The Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank presented its 169-page draft management plan for Squibnocket Pond Reservation on Monday to the Aquinnah Land Bank advisory board. The land is 323 acres purchased from the Kennedy-Schlossberg family.
The summarized plan went into detail about the goals and objectives the Land Bank has for the area. Additionally, the plan showcased the geography, flora, and wildlife of Squibnocket Pond Reservation. The board unanimously approved the draft to be presented at a public hearing on Wednesday, Dec. 15, at 5 pm.
The Land Bank purchased this property, known as Red Gate Farm and previously owned by former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, in September.
The property is described in the management plan as having “sweeping views of undulating parabolic dunes splitting Squibnocket Pond from the Atlantic Ocean.” Much of the property “harks back to an Island of long ago,” and has remained largely undeveloped. “The underlying glacial topography of the reservation results in high ridges of woodlands towering over dense wetland thickets and bogs,” the executive summary states. “The Black Brook meanders west to east through the reservation, babbling through large spreading maples, disappearing into dense undergrowth, and finally emerging through a deep ravine into Squibnocket Pond.”
James Lengyel, executive director of the Land Bank, said that once a final plan is approved by the town of Aquinnah and the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation board, which helped purchase part of the land, it will be looked over by state-level officials. Lengyel said if all goes smoothly, Squibnocket Pond Reservation will be open to the public in the autumn of 2022, while the first seasonal opening will be in the summer of 2023.
“The plan is written in such a way as to try to avoid coming back to you and pestering you with a lot of amendments,” Lengyel told the board.
According to the plan, the purpose of the purchase was to provide a recreation area for people while also protecting the environment in the reservation. The Land Bank also wants to make some additions to the area, such as new paths, aluminum stairs, and a 150-foot-long suspension bridge atop a ravine, among other plans.
The plan was split into three main sections: natural resource inventory, inventory analysis, and land management planning. The first two sections looked at the geography and wildlife of the reservation, alongside what to do with them. The management section of the plan had five parts: nature conservation, recreation and aesthetics, natural products (hunting allowance), community interaction, and land administration. These parts collectively showed the steps the Land Bank plans to take for conservation efforts, such as the protection of threatened or endangered species, alongside the management of the property, such as maintaining good relations with neighbors.
Lengyel said to allow access for people while preserving the environment, the Land Bank plans to limit the number of people in the reservation at any given time. From the end of May to Oct. 1, between 7 am and 7 pm, 125 people will be allowed into the reservation at one time. If acceptable, this threshold will increase to 175 people.
Board member Peter Temple said while he thinks the plan is ready, a shortened version may make the information more accessible for the public. Lengyel said a version of the plan that “spotlights the core management section” will be available, which is the part that would be of most interest to people.
Phil Cordella, a member of the public, pointed out that he had difficulty finding Monday’s meeting, since it was not posted on the town of Aquinnah website. He also said the section of the Land Bank’s website listed as “draft management plan” is currently empty, and asked whether the draft will be available there now that it has been unanimously approved by the board.
Lengyel said it will be posted soon. It is available here on The Times website.