New bench sits on trail

Bench designer Doug Ruskin and bench campaign creator Susan Silk cut the ribbon of a new bench as Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation executive director Adam Moore looks on. — Brian Dowd

On a warm, slightly breezy Tuesday morning, down the trail into the Caroline Tuthill Preserve in Edgartown, a new wooden bench got its own intimate ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation kicked off its “Take a Break” bench campaign that plans to place benches at one-mile marks along Sheriff’s Meadow trails across the Island.

Members of the foundation, students and staff from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS), and other people involved with the project gathered around the bench for the ceremony.

“Benches offer a place to sit, and rest, and find solace, on parks and preserves and conservation areas,” Sheriff’s Meadow executive director Adam Moore said.

The idea for benches on the trails was headed by Susan Silk of West Tisbury. Silk came up with the idea after starting a trail-hiking group with some friends. They set the goal of walking every path and trail in the “Walking Trails of Martha’s Vineyard” book. After several years, Silk said, the trails have become more physically demanding, and she wanted a place to rest.

The bench at the ceremony was built by Doug Ruskin. Ruskin used wood from a catalpa tree that was grown on the Island. Moore added that the bench was a true Island effort — the catalpa wood came from a tree planted by Island students decades ago.

Sheriff’s Meadow started the campaign with a gift of $10,000 to build the first 10 benches. There have been 20 bench sites identified on Sheriff’s Meadow properties.

A group of students from MVRHS will be working with their instructor, Bill Seabourne, to design and build four to six benches. Seabourne noted the students were all seniors, and the project offers them a great opportunity to give back to the community.

MVRHS seniors were not the only ones planning to make more benches. Island members of the Boy Scouts have also volunteered to build them.

The campaign will continue to raise funds for more benches. Donors will have their names inscribed on plaques placed at trailhead kiosks

“There are more than 200 miles of trails on this Island. There are many opportunities to enrich the lives of Islanders by making these beautiful spots accessible for more and more of our residents and visitors,” Moore said. “We have created a campaign that is affordable and truly an Island effort.”



  1. This is a very nice story, MV Times, especially about getting our high school kids involved in a worthwhile project, but Sheriff’s Meadow, give ME a break. “…The damage to the Caroline Tuthill preserve, from which Mr. Ziff’s landscaping contractor John Hoff removed a number of large pitch pines and some cedars, was severe.” I am glad to see that a conservation org with a bad rep founded on their bad behavior has found a better way to raise funds and work on behalf of the public, not on their own behalf and on behalf of their wealthy donors. In 2008 Sheriff’s Meadow went to great lengths and great expense to lift and sell native plants from this site, the Caroline Tuthill Preserve, in a serious breach of the Endangered Species Act. It was a greedy, self-serving, bold slap in the face to islanders who trust conservation orgs. This story should be told in context of the history of how SMF has mishandled the Caroline Tuthill preserve. Last I checked, a zebra still has stripes. Memories may be short and 10years fly by, but a googled background check is easy when writing a story. We can’t keep our heads in the sand when it comes to bad conduct, some of it illegal, by trusted conservation organizations, especially in these times of such a housing shortage crisis. Sorry, (not sorry) my donations do not go to organizations like Sheriff’s Meadow. The island needs more housing. And Islanders who donate so generously to maintain and make a better life here need transparency from our conservation organizations. We need housing and transparency more than benches, even though, heaven knows, my knees appreciate a good bench.

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