask themselves, “What are the rules going to be this week?” In such an open physical environment, 100% voluntary user compliance is unrealistic to expect and it is a testament to its users that compliance is so high.

    “Why ignore the public’s efforts to assist the Land Bank?” At an Oak Bluffs Land Bank Advisory Board meeting in October 2017 a number of town citizens who use Tradewinds offered to form the Friends of Tradewinds citizens group whose stated mission was, “To enhance the ecology and aesthetic value of Tradewinds by promoting responsible use by visitors.” The Land Bank started categorically that it had no interest in working with such a group (see attachment).

    “Why did the Land Bank reject the Oak Bluffs Land Bank Advisory Board’s 5-1 vote to postpone construction of the fence?” Rejecting this vote was in contravention of Section 6 of the 1985 legislative act creating the Land Bank. This section exists precisely so the local advisory boards can prevent Land Bank overreach like we are presently seeing at Tradewinds.

    “Why not admit publicly that the reason for the fence’s present location is because the Land Bank’s bungled its first application to Natural Heritage?” Almost everyone agrees the present location of the fence is offensive. What few people realize is that the fence is being built in its present location because the Land Bank’s first application in July 2017 was rejected by the overseeing agency Natural Heritage, which told the Land Bank it had to build the fence further away from the sandplain. As offensive as the initial proposed location of the unnecessary fence was, it was much less so than the current location.

    “Why is the fence costing $65,000 when the public and the Oak Bluffs Land Bank Advisory Board were told it would cost $25,000?” A fence costing $65,000 would have been much more difficult to have approved then one costing $25,000.

    Mr. Lengyel states in his letter that the LB must speak for the delicate sandplain because the sandplain cannot speak for itself. If the sandplain could speak, maybe it would ask, “If I’m so fragile, why is the Land Bank frequently operating heavy equipment on me, mowing me, allowing the attendant and her husband to drive around me in their Range Rover, permitting the fence crew to drive pickup trucks on me, and encouraging planes to land on me?” The reason the Land Bank permits this is because it understands the sandplain is in fact a hardy environment that thrives on what the experts call “periodic disturbance” that includes burning, mowing, grazing, and vegetation removal.

    The fence has nothing to do with conservation. It has everything to do with the Land Bank refusing to back off from a bad decision in the face of overwhelming opposition including from the Advisory Board that is entrusted with safeguarding the interests of Oak Bluffs.  Why? To remind us that it will not tolerate opposition and is accountable to no one.

    To send a message that it will not tolerate such actions by the Land Bank in our town, the Oak Bluffs Select Board should instruct the Land Bank to immediately remove the fence it is building at Trade Winds Field Preserve in Oak Bluffs.

    Thank you.

    Mark Jenkins
    Oak Bluffs

    • Provide citation for your claim that “Almost everyone agrees the present location of the fence is offensive.”

  3. Well said Mark Jenkins! I too have been asking, where is all the evidence that says Trade Winds “delicate species” is in peril. Why such a difference in price, 25k and then pay 65k?

    • Applying Google to the matter of cost, the chosen agricultural woven-weave fence costs more than the previous tensile pattern fence that “was poorly received by users at a public meeting.”

  4. Sorry about ending the my question too soon, I’m asking about why the FENCE pricing is so much higher than they said it would be.

  5. The delicate species that needs to be preserved rather than some grass is the entire island of MV. Garbage everywhere, streets not swept, junk left behind for others–boats and cars left to rot and homes in disrepair. How about starting there rather than some grass that no one cares about. We care more about plovers than we do people and we isolate beaches for private use. Meanwhile pit bulls roam freely at the hands of the drug addicted and morose, nip bottles proliferate and a whole underground economy of drug use and sales is manifest. There is a core of hard working law abiding citizenry on this island that is being held hostage by the aimless and dissolute who live off welfare undeserved and are unaccountable. Priority for the well being of most of us does not have its residence in fencing grass.

  6. so we here on the vineyard are all upset about a fence to keep our dogs from destroying grasslands.
    I certainly hope some of the people complaining here are trump supporters.
    Build that fence, Mr Lengyel and while your at it, how about having the dog owners pay for it.

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