Please read the full article in the Vineyard Gazette.
Commentary by Tess Bramhall
Photo by Jeanna Shepard


During April 2022, while we were all focused on passing the housing bank in our towns, stories appeared in the local newspapers announcing that the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank, aided by the Land Protection Fund, had purchased 26 acres of land along the banks of Mill Brook and Crocker Pond in West Tisbury at the junction of State and North Roads. This is collaborative conservation, with two groups or more working together to achieve a conservation goal.


Everyone knows of the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank, but likely the Land Protection Fund is new to most. This fund was created in 2018 and is held by the Martha’s Vineyard Community Foundation. It was founded by myself and an advisory board consisting of Jim Athearn, Everett Bramhall, Kib Bramhall, David Foster and Pam Goff. Its purpose is to offer monetary assistance to help complete conservation transactions and therefore to help in a modest way to increase the pace of land protection on Martha’s Vineyard.


But before describing the motivation behind the Land Protection Fund it is important to look further at the above mentioned land purchase.


The land bordering the Mill Brook and Crocker Pond is sparsely settled and the Mill Brook flows through the Waskosim’s Rock Reservation into Fisher Pond and on into both Crocker and Priester’s Ponds then passes under State Road and travels on to West Tisbury’s iconic Mill Pond where it flows under the Edgartown/West Tisbury Road into Tisbury Great Pond and out to the Atlantic Ocean. Its waters are fresh, clear and healthy. This is a very important watershed for the middle of the Island. The 26 acres purchased included some potential house sites which will now not be built upon, thus sparing the watershed of excessive septage and fertilizer. There are parts of the Island which for ecological reasons are best to preserve and the Mill Brook/Crocker Pond area is one of them.


What motivated the formation of the Land Protection Fund was and is a strong belief in the vital importance of the land that makes up Martha’s Vineyard. Very simply, if it were not for this land none of us would be here. We tend to think of this land as a backdrop for all that we do on the Island, but the land is so much more than a backdrop — it is a life force with its soils, forests and waters that enables us to live here. The land nurtures us, it is our foundation and our home, and it is our shared responsibility to protect it.


Our Island is being encroached upon by rising sea levels and the increasing numbers of us who live here. Therefore it is essential to achieve a balance between the land and the people. This calls for collaboration to protect our farmlands, forests and watersheds, and to provide workforce housing. The land bank and the Island Housing Trust and other housing advocates have been working together for years to build workforce housing on land that is not ecologically fragile while opening up connecting land that would be best conserved, but could accommodate walking paths for the enjoyment of the public.


The Land Protection Fund will work to support these efforts along with its main interest which is preserving the land which will help our Island function and survive as we know and love it. The Land Protection Fund welcomes like-minded collaborators.