Bluet damselflies and Ice House Pond visitors may soon get the chance to get along together.
The storied West Tisbury glacial kettle pond is potentially two steps away from public access, nearly ten years after it was designated by the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank as a priority property to be acquired.
Public use of Ice House Pond, also known as Old House Pond, has been a point of contention for neighbors, the land bank and the town since the land bank purchased the property for $2 million in 2004, quietly using a straw buyer.
Today the West Tisbury conservation commission will meet to consider an order of conditions for public use of the 11.1-acre site. Following the order of conditions, due by Oct. 2, the land bank will have 10 days to accept the conditions or appeal them to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and in superior court.
The land bank management plan for the property has cleared both the DEP and the state Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. The plan includes managed trail use, limited parking at the trail head and a swimming perch in order to protect rare species, including box turtles and the damselflies.
The property is named Manaquayak Preserve.
The ongoing Ice House Pond saga involves classic Vineyard cultural issues as well as unique environmental issues related to the pristine, self-contained pond that was scooped out by a glacial flow thousands of years ago. An unofficial hidden swimming spot for generations, Ice House Pond had no public access until the land bank bought the Manaquayak property.
Abutting property owners are concerned that overuse of the pond may contaminate water quality and put rare species at risk. The freshwater pond is self-contained and is not spring fed.
The nature of the glacial water and the rare flora and fauna species that were attracted to it also drew people trained in hydrology and ornithology to become neighboring property owners. Their expertise in those fields provided ammunition for their arguments and voluminous data for town and state officials to consider over the past three years.
The conservation commission meeting begins today at 5:30 p.m. at the Howes House.
Once the management plan clears the necessary hurdles, the land bank plans to open the property to the public by the first of the year. “Assuming everything is go, I’d think by early winter I’d begin work and the stairway and platform will be in place in time for ice skating by first of the year,” said land bank property foreman Matthew Dix.