Friday, September 25, 2020

New Covid-19 Safety Rules on Island Trails

A message from MV All-Island Trails Committee and TrailsMV

Butterfly weed at Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation’s Ox Pond Meadow. – Suzanne Warren

Martha’s Vineyard has a rich abundance of protected lands. Many remain open for walking, hiking, bicycling, and running, in strict accordance with state and local health and safety regulations. To help reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission on our Island trails:

• Practice social distancing, staying a minimum of six feet apart from others. Step aside and give others plenty of room to pass, especially on narrow trails and footbridges.
• Leash all dogs at all times. Please note: Several properties, such as Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary and Polly Hill Arboretum, do not allow dogs at all. Please check ahead to make sure dogs are allowed at the property you plan to visit.
• If parking areas or trailheads are full when you arrive, leave and find another place to walk or come back later.
• Wear a mask or other face covering, especially when others are on the trail.
• Treat each other and our Island’s protected lands with respect.

Tips for Trail Safety: Six Short Videos from the Trustees of Reservations

TrailsMV is a free app created by Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation for those who love exploring the Vineyard’s trails. It covers all Island conservation properties open to the public, including 200 miles of trails. It features:

• Up-to-date accurate maps of all the open-to-the-public trails.
• Detailed property information and photographs.
• Outings describing special walks or rides.
• Ability to pinpoint your location and show you the direction you are headed.
• Helps you explore with confidence.
• Works without cell service or WIFI.
• Information about interesting events.
• Conservation organization information.

Download free from the App Store or Google Play.

Long Point Wildlife Refuge in West Tisbury has important changes to its policies this year. – Kate Warner

Important Changes at Some Island Properties

This summer, the Island’s conservation groups are managing their properties differently to help ensure public safety and lower the risks of coronavirus transmission. Please read these rules carefully and contact the individual organization if you have any questions or concerns. 

Note: One of the biggest changes is at The Trustees of Reservations’ Long Point Wildlife Refuge, where visitors are required to pre-purchase a parking pass online. See details here.

Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary / MassAudubon
Trails through the woods and along Sengekontacket Pond at Felix Neck Sanctuary are open, with the following rules in effect for everyone:

• Wear masks or other face covering if other visitors are nearby.
• Keep a distance of six feet or more from other visitors and staff.
• Carry in, carry out. Leave no trash behind.
• Nature Play areas are closed.
• Restrooms and water fountains are closed.
• Do not gather in groups of people outside of your household.
• Remain on the trails at all times to protect plants, animals, and yourself.
• Dogs are NOT allowed anywhere in the sanctuary.
• Bicycles may use the entrance trail leading to the sanctuary, but no bikes are allowed on the interior trails. 

Polly Hill Arboretum
Enjoy nature while keeping safe as you explore this horticultural and botanical landmark property in West Tisbury.

• We invite you to visit our grounds but ask that you please follow current medical and epidemiological advice that recommends keeping at least six feet from other individuals and wearing masks when encountering others on our grounds.
• Our grounds remain open from dawn to dusk. However, all buildings are closed to the general public, volunteers, and delivery companies.
• Our public bathrooms are closed for the time being.
• Please note: Periodically our grounds will be closed during the day to allow maintenance activities to proceed unimpeded. Notification of this will be found at our entryway and also posted on our website and publicized ahead of time on social media.
• All public tours and programs are canceled until further notice.
• Dogs are not allowed at the Arboretum.
• Please do not climb trees or go into planting beds, to avoid damage to our plants.

Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation
Sheriff’s Meadow’s 22 protected sanctuaries and miles of trails remain open, with the following COVID-29 trail and sanctuary rules in effect:

• Maintain social distancing at all times.
• Keep 10-12 feet from others; runners 25 feet.
• No gatherings of more than 5 people, except for families or households.
• Alert others to your presence as you approach blind spots.
• Wait for others to cross bridges and narrow spots before you do. Please leave plenty of passing space.
• Leash all dogs at all times. Please pick up after your dog.
• Wear a mask, scarf, or bandana to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Trustees of Reservations 
The Trustees asks that visitors follow these guidelines for the health and safety of all, and to help keep properties open in these challenging times:

• Wear a face covering at all times if over the age of two, unless a medical reason prevents you from doing so safely.
• Stay at least six feet from other visitors, including stepping aside on the trail to let others pass.
• Please keep  dogs leashed and away from other visitors  at all times.
• If a parking area is full,  please come back at a less busy time.

Long Point Wildlife Refuge

• As per the governor’s guidelines for beaches, we will be operating at reduced capacity parking in order to limit crowding across the property until further notice.
• For the safety of our staff, on-site transactions have been eliminated at our gatehouses. As a result, a timed-ticketing system will be implemented for admissions and parking at Long Point. Visitors will be required to pre-purchase their parking pass online before arrival for either a morning or afternoon time slot. Purchase parking passes online here.
• Bring and wear a face covering for all visitors above the age of two.
• Groups are limited to no more than 10 people.
• Beachgoers are required to maintain a 12-foot gap between their group and the next group on the ocean and pond beaches.
• Organized sports and/or games are not permitted until further notice.
• Chemical toilets and hand washing stations will be provided to our visitors at the parking lot. Showers will not be available until further notice.
• Limited mobility transport services to the beach are suspended until further notice. Three beach-capable wheelchairs will be available at the parking lot for visitor use.

