A key piece of historic coastal farmland on Chappaquiddick will be conserved, thanks to a purchase announced this week by the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank.
The land bank said Wednesday that it had signed a contract to buy 25 acres of the former Tom’s Neck Farm off the Dike Bridge Road. The purchase price is $5.175 million. The principal seller is Ann Floyd, whose family has owned the property for many decades.
Part of a former working asparagus farm in the early 20th century, the property includes a mosaic of fields and woodlands surrounding Pease Pond, with high and long views of the Cape Pogue Pond.
“The land is utterly lovely,” said land bank executive director James Lengyel, speaking to the Gazette by telephone. “It rolls high and low. It has a variety of habitats and includes a hillock overlooking Pease Pond.”
The property had been subdivided but not built. Mr. Lengyel said negotiations for purchase have been under way for about two years. The purchase includes a number of contingencies that still must be met, he said. He singled out for special credit the open space committee of the Chappaquiddick Island Association, which he said was instrumental in the purchase. The committee, a volunteer group, will assist the land bank with financing and planning and will arrange for the donation of trail easements to link the property to public roads and the land bank’s Three Ponds Reservation, the land bank said in a press release. Private funds totalling $2.175 million have already been pledged toward the project.
“The open space committee has been indispensable,” Mr. Lengyel said.
Ann Floyd said that she had long hoped to put the land in conservation.
“This is a dream of mine I’ve been working on for over 20 years; I never wanted it to be built on,” she said.
The entire Tom’s Neck Farm was originally some 160 acres and has been broken up gradually in recent decades. First, half the farm was sold to a private owner. Later in the 1990s a nine-lot cluster subdivision was approved for the farm that included 35 acres of conservation land held by Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation. Among other things the land bank purchase will convert four large lots, three of them waterfront, into conservation land. The farmhouse that dates to the 1700s and land around it are still held by family members and not included in the purchase.
Ms. Floyd also praised the open space committee and its chairman Nancy Hugger for helping make the deal a reality.
“I remember Nancy Hugger and I stood on a hill overlooking Pease Pond and she said, we can do this. I said let’s do it. That was over a year ago,” Ms. Floyd recalled. “It took that long to put all the pieces in place. This is just amazing. This land is sacred and precious. I’m almost numb and I can’t believe it’s happening.”
The land bank said preliminary management goals call for a trail system plus farmland leasing and hunting. A stretch of off-premises beach along Cape Pogue Pond will also be available to visitors in the off-season.
The trailhead access will be located near Mytoi garden, in cooperation with the Trustees of Reservations, Mr. Lengyel said.
Thomas Arey and his family, the first year-round residents on Chappaquiddick, settled what would become Tom’s Neck Farm around 1750. Tom’s Neck grew into the first substantial farm on the island under the successive ownerships of Captain Arey and later the Jernegan, Smith and Pease families.
Before that, Tom’s Neck was a habitation site for the Wampanoags of Chappaquiddick that may have dated back to before the arrival of colonial settlers in 1642, according to a land survey published by the Massachusetts Historical Commission in Boston in 2000. For a time, the state also oversaw an Indian reservation at Tom’s Neck and nearby North Neck, reserving more fertile land for townspeople who wanted to farm and graze cattle free-range on the wilds of Chappy.
After the turn of the 20th century, under the ownership of Roger Sherman and Elva Pease Hoar and the management of Elva’s father and mother, Ben and Annie Pease, Tom’s Neck thrived as a farm that tended sheep, raised cattle and grew crops that customers coveted on Chappy and in town. In 1917 an account in the Gazette reported that a state agriculture inspector had noted the farm as having the “handsomest field of asparagus in the state.”â¨
Tom Dunlop contributed reporting.