West Tisbury says yes to Long Point balloon

Edgartown may revisit denial for similar event at Farm Institute.  

Sam Hart, second from left, explains the event to West Tisbury selectmen. - Rich Saltzberg

Updated May 24

At their May 22 meeting, West Tisbury selectmen unanimously approved event permits and an alcohol permit for The Trustees of Reservations for two days of events that include a mirrored hot air balloon, a major component of New Horizon, an installation by artist Doug Aitken. Slated for July 12 and 14 at the Long Point Wildlife Refuge, the events are part of the Trustees’ Art and the Landscape Initiative, and will include rides in the mirrored balloon and modest light shows inside it. Speakers, a cellist, and special breakfasts are also planned.

The newly appointed Trustees director for Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, Sam Hart, told the board his staff took great pains to evaluate the impact the events would have on wildlife and habitat, including consulting with the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program. Additionally, local naturalist and former longtime steward of Mass Audubon’s Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary Gus BenDavid informed the Trustees events wouldn’t have a negative biological impact, Hart said. The Trustees shared BenDavid’s opinion, Hart pointed out. After considerable deliberation, a skeptical Skipper Manter, chairman of the board, went along with his peers and approved the request for both beer and wine to be served and for the events to be authorized.

The selectmen capped the number of attendees for the breakfast portion of the events at 100, and permitted alcohol to be served those mornings from 7 am to 10 am. The board capped the number of evening attendees to 600 people and 200 cars. They stipulated alcohol may not be served past 9:30 pm.

Later that evening, Hart joined the Trustees stewardship manager for the Vineyard, Chris Kennedy, at an Edgartown conservation commission meeting where they addressed a previous vote to deny the Trustees permission to bring in Aitken’s balloon to Meals in the Meadow, an annual fundraiser.

“I know that last time we addressed the commission regarding New Horizon and Meals in the Meadow, there was quite a bit of information that wasn’t available,” Kennedy said. “A lot of the questions that commissioners had — we have answers. We would like to come back and ask the commission to reconsider its most recent vote of denial …”

“Can you do us a favor, and write up a presentation of why you think it’s an appropriate thing at the farm?” conservation agent Jane Varkonda said.


“Not why we don’t like it but why you think it’s appropriate,” she said.

Kennedy went on to tell the commissioners the Trustees would like a better understanding of what forms the basis of the commission’s opinion. “I guess we would like to understand a little bit more as far as what [in] particular you found inappropriate about the proposal,” he said.

“That’s not what I asked you to do,” Varkonda said. “Why do you think it’s appropriate?”

Kennedy said he’d do so.

Varkonda explained the next meeting was packed, and the commission would prefer scheduling a special meeting to address the Trustees request instead.

Reached Friday, Varkonda said the special meeting has yet to be slated.

“I don’t anticipate them changing their minds unless something significant has changed with that giant hot air balloon,” she said of the commission.

Varkonda also acknowledged commissioner Christina Brown has recused herself from the matter and declined to say why, referring the question to Brown.

Brown declined to provide a reason, though she said there wasn’t much behind her decision to stay out of the discussion.

Updated with discussion from an Edgartown conservation commission meeting.


  1. A 100′ mirrored Balloon will cause horses, and animals on the farm,in West Tisbury, and along the way to be frightened,panic,along with riders and handlers that could be injured.Not a good idea for a small rural Island.

  2. Intoxicated people trampling foliage while introducing trash, everything needed for good conservation practices.

  3. birdy— if the animals aren’t scared by jets landing or leaving the airport, I doubt they will be frightened by a silent balloon.

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