The Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission (MVAC) Land Use Subcommittee approved a no-fee lease for Jermaine (“JJ”) Mendez’ motocross track at the intersection of East and West Line Roads, after not having the lease for a year.
The lease must still go to the full airport commission for final approval. The next meeting of the airport commission is on Oct. 8 at 2 pm, but the agenda for that meeting has not yet been released.
Airport director Geoff Freeman said Mendez initially came to seek commission approval in 2012 for a motocross track that would provide a safe and legal way for off-road motorcycle riders to have fun and hone their skill. The area where the track is located is not currently being used for any aeronautical use, and has been in the past used for storage and equipment staging.
In the future, Freeman said the airport is looking at developing a portion of that area for business park use, but before the property is released officially, he thinks a motocross track would be a good use for the land.
“I think it is good for the Island community to have something available for them, especially now when there aren’t many structured events going on on-Island, or in the country for that matter,” Freeman said.
Mendez said he is looking to lease the property annually, as has been the agreement in the past. Freeman noted that the Federal Aviation Administration grants certain authority to airports to offer land that is not being used for aeronautical purposes to the community on a short-term basis.
If at any time the airport needs to use the land for aeronautical purposes, Freeman said, they have the ability to terminate the lease.
Mendez assured the commission that he will be calling to renew his insurance that relieves the airport of any liability related to activities at the track.
“It’s called motocross insurance for extreme sports,” Mendez said. He also said that he or a trusted and experienced supervisor will be at the track when it is open at all times, in order to provide supervision and support to riders.
Commissioner Geoff Wheeler asked whether the airport has provided all necessary requirements for insurance indemnification. Property manager Kevin Brennan said that Mendez has met his requirements in the past, and he is confident he will meet them again.
According to Mendez, he is looking at operating the motocross track on both weekend days, and occasionally on Wednesdays.
“During the winter, I usually shut it down well before it gets dark, and will usually close it down when it gets really cold,” Mendez said.
This time around, Mendez said he will be looking for frequent riders to engage in a membership for the entire year for $500, in order to pay for the insurance. Those who don’t want a membership can pay a $25 per-day fee when they wish to use the track.
And folks of all ages can use the track, “as long as they can ride a [dirt] bike,” Mendez said. “There is no minimum age for riders. I have seen kids as young as 4 years old riding around.”
He will be collecting personal information from everyone who uses the track for insurance purposes.
Mendez said he offered the use of the track to ATV riders on-Island, but they haven’t taken the opportunity in the past.
“They showed up maybe a couple of times in past years, but I do give them the opportunity,” Mendez said.
Attorney Ron Rappaport said he looks at this project similarly to the skate park across from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.
“It’s a place for younger people to do some activity which is not harmful to anybody. I have been contacted by public safety officials and others who are in support of the situation,” Rappaport said. “JJ doesn’t make any money off this, it is really just a chance for people to get off the road and ride a motorized vehicle.”
Commissioner Don Ogilvie said he thinks it is better to have kids in a safe and supervised environment, as opposed to having them head out into the State Forest or trespass on private property.
“Lots of kids have these bikes or want to have these bikes, and there is no place to ride them,” he said. “I think it’s a great idea, and we can make it work.”
The Martha’s Vineyard Law Enforcement Council issued a letter to the airport commission in full support of the motocross track. “It is our understanding that Mr. Mendez’ goal remains the same as in the past: to develop rules for the use of the proposed (and still physically existing) course, restrict hours of use, and provide safety classes for motor-bikers under the age of 18,” the letter reads. It continues to say that the track enhances the ability of public safety officials to prevent illegal motor-biking on private property, reduce the response time for medical services, and “will help protect the State Forest Greenlands, ancient paths, and bicycle paths of our community.”
The letter adds that it is imperative for young people to have safe outdoor activities that fall within the guidelines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mendez told The Times in a later phone conversation that he is excited to offer the opportunity for kids and families again. He said the track has always been a place for people to enjoy the sport of motocross, have fun, and be safe.
“During COVID, motocross is really safe and fun for everyone. Everyone is distanced, and everyone has to have the right protective gear. I make sure kids know how to ride, and provide assistance if needed,” Mendez said.
As an Oak Bluffs Police officer, Mendez stressed the importance of getting kids out of the State Forest — where motor-biking is illegal and potentially dangerous — and into a safe, supervised environment.
“When kids are riding in the forest, they sometimes run from officers because it is illegal. They can crash into a tree and get hurt, or hurt someone else. This makes it safer for everyone involved,” Mendez said.