Greenlands is a 360-acre environmental gem located in the heart of our Island. Greenlands was purchased by the town of West Tisbury to protect the crown of our Island’s sensitive sole-source aquifer as a future source of public water supply. Since its creation in 1982, parts of this critically important Island asset have been systematically transformed into an elaborate motorcross bike track. The original legislative and management agreements clearly state that this property is to be used for passive recreational activities only and that any new trails must be authorized and approved by a two-thirds vote in the state legislature. Currently there are at least five, and perhaps more, unauthorized trails within the Greenlands.

As a frequent hiker of the Greenlands, I have become concerned with the deteriorating condition of the trail system and corresponding loss of habitat due to the creation of new trails, both by motorcross bike enthusiasts and the town of West Tisbury. Fortunately, I was able to contact the individual who was principally responsible for developing the Greenlands at its inception in 1982. This knowledgeable person provided me with documentation that explicitly states that a motorcross bike track and additional trails throughout the Greenlands are strictly unauthorized and run counter to the original agreements established between the town and the state.

With this newfound information in hand, I wrote a letter to the West Tisbury conservation commission detailing my concerns and providing them with relevant documentation of my claims. Additionally, I sent copies of this letter to appropriate state and Island agencies knowing that a solution to this problem will require the cooperation and support of many governmental and private organizations.

An Islandwide citizens group called Friends of the Greenlands has been established. The purpose of this diverse body of concerned citizens is to work with local agencies to develop and implement an effective corrective action plan that addresses the two main problems articulated above. Our sole purpose is to restore the Greenlands to its natural intended state. We have identified the following seven essential reasonable components of an acceptable corrective action plan:

• Take immediate measures to close the motorcross track located at the Greenlands.

• Repair the damage done to the trail system and Checamo Road by returning them to their intended natural state.

• Close the numerous illegal and unauthorized trails that have been created throughout the Greenlands.

• Coordinate with Island towns and agencies to ensure that access routes to the Greenlands for the purpose of motorcross activity are eliminated. Currently there are approximately 18 access points.

• Develop an effective enforcement mechanism to aggressively discourage motorcross bike activity within the Greenlands and the adjacent state forest.

• Complete a comprehensive ecosystem study that would quantify and qualify endangered species of plants, insects, birds and animals within the Greenlands.

• Create an educational plan that fully explains the importance of the Greenlands to all Islanders and provides learning opportunities for passive recreational users of the trail system.

Concerned Islanders have an opportunity and responsibility to rescue the Greenlands. The Greenlands is our friend and she needs our help. Blaming those responsible for the current crisis is both unnecessary and unproductive. What is important is for the community to come together and use its collective intelligence and good will to remedy this problem quickly. Protecting the Greenlands is crucial to the overall viability and sustainability of life on the Island. We need to honor this sacred resource rather than exploit it.


Steve Maxner lives in West Tisbury.