On Sunday afternoon about 40 hikers (and several dogs) gathered for a guided walk through the Frances Woods Preserve in West Tisbury. The 512 acre property, which borders the Waskosims Rock Preserve and the Agricultural Hall, was given to the Nature Conservancy as a conservation restriction in 1991 by Edwin Newhall Woods and Jeanne Woods. Last year, it was transferred to the Vineyard Conservation Society.
“It’s been often said that the future of the Vineyard depends on the decisions of Island landowners, and that’s what we saw with this generous gift from the Woods family,” said Brendan O’Neill, executive director of VCS.
“Fran Woods emailed this morning to say ‘enjoy the walk,’” he added.
The winter walk series, who’s theme this year is Living at Sea Level, offers an opportunity to explore a variety of properties while also learning about the Island’s ecosystem. During the hike VCS and Nature Conservancy staff paused to point out unique aspects of the ecosystem which included grassy understory, oak and beetlebung trees, streams and even an otter latrine. Towards the end of the walk, land steward Liz Loucks spotted a hunter’s tree stand among the trees.
“Now I have to go and take it down,” she said. The Woods preserve is private property, though several shotgun shells were seen along the path.
Back in the parking area, VCS treated hikers to cider and cookies.
“There’s been a lot of talk in recent months about the notion of public benefit,” Mr. O’Neill said. “While public access through guided walks like this is certainly one form, the notion of protecting continuous open space, protecting our ground and surface waters from pollution, protecting agricultural soils and wildlife habitat, qualify as public benefits in my book, as well.”
The Winter Walk series continues every second Sunday of the month through March. Walks begin at 1 p.m. For more information, visit vineyardconservation.org.