Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

In light of a recent increase in dirt bike and ATV riding within the conservation property owned by the town of West Tisbury known as the Margaret K. Littlefield Greenlands, the conservation commission would like to remind the public of the history behind the acquisition of this property and its value to the Island.

In 1982, a small miracle happened at the annual town meeting in West Tisbury. That night, after several years of work by the West Tisbury conservation commission under the leadership of chairman Peg Littlefield, voters unanimously approved the expenditure of $450,500 to buy 380 acres of open space at the northern edge of town abutting the state forest (In 1985, 15 of those acres were transferred to the Division of Environmental Management in exchange for a 30-foot-wide strip of land to be used as an access to Greenlands). The effort involved several transactions among three Island towns and the Department of Environmental Management and many, many hours of dedicated work by the conservation commission. This work included a grant application to the state office of environmental affairs for Self-Help monies which provided a matching grant for one half the purchase price of the land. On that May night, West Tisbury voters affirmed the wisdom of preserving that land for the future. In 2004, this land was rededicated to the memory of Peg Littlefield. It is now called the Margaret K. Littlefield Greenlands.

The unassuming piece of land in question happens to sit over the area of the Island’s sole source aquifer, at the point where the lens of that aquifer is closest to the surface of the land, making it particularly susceptible to pollution from development. Protecting this land protects the pure water underneath for the future needs of the Island. It also provides habitat to a number of species that are listed as being of special concern, threatened or endangered under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act.

In the years since then, this land has also been a source of sanctuary for the people who now live around it. Two simple loop trails provide the general public places to walk, bicycle, bird-watch, ride horses, and enjoy the beauty of the open space and quiet afforded within its boundaries of Great Plains Road, Checamo Path and the Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Vineyard Haven town lines off Airport Road.

While such permitted activities are part of the Greenlands original management plan, other recent activities are not permitted. The conservation commission reminds the public that riding dirt bikes or ATVs in the Margaret K. Littlefield Greenlands and along Checamo Path is not permitted, either as part of the management plan for the property, or under a local town bylaw passed in May of 1986. This bylaw states that no motorized vehicle use is allowed without the property owner’s permission.

The West Tisbury police department and the environmental police have recently stepped up patrols in the area. Under town of West Tisbury bylaw, violators are subject to a $25 fine for a first offense, and $50 for each subsequent offense. Illegal riders are also subject to a state fine of $250 for the first offense, and $1,000 for a second offense, plus seizure of the vehicle.

To report illegal dirt bike activity in this area, please assist us by calling the environmental police at 1-800-632-8075, the West Tisbury police department at 508-693-0020, or the communications center at 508-693-1212. If you have questions about this matter, please call the conservation commission office at 508-696-6404.

Prudence Burt

West Tisbury

The writer is chairman of the West Tisbury conservation commission.


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I am very upset about the ongoing battle between Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation and this local family. The Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation is clearly out of control and using nonprofit money to bully this couple out of the land that has been in their family for generations. I do hope you can expose the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation and help Ben Ramsey and Nisa Counter fight for what is rightfully theirs!

Wendy Turnell

Vineyard Haven


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

I enjoyed reading your recent piece about seasonal resident Margaret Marshall, the former chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), who retired last year. History will remember Justice Marshall for the Goodrich decision on gay marriage, in which the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court became the first court in the country to hold that marriage was a constitutional right which could not be denied based on gender.

On the Vineyard, she should be remembered for her court leadership in several cases which will have a lasting impact on our Island:

• Johnson v. Edgartown, 425 Mass. 117 (1997). In this case, the Supreme Judicial Court upheld a challenge to three-acre zoning on the south shore of Edgartown. This decision was the first time that a Massachusetts appellate court had ever upheld a zoning size greater than two acres. The ruling affects not only the three-acre zone in Edgartown (including Chappaquiddick), but in Chilmark, West Tisbury and Tisbury as well.

• Kitras v. Zoning Administrator of Aquinnah, 453 Mass. 245 (2009). In Kitras, the SJC rejected a challenge to Aquinnah’s townwide district of critical planning concern adopted by the voters of the town and by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC). This ruling supported the regulatory efforts made by Aquinnah and the MVC to protect the fragile resources and cultural history of the town.

