The low-key green and white signposts that mark properties owned by the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank so often belie the grandeur of what lies at the end of a short trail. Think Aquinnah Headlands, Poucha Pond, Waskosim’s Rock, to name just a few.
So the property purchase announced by the land bank last week sounded, well, underwhelming: just under twelve acres of nondescript wooded land off the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road.
Bought for nine hundred thousand dollars from the Norton family, the acquisition in fact completes a thoughtful three-part plan initiated more than a decade ago to create a small archipelago of conservation land at the western edge of Edgartown.
In January 2000 the land bank bought a six-lot subdivision, a little more than eleven acres, adjacent to the fields at Morning Glory Farm. A house that stood on the land was taken down, and today that property is Sweetened Water Preserve, a small area of grassy walking paths that rim a small pond and the farm fields.
The next year the land bank bought the development rights to the Morning Glory farmland along the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road. That purchase of an agricultural preservation restriction on over twenty-six acres meant that the rotating fields of corn, sunflowers, kale and broccoli would remain as farmland forever.
And last week, the final puzzle piece was secured. The sum of these parts is significant; what the publicly-funded land trust has achieved with three seemingly disparate purchases is nearly complete protection of the bucolic entrance to our county seat, beginning with wooded land, melting into open farm fields and finally passing a walking trail and nature sanctuary.
Land bank monies are of course tied to the activity of the Vineyard real estate market, and the decline in real estate sales since the start of the recession has translated to a paucity of new properties, as land bank leaders carefully husband their resources.
But its recent purchase offers a window into how the land bank can and does pursue its mission even in an era of straitened budgets, by gathering small parcels of land over a period of time to build a small sanctuary in the woods or near the shore, connect trails that were previously unconnected — or, as in it did last week, protect a pastoral entryway to one of the Island towns.
Our appreciation for the quiet woodlands and open farm fields every time we drive into Edgartown from the west has grown a little deeper.