Traipsing through the woods in search of the perfect Christmas tree is a holiday scene so quintessential in nature it seems it could only exist in a painting.

But the Currier and Ives print came to life last Saturday at Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary, as dozens of families made their way down the white trail of the preserve to reach a grove peppered with small spruce trees. Handsaws hung from the much taller trunks of the leafless trees in the grove; dogs snuffled through the leaves while toddlers dragged newly-cut trees back down the path to the parking lot.

“Someone asked me if we planted just for this event,” said Kristen Fauteux, director of stewardship for the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, which owns Cedar Tree Neck. “No, no.”

Ms. Fauteux came up with the idea for a cut-your-own-tree day two months ago, while preparing a new management plan for the preserve. The white spruce is a nonnative species to the Island, she explained. And while walking the trails, she realized that the grove would be a perfect place to cut Christmas trees, creating a win-win situation for both Sheriff’s Meadow and people in search of locally-grown holiday decorations.

“This way they’re free,” Ms. Fauteux added.

“You’re doing them a service and getting a tree for your house,” said Lee Ann Kromhout of Vineyard Haven, whose family tackled the challenge of taking down one of the larger spruces on the property, a 25-foot-tall behemoth. Husband Hans removed dead branches from the lower trunk before toppling the spruce across the trail, much to the delight of four-year-old son, Sawyer.

“I think going out into the woods to cut a tree, especially if you’re a child, creates these lasting memories,” said Adam Moore, the foundation’s executive director. “We’re so happy to help with that.”

Though most of the trees in the grove were about a quarter of the size of the Kromhauts’ find, topping out at three or four feet tall, they weren’t without their own surprises.

“We found a bird’s nest,” said Victor Capoccia, visiting the grove with wife, Cara, and Ben and Chris Cogliano. “So it’s decorated.”

Mr. Moore estimated that a few dozen trees were removed from the property on Saturday. A group from Martha’s Vineyard Homeschooling visited Cedar Tree Neck later in the week to find trees, and there are still plenty of spruces available for the taking.

“I think as long as there are trees here, we’ll keep offering them,” said Ms. Fauteux.


To arrange a time to cut your own Christmas tree at Cedar Tree Neck, please contact the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation at 508-693-5207.