• Reagan v. The Town of Oak Bluffs, 446 Mass. 452 (2006). In deciding the Reagan case, the SJC held that four parks, which were created in a subdivision plan in the 1860s, were not buildable lots, and were to be preserved as parks for the use and enjoyment of its residents.

• Bransford v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Edgartown, 444 Mass. (2005). In Bransford, the SJC held that a residence on a lot which was undersized under current zoning, required a public hearing and the issuance of a special permit before the house could be expanded or a larger house constructed. This case has been hailed as a victory against the so-called mansionization of houses on smaller lots.

• Aquinnah Building Inspector v. Wampanoag Aquinnah Shellfish, 443 Mass. 1 (2004). In this case the SJC resolved a dispute between the Aquinnah building inspector and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), ruling that the Wampanoag Tribe was subject to the zoning laws of the town.

I had the pleasure of appearing before Chief Justice Marshall in almost all of the cases cited, and in other cases as well. In each instance, she was unfailingly courteous to lawyers and litigants alike. If she had a bias, it was to further the public good and to support the disadvantaged or disenfranchised, while applying the rule of law.

I join numerous others of her admirers in this community in wishing her and her husband, Tony Lewis, well in their retirement, and in thanking her for her years of outstanding service.

Ronald H. Rappaport



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The following letter written by the Chilmark harbor master was sent to chief Jason Olsen at Coast Guard station Menemsha:

I am writing to thank you for the expert assistance which you and crew rendered to the Chilmark harbor department in helping to move the power boat Reynard on the night of August 12. I had been called about 20:30 by the communications center, who reported that neighboring boaters were concerned about the smell of gasoline on board Reynard, a 35-foot powerboat then located in the harbor transient slips. When I arrived it was evident that I needed to quickly move the boat out of the harbor and to a safe mooring, while making sure that the growing group of spectators was kept away from the dock. As this was well after the usual harbor personnel were off watch, several of your crew, BM3 Russell Welsh, SN Jason Antin, and FN Whilley Brown, coordinated by OOD BMI Dan Phillips, volunteered to assist They did this, after dark and on an unfamiliar vessel, in a professional, safe and timely manner in spite of the danger of possible explosion. I very much appreciate their assistance.

The presence of the Coast Guard detachment in Menemsha, and their ability to render assistance, is very reassuring to all mariners, including commercial fishermen, commercial traffic and recreational boaters. The professional abilities of Coast Guard personnel have been amply demonstrated numerous times on our waterways and out in Vineyard Sound; this is only the latest in many such incidents.

Again, thanks to you and your crew.

Dennis Jason



Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

On Saturday I was traveling from Woods Hole to Tashmoo in my 15-foot whaler. As I crossed Middle Ground, a flying fish popped out of the water off my starboard bow and glided away from me into the wind for a distance of about 30 feet. I’ve been plying these waters my whole life and this is the first one I’ve seen here.

David Stanwood

West Tisbury


Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The West Tisbury Library has much to celebrate! News of the state grant was followed by a sold-out evening with David McCullough while many varied smaller events continue to take place informing and entertaining the Island community.

I particularly want to thank those who have participated in our Tuesdays at Twilight musical series at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury. Working with the Preservation Trust has been a pleasure. Willy Mason and the Flying Elbows launched the series with an enthusiastic program on July 26. Mister G provided a rousing family experience on August 9 and Tisberry Yogurt donated frozen yogurt and toppings afterwards.

There are two more evenings ahead. On August 23, Elizabeth Straton, Jemima James, Dan Waters and Al Schackman will provide an evening of original acoustic entertainment. On August 30, the Daytrippers will entertain with their version of music from the Beatles, while Good Night Louise offers up Vineyard-based country blues and Americana.

In these busy and distracting times, it continues to amaze me how many people lend their talents and resources so willingly. All of these artists agreed to perform for free in order to support our library. We look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead.

For now, much gratitude goes out to those mentioned above for helping keep live music happening in our town while celebrating the much loved West Tisbury Library.

Lynne Whiting

West Tisbury