The Trade Wind Fields Preserve in Oak Bluffs is many things to many people, among them an airstrip, a pleasant place to walk dogs and a fragile habitat for rare species. It may ultimately prove impossible to reconcile these wildly different uses, but construction of a giant fence seems like the wrong way to go.

The Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank, which acquired the preserve some two decades ago, claims it has tried and failed for years to gently persuade dog walkers to respect the sweeping sandplain grassland that harbors rare plants and insects, including little bluestem, blazing star and tiger beetles. A public agency with commissioners elected from each Island town, the land bank is at its core a conservation agency, though recreational use consistent with ecology is part of its mission.

And there’s little doubt that some dog owners and walkers have been less responsible than others, letting pets run free and trodding across vulnerable habitat.

But neighbors and frequent users say the land bank did little to enlist their cooperation in finding a better solution before moving forward to build a two-mile fence that aims to keep people and dogs out of the field and restore grassland that has been trampled and worn bare in many spots.

Today the preserve looks like a construction site, with heavy equipment rumbling across the sandplain. A newly-mown path is being created around the perimeter fence. The land bank is soliciting public feedback for other trail loops and placement of benches, including for people with disabilities.

As the fence nears completion at Trade Wind, the call for public comment feels like something of an afterthought.

Early this week Oak Bluffs town administrator Robert Whritenour invited land bank executive director James Lengyel to attend an upcoming meeting of the town selectmen to discuss the situation.

Rather than accepting the invitation, Mr. Lengyel sent a detailed letter to “answer any questions you may have about the land bank’s efforts to safeguard the grassland habitat at the Trade Wind Fields Preserve.”

The letter recounts the history of the problems and describes efforts to ameliorate them, including a 2001 report called the Trade Wind Fields Preserve canine-human interaction report.

“The land bank has been persistent in seeking to persuade visitor to respect the grassland,” Mr. Lengyel wrote in part. “Signs were posted, explaining the sandplain’s sensitivity. The land bank staff met on-site with users to describe the ecological goals and to field questions. An attendant was hired to roam the preserve and tactfully approach visitors to urge them to stay on the trails.

“Nothing worked. As a last resort, the land bank has accepted that the only way to achieve its conservation goals is to separate the grassland from the recreational trails with a fence.”

The letter concludes with a recommendation that Trade Wind visitors “find another suitable place to create a dog park.”

After several decades of allowing dog walking on the property, the land bank’s decision to respond in writing instead of appearing at a selectmen’s meeting to defend its position seems insensitive, if not arrogant.

Public anger over the Trade Wind fence shows no sign of abating, and the least that elected and appointed land bank leaders should do is face the consequences of their decision.