Trustees and Felix Neck properties reopen Thursday

FARM Institute will remain closed.

Cape Pogue is one of the areas that the Trustees of Reservations will reopen. — File photo by Michael Cummo

Updated 6 pm

The Trustees of Reservations properties on the Vineyard will reopen to the public starting Thursday, with the exception of the FARM Institute.

Island Trustees properties were included in a broader effort to reopen more than 70 of the 118 locations in Massachusetts, according to Sam Hart, who is the director of the properties on the Island.

Among these favorite Island spots that will be open to the public are Mytoi Gardens and Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge on Chappy, Norton Point Beach in Katama, and Menemsha Hills in Chilmark. Cape Poge and Norton Point are open to pedestrians only, Hart said.

Initially, Hart said the closure of all Trustees properties was an attempt to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19. “It had to do with adhering to social distancing and doing our part to flatten the curve,” Hart said. “We were observing some large gatherings at some of our properties, and decided to close out of an overabundance of caution and safety for the public.”

Hart said the Trustees have been looking at what properties can be opened, and which ones should remain closed.

According to Hart, the FARM Institute will remain closed because of the possible risk to livestock. Because the virus is a zoonotic disease, animals can contract it through humans.

“We are trying to protect our livestock,” Hart said. He added that the FARM Institute is one of the more popular properties, where much of the Trustees’ programming takes place under normal circumstances.

The FARM Institute will continue to offer curbside pickup of meat and eggs.

The properties that will reopen will adhere to all federal and state advisories, such as using proper signage to encourage social distancing, and keeping the public restrooms closed.

Staff who will be occasionally monitoring the properties will wear proper protective equipment, and will be cleaning and sanitizing high-traffic areas regularly.

“If we start to see behavior that we feel is not responsible, we may have to do a course correction,” Hart said. “We want to be responsive to the community’s needs. I know it’s imperative to encourage people to go out into nature and walk around and get exercise.”

The overall situation at all properties will be continuously monitored, and next steps will be assessed. 

“There are a lot of questions up in the air right now, but we are happy that we can reopen these properties to serve the Vineyard community,” Hart said. 

The Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary will also reopen their trails to the public, shortly after closing them to align with distancing requirements. All sanctuary buildings such as the gift shop and worker offices will remain closed.

Director Suzan Bellincampi said Felix Neck initially closed in order to keep staff and visitors safe, but the situation has been reassessed, and directors believe the Island public will use the trails in a responsible manner.

“The value of nature is so clear to all of us here at Felix Neck,” Bellincampi said. “The Island is special, and the people here are being respectful. If we have issues, we may need to change things, but Islanders have really stepped up.”

Updated to include Felix Neck. -ed