Situated on the woodsy banks of the Lagoon Pond, the Oak Bluffs Sailing Camp Park has a rich history that includes use as a summer sailing camp for Girl Scouts from the early 1930s through the early 1980s. In 1983, the town took ownership of the property, which among other things now operates as a hub for Sail Martha’s Vineyard, a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching Island children the maritime traditions of Martha’s Vineyard. But never before has its 15 acres of town-owned conservation land been open to the public for exploration.

Trail system runs through 15 acres of land. — Mark Lovewell

On Sunday June 28, Oak Bluffs will celebrate the grand opening of the Sailing Camp Park’s new walking trails with live music, refreshments and more.

“I love this project and have been waiting 20 years to get these trails in,” said Oak Bluffs conservation agent Elizabeth Durkee. Some 2,500 linear feet of walking paths were recently cut, an ambitious undertaking and long-running goal of the conservation commission. In 2013, the project was finally set in motion, thanks to a grant from the town community preservation committee that provided funding for the first phase of the project. The landscape architecture firm Beals and Thomas of Plymouth studied the topography of the 15 acres to design a functional trail system for the property. “They looked at the layout and the trees and did a vegetative analysis to design it,” said Mrs. Durkee. The entire network of paths follows guidelines set by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The paths are deliberately winding, and were designed to maneuver around groves of trees, almost all of which were preserved. “Not very many trees were cleared, if any at all,” said Mrs. Durkee.

Celebration of Sailing Camp Park's new trails will take place June 28. — Mark Lovewell

A second grant from the town community preservation committee, in 2014, financed the actual construction of the trails by White Brothers-Lynch Corporation based on the Beals and Thomas report. The plan, which includes two new scenic overlooks on the property, came to full fruition this spring. “This trail system is a great benefit for the neighborhood. People can come walk their dogs and there is a new parking area down the road where one of the trails starts. Finally, we are offering public access to this incredible property,” said Mrs. Durkee.

Also made possible by CPA funding was the restoration of an eroding bank on 1,400 feet of public beach below the park. “We hired a company to employ a soft engineering solution. They put coir logs in and re-established bank vegetation to protect against erosion,” said Mrs. Durkee. “We are hoping this will serve as a model for other property owners on the Lagoon to look at and understand how it works so they can do the same thing.”

Mrs. Durkee is considering approaching the community preservation committee again to apply for funds to plant around the scenic overlooks and to install split rail fences and picnic benches. Other final touches for which additional funds would be required include developing signs for the trails’ rules and regulations. “We want to put up some trail marker signs and carry-in, carry-out types of signs too,” she said.

It is, after all, a sailing camp. — Mark Lovewell

The park is the only piece of conservation land owned by the town of Oak Bluffs, hence the importance of opening it up to the public for recreational uses. Other conservation land in the town is owned by land agencies like the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank Commission. There is a mainstay building on the property that was used as the Girl Scouts’ dining hall, and is now a popular rental facility. It is the site of wedding and anniversary parties, and is also rented by the Children’s Theatre program and the Vineyard Haven Band.

A visit to the park makes it hard to believe that it is in the same town as Circuit avenue. “That’s what we love about the trails, is a little bit of getting away from it all,” said Mrs. Durkee.

She anticipates that the trail system will be popular and noted that she’s already seen a lot of footprints.

There will be a ribbon cutting at noon at the Sailing Camp Park walking trails grand opening, and the brass section of the Vineyard Haven Band will perform from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Seth Wilkinson, designer of the coastal bank restoration project, will be on hand to discuss the model to private property owners. The MV Gourmet Cafe and Bakery will provide a cake, with a map of the park’s trails in green frosting. Former Girl Scouts who attended sailing camp at the park might also be in attendance, binding generations of appreciators of the site.

“This is such a happy project for the conservation commission. So much of what we do is regulatory and dealing with the beaches and wetlands issues and can be controversial in a way and this is just a good, solid happy project for the town,” concluded Mrs. Durkee.