Abutters of Quenomica Preserve in Edgartown are opposing a draft management plan for the property that would allow hunting.
The Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank and Edgartown Land Bank advisory board are considering the plan, but took no action after a contentious hearing this week. Members plan to take public comments under review before deliberating.
Land Bank ecologist Julie Russell and land superintendent Harrison Kisiel presented a 139-page management plan on Monday, providing an overview of the area’s ecology and how the property, trails and parking will be managed. Plans include two vehicle trailheads and a duck hunting blind as well.
The Land Bank reviewed allowances and prohibitions on the property at the Monday hearing, such as not allowing dogs, limiting horses to the northern section of the property, and allowing star gazers.
During the public’s turn to speak, it was clear that while abutters appreciated the Land Bank’s conservation mission, they were not pleased with the proposed management plan.
“Even though the Land Bank is really just known for its walking trails, this plan seems to throw everything possible into it,” Mitch Rubin said.
Several abutters also said the Land Bank was not listening to them regarding the plan.
“We, collectively, should be good neighbors and what we’re hearing, at least from my part, from the Land Bank, is kind of a disregard of our concerns,” David Blass said.
Abutters’ shared several similar concerns – like the impact of horses in the area and overall management issues – but hunting was most frequently brought up. Nearby residents were concerned about the risk of injury from a stray bullet or arrow, and that hunters might trespass onto their properties..
“We are against any form of hunting, including gun hunting of ducks and bow and arrow of any species,” abutter Alan Muney said. “The reasons are simple. Our grandkids use the property year round. There [are] existing laws you point out that disallows hunting within 500 feet of a private home. However, we highly doubt anyone is going to enforce that law and even if they did, it would not prevent the potential of serious or fatal accidents from stray gun blasts or bow shots coming into our property.”
A few abutters also mentioned how the proximity and sound of gunshots could affect their children and grandchildren in terms of safety and mental health. They were worried about the stress from possible gunshots in the area considering the recent increase in school shootings in the country.
“Wounded animals entering onto a property can injure or kill people on those properties,” Jason Fleischer said. “We have young children. The idea that our children could not be outside anytime between October and December because somebody could be hunting and it could potentially come out of nowhere … that is highly [problematic].”
Fleischer’s daughter also came to the Zoom meeting to read a letter she wrote about what hunting means to her. She said hunting shouldn’t be allowed on Quenomica Preserve. Coming to Martha’s Vineyard gives her a break from the thought about potential school shootings occurring.
Another complaint was the publicization of a private road. Abutters pointed out that some areas the Land Bank is planning to allow the public to access were meant to be reserved for private property owners in the area.
“There are numerous existing easements as well as other laws — state, federal, and other agreements — that we think prohibit the Land Bank from engaging in the activity that it proposes,” Fleischer said.
After the public hearing was closed, board member Donna Goodale said she felt they were not ready to make a decision on whether or not to approve the plan. The board unanimously voted to hold a separate meeting on Tuesday, April 18, to deliberate after further reviewing the plan and receiving a memo from Russell addressing concerns.