Turn over any rock, wander down a new hiking path, take a closer look at a shell. Nature is full of surprises and the pages of the book Moraine to Marsh reveal just that. This field guide to Martha’s Vineyard is often tucked away on many Island bookshelves, maybe caked with mud or dust, a cherished and often-turned-to friend. But 25 years after its publication, the book is no longer in print, and just a few treasured copies remain.
This year the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary has begun a fundraising campaign to republish what many consider to be the Vineyard’s natural heritage bible. The landscape of the Island has changed since sanctuary founder Anne Hale first self-published Moraine to Marsh after documenting every corner of the Island, and many feel that an updated version of the book is essential.
“It’s a favorite book whose time has come again,” sanctuary director Suzan Bellincampi said in a recent interview. “I always recommend the book to people and came to find out it’s out of print, which is unfortunate because it’s a great resource for people to learn about natural history, to take a walk and to follow [Anne Hale’s] footsteps along these different properties. I hated the idea that it was gone forever.”
The sanctuary is about halfway to its goal of raising the $20,000 needed to republish the book. Felix Neck and its community of volunteers plan to crisscross the Island to test, update and add new trails to the book, as well as update any ecological developments from the past 25 years. The book will be slightly smaller in format, with a new cover and new binding.
Ms. Bellincampi’s first encounter with Moraine to Marsh was 13 years ago when she traveled to the Island to interview with The Trustees of Reservations for what would become her first Vineyard job, as a natural history education leader for the Trustees. Having just one weekend to learn about Vineyard ecology, she read the book cover to cover.
“It’s what started me off on my Vineyard natural history trail,” she said.
Ms. Bellincampi said republishing the guidebook is in keeping with Felix Neck and Mrs. Hale’s passion of introducing new generations to conservation through education. Mrs. Hale, who died in 1992, was a pioneer in the Vineyard conservation movement and one of the founders of Felix Neck. The sanctuary was created through a gift of land from the late George Moffet in 1968, but Mrs. Hale had been running educational programs on the land for five years prior, establishing the sanctuary’s Fern and Feather day camp. The ever-popular camp will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2014. The publication date for the updated Moraine to Marsh edition is planned for 2014, to coincide with this anniversary.
In the years leading up to the original guide, Mrs. Hale wrote a series for the Gazette introducing readers to field trips through Island sanctuaries. When the book was published in 1988, a reviewer in the Gazette wrote “this little book should be in every home on Martha’s Vineyard. It answers so many of the questions that young people and visitors are sure to ask about the Island.”
The book is extremely user-friendly, with maps, photography and information that allow the reader to “grow with it and have multiple uses,” Ms. Bellincampi said. “We want people to start using it as a resource again.”
Ms. Bellincampi and her volunteers have scanned each page of the book into a computer and are now converting it to text for editing. Volunteer photographers will retake pictures and update existing landscapes, and additional sections such as invasive species and resource information will be included. Information from the sanctuary’s Citizen Science programs on horseshoe crabs and bee populations will also be added.
“We want to bring it all together, keep the heart of it, but bring it up to date,” Ms. Bellincampi said. “Think about what you have out there
— there are all kinds of great photography books, guide books —
but as far as Vineyard-specific, it has all of the pieces that will bring new people in.”
Much of the Vineyard landscape has been preserved over the years and Ms. Bellincampi said it is a testament to the vision of Mrs. Hale and other Island conservationists.
“Every place has changed but [here] it’s been a bit more slowly and helped to maintain the special and unique characters of the Vineyard that Anne saw so long ago. Some pictures you can look at and say, that’s still the Vineyard. I love that.”