President Obama and his family will return to Martha’s Vineyard Saturday for a weeklong vacation, his fourth trip to the Island during his time in office.
The president and first lady will arrive in Air Force One at Cape Cod Coast Guard Air Station and then travel by helicopter to the Vineyard. The arrival time is not being released, but it is expected to be later in the day on Saturday.
According to the White House, Mr. Obama will be on the Island until Sunday, August 18. There are no public events scheduled during his trip.
The Obamas will be staying at a private home on Snail Road in Chilmark. The home is owned by David Schulte, a summer resident from Chicago who does not normally rent his property. Though Mr. Schulte knows the president, he has not had any contact with the White House on the rental. It is understood that Mr. Schulte was approached by Tom Wallace of Wallace and Co. Sotheby’s International about renting to the first family. Mr. Wallace has handled presidential rentals in the past.
Built in 1961 and renovated about 10 years ago, the 5,000-square-foot contemporary-style home sits on a ridge overlooking Chilmark Pond and the Atlantic Ocean. The nine and a half-acre property has access to Chilmark Pond.
The house has a private master suite with its own den, porch, outdoor shower, access to a gymnasium and his and her bathrooms. An open floor plan includes pond and ocean views from the living room, dining room and kitchen. An outside patio and screened dining room overlook an infinity pool. There are three guest bedrooms with baths. Additional amenities include a small basketball court and guest house.
During Mr. Obama’s three previous visits in 2009, 2010 and 2011, he stayed at Blue Heron Farm, a 28-acre estate overlooking Tisbury Great Pond. The estate was sold in late 2011 to Lord Norman and Lady Elena Foster, who chose not to rent out the property. Mr. Obama did not visit in 2012, when he was in the middle of an election race.
While preparations have been under way for months behind the scenes, there has been a flurry of preparatory activity on the Island this week, with military helicopters including a U.S. Marine Corps Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey aircraft seen in the skies, shiny red Coast Guard helicopters at the airport and large, black Secret Service vans with government plates around the Island. Chilmark executive secretary Tim Carroll said two Verizon cell-on-wheels mobile sites, or “cows,” were expected to arrive in Chilmark to improve cellular service during the president’s stay.
The Secret Service has been in evidence all around the Island this week. Peter Martell, owner of the Wesley Hotel in Oak Bluffs, said he has 70 rooms booked for Secret Service members and five reserved for the Transportation Security Agency (TSA).
Part of one of Chilmark’s main roads will be closed during the presidential visit. Chilmark police said this week that South Road will be closed between Meeting House Road and Wooton Bassett Road. The road closures will start at 2 p.m. on Saturday and will not affect the annual Chilmark Road Race Saturday morning on Middle Road.
Blinking signs are in place warning residents about the road closures. Chilmark police said residents will be able to get through after showing identification and being swept by security.
The road closure sparked some grumbling this week, including among the Chilmark selectmen.
“Their claim is that the president has rented a home that is only 385 feet from the road, and that is very close to a public way,” said selectman and board chairman Warren Doty at the board’s meeting Tuesday. “They feel that with the heightened security alerts in America today, that if they’re charged with protecting the president they need to close traffic.” He continued:
“In general it’s going to be a hassle. I’ve requested that traffic not be diverted onto Meeting House Way; diverting onto a dirt road is a terrible mistake . . . it’s not as if they asked us what we thought.”
“I’m very pleased that the chief has cooperated so well with the Secret Service and that we’ve worked together each year, but it could be an inconvenience this year,” Mr. Doty said.
On Wednesday the town sent out an email to town residents, saying “anyone aggrieved by this closing should email or call the White House.”
Temporary air space restrictions are in place around the Martha’s Vineyard Airport for the duration of Mr. Obama’s trip, airport manager Sean Flynn said. Airplanes will be restricted in a 30-mile perimeter around the airport, with further restrictions for a 10-mile perimeter. Commercial flights will not be affected.
The Katama Airpark will be generally closed to all airplanes coming in and out, manager and pilot Mike Creato said. The red biplane run by Classic Aviation gets to fly, but on a restricted basis, he said.
“You know, it’s a short busy season, it’s August,” he said about the timing of the closure, but he also noted it is part of protocol. “It’s just the way things are after 9/11 . . . pretty typical,” Mr. Creato said.
Mr. Obama and his family have ties to the Island that predate his presidency. Harvard professor Henry Louis (Skip) Gates Jr., an annual visitor, held a fundraiser on the Vineyard for Mr. Obama when he was still a senator. And Mr. Obama’s senior advisor Valerie Jarrett is a longtime Oak Bluffs summer visitor.
With his visits, Mr. Obama follows a long tradition of sitting presidents visiting the Vineyard, including Ulysses S. Grant and Bill Clinton. Mr. Clinton was highly visible when he visited the Island during all but one of the years he was president. Mr. Obama keeps a lower profile.
During their previous visits, the Obamas have dined at an array of Island restaurants. Mr. Obama usually plays lots of golf, and in the past the family has gone to the Bunch of Grapes bookstore in Vineyard Haven to stock up on beach reads. The first dog, Bo, a purebred Portuguese water dog, usually travels with the family.
Their last visit, in 2011, was cut a day short by Hurricane Irene. The weekend forecast calls for a chance of showers early Saturday, then clearing with sunny skies and temperatures between 73 and 79 degrees through the weekend.
For more photos, visit our gallery: Past Presidential Vacations: Obama Family Visits Martha's Vineyard
Remy Tumin contributed to this story.