Updated 10:45 am
Tisbury’s advisory board to the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank Commission approved a management plan for nearly five acres it purchased on Herring Cove Road, removing references to another nearby Land Bank property and renaming the property Tashmoo Preserve.
In a 4-0 vote with the board’s fifth member, Nancy Weaver, leaving moments before to get to a conservation commission meeting, the advisory panel also authorized Land Bank staff to work out ways it can collaborate with the town, which owns the adjacent beach. A plan to expand access and parking at nearby Wilfrid’s Pond Preserve was scratched.
The vote came after the second night of a public hearing, the first session being held on Feb. 21. Parking, traffic, restroom facilities, and trespassing were on the minds of the more than 20 people huddled in the meeting room at Vineyard Haven library Tuesday night.
The Land Bank purchased the property in October from Virginia Ursin for $1.9 million. Two cottages are being removed, and the septic systems, while functioning, are also being removed.
That was disappointing to Harriet Barrow, who brings her grandchildren to the beach there, and saw the existing septic systems as an opportunity. “On that particular beach, being a grandmother and a proud one at that, having a workable toilet with running water would be absolutely phenomenal,” she said.
James Lengyel, executive director of the M.V. Land Bank, said the Land Bank’s role is preservation first and, as such, it prefers portable toilets over septic systems. He said one of the ways the Land Bank can collaborate with the town is to help fund those for the town beach, or a parking attendant to end what was described as a “free-for-all” in the town parking lot.
George Balco, chairman of the DPW advisory board which oversees the town beach, called on the Land Bank to do more with parking, and to preserve the septic systems from the two cottages for use by beachgoers. He asked for some financial assistance for upkeep of the roads in that area. “We ask that the Land Bank, being a very wealthy operation, consider some donations to maintain the road, which is privately owned, but the town maintains a right-of-way on the road.”
But Lengyel was adamant that providing restrooms is not the role of the Land Bank, and that septic systems, particularly on a barrier beach, are always removed because they have the potential to pollute. “It’s a philosophical question,” he said. “The thing to bear in mind is that the town has a beach at the end of the road for recreational purposes. The Land Bank law is not a recreational law. It was not created for recreation. It was created for conservation purposes only, and to the extent that the Land Bank can allow recreation, it’s allowed that to happen.”
Angela Cywinski, chairman of the advisory panel and the representative of the board of assessors, agreed. “The Land Bank, its first business, is conservation,” she said. “I understand where you’re going with the bathrooms.”
Advisory board member Elaine Miller said it’s not possible to preserve the septic systems, and two Title 5 systems built for cottages couldn’t accommodate the number of visitors on a hot summer day.
“We’re trying to be cooperative, but have to follow in our requirements as well,” she said.
Lengyel read one letter, from the Dretlers who own property on Herring Cove Road, into the record. It called on the advisory board to oppose any additional parking. The letter also asked for more to be done to police unleashed dogs and out-of-control parties and bonfires on the town beach.
In a summary of the management plan, Julie Russell, ecologist for the Land Bank, said a boardwalk will be constructed to connect the beach to the town beach, a dune will be restored to protect Lake Tashmoo, and 897 feet of fencing, which once enclosed a tern colony, will be removed. Waterfowl hunting will be allowed, and rules about dogs will mimic the town’s bylaws, she said.
The Land Bank’s hiring of Vineyard Land Surveying to do the coastal engineering was criticized by Lynne Fraker, a Tisbury resident and shellfisherman who said the ecology needs the attention of someone with more experience.
Lengyel praised Vineyard Land Surveying’s work, and Douglas Sederholm, an attorney representing three clients whose property abuts Tashmoo Preserve, said the company worked on the Squibnocket Beach and bridge project in Chilmark, to high praise.
There was no consensus on just what impact the 400 additional feet of beachfront would have on attracting visitors.
“I imagine there’s going to be a lot more human use,” Hall said.
Lengyel said that’s not a given, noting that people would have to climb over a seawall to use the sand on Tashmoo Preserve. “It’s not clear that it will create a new demand,” he said.
As the crowd continued to resurrect the same issues of parking, traffic, and restrooms, Lengyel urged Cywinski to seek new ideas or close the public hearing.
Fred Hotchkiss, a resident of Tisbury, suggested water taxis as a way to shuttle people to the spot.
“This would be a good opportunity for someone to come up with a capital venture,” Cywinski said.
The idea of naming the area Tashmoo Preserve came from Fraker.
There was some concern, raised by Phil Cordella, among others, that the public isn’t involved in helping to formulate management plans early enough.
Lengyel insisted that the early adaptations of the plans are such that they can be easily amended when the Land Bank hears worthy ideas. He promised to hold a public meeting of the advisory board once negotiations with the town yield a collaboration between the Land Bank and the town.
There was some appetite among the crowd to restrict Tashmoo Preserve from public access, though it was not adopted by the advisory board.
“It’s an extremely delicate area down there,” Tisbury resident Jamie Hamlin said. “Do you really want to encourage more people to come down there?”
Updated to correct the name of the company hired to do coastal engineering for the Tashmoo Preserve. -Ed.