Visitors to Wasque Reservation are required, as at all our properties, to wear face coverings when walking to and from the parking area and along our boardwalks and trails. On the beach, they are required to social distance and wear face coverings when social distancing of 6-12’ cannot be maintained. Groups of beachgoers are required to sit 12’ apart from the nearest blanket or towel.

The FARM Institute will be open this summer for family drop-offs and other programs including Farmer For a Day on Saturdays. We will not have camp this year but are developing a 3-day/week drop-off program and self-guided experiences for families. More details to follow.

Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank
A reminder to the public to practice social distancing, maintaining a minimum of six feet when in proximity of others, particularly at trailheads, parking areas, and when passing others on the trail. In addition, please make an extra effort to HAVE YOUR DOG ON A LEASH AT ALL TIMES to limit the potential of close contact with others.

The Land Bank has issued beach use guidelines for its properties that have bathing beaches. Land Bank staff regularly tests water quality as per state DPH at these bathing beaches.

  • Moshup Beach (Part of Aquinnah Headlands)
  • Great Rock Bight
  • Chilmark Pond Preserve (Atlantic Ocean Beach) 
  • Chappy Point
  • Edgartown Great Pond Beach (Atlantic Ocean Beach) 
  • Hillman’s Point 
  • Wilfred’s Pond Preserve 
  • Tashmoo Preserve 
  • Tisbury Great Pond Beach (Atlantic Ocean Beach) 

Notice: Ice House Pond is closed to swimming.
To ensure community health and safety, Ice House Pond swimming access is closed for the season. Manaquayak Preserve hiking trails remain open. Please use the Lambert’s Cove Road Trailhead for hiking trail access. The Wintergreen Lane Trailhead is currently gated.

Land Bank beach use guidelines:

  • Practice social distancing and maintain a minimum of 6 feet from others on trails, at trailhead parking, and on beach access pathways.
  • Face coverings should be used where social distancing is not possible.
  • No groups larger than 10 people are allowed to gather.
  • Maintain a minimum of 12 feet distance between beach groups.
  • Organized ball games are not allowed on the beach.
  • Loading and unloading times for people and personal items should be limited as much as possible. 

Land Bank boat user guidelines for Sepiessa Point Reservation boat launch: 

  • All boat ramp and canoe launch users shall practice social distancing. Users should allow appropriate space for users of the boat ramp or launch and clear the ramp immediately when their launch is complete.
  •  Users should ensure they are ready to depart quickly from the ramp or dock as soon as their boat is put into the water. Users not actively launching their boat should clear the launch area.
  • Upon return to ramp, users should load their boat as quickly as safely possible and then clear the launch area.
  • Use of ramps for organized fishing tournaments, derbies, or any other type of gathering is prohibited.
  • Loitering on ramps or use of ramps for any activity other than launching boats is prohibited.
  • Parking at ramps for activities other than launching boats is prohibited.
  • Masks or face-coverings should be worn in public in accordance with the Department of Public Health’s advisory when social distancing is not possible.
  • Only persons from the same household should be together on a boat at one time.
  • No gathering or groups of persons from multiple households will be permitted on boat ramps and all users shall practice strict social distancing.
  • All recreational crafts shall remain a safe distance apart. Tying boats or other crafts together is prohibited.
  • All recreational boating is subject to the discretion of local officials, harbormasters, and law enforcement. 
  • Boaters may only land at the Land Bank’s Tisbury Great Pond Beach and not at other locations on the pond, which are on private land. Tisbury Great Pond Beach is several hundred yards east of the current cut and is marked with an orange buoy.

Manuel F. Correllus State Forest
The state forest’s 5,300 acres and many miles of trails at the heart of Martha’s Vineyard are open subject to these guidelines and CDC safety precautions:

• Minimize outdoor recreational time to limit potential exposure to COVID-19.
• Stay within solitary or small groups, and avoid gatherings of ten or more people.
• Practice social distancing of at least six feet between individuals.
• Administer healthy personal hygiene, such as handwashing for at least 20 seconds.
• Participate in only non-contact recreational activities.
• Leave a park or area should large gatherings begin to build.
• Stay home if ill, over 70, and/or part of a vulnerable population.

The All-Island Trails Committee is comprised of the following nonprofit and government organizations, working together to help protect and preserve the rich natural heritage of Martha's Vineyard. For more information, please visit their websites.

Photographs courtesy of TrailsMV, with thanks to Stephen Chapman, Lanny McDowell, Max Skjoldebrand, Anne Speakman, Nancy Tutko, Kate Warner, Suzanne Warren, and Isabella Youmans.