Stillpoint Martha’s Vineyard and the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank are making separate purchases to acquire 40 acres in West Tisbury. The deal was announced Tuesday.
Thomas Bena, a principal in Stillpoint, said his plan is to create an educational community space for Islanders, while the Land Bank preserves the property surrounding it.
Bena 14 acres of the land, including a barn, for $2.3 million purchased. The Land Bank is purchasing 26 acres along the Mill Brook for $2.5 million, using donations from the Land Protection Fund and the Martha’s Vineyard Community Foundation, James Lengyel, executive director of the Land Bank, said.
The deal is expected to be finalized later this month.
The land is being purchased from Claudia Miller, who purchased the property in 2008. Two existing single-family homes on the property will be sold separately.
A portion of the property where a barn is located will be used as a “gathering place for educational offerings, including but not limited to classes, discussions, meditation, and the arts,” according to a press release.
Ben Robinson, a Martha’s Vineyard commissioner, climate activist, and key member of the Stillpoint planning team, said in the release that much of the property will be open to the community. In order to maintain land authenticity and avoid detrimental ecological impacts, Robinson said, “when considering any sort of development, there needs to be a responsibility to do as little [damage] as possible.”
The property is located adjacent to Polly Hill Arboretum. It’s also located near the Francis Newhall Woods Nature Preserve, Seven Gates Farm, Crocker Pond, and the Mill Brook watershed.
Of watershed, Lengyel said in the release, conserving “large parts of it [helps to] protect drinking water, habitat, and the Tisbury Great Pond.”
The press release quotes “A Meeting of Land and Sea: Nature and the Future of Martha’s Vineyard” author David Foster’s approval of the project: “This project epitomizes what is needed to ensure the Vineyard’s future in the face of climate change and relentless development. ”
Additionally, with an aim to “increase collaborative land protection,” the release states, the MV Land Bank along with the Land Protection Fund will “preserve the hiking trails and vistas along Crocker Pond and near Priester’s Pond, conserving 26 of the 40 acres. ”
The Stillpoint organization was founded and conceptualized by Bena, founder and former creative director of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival. “We’d like this to be a space where we can have difficult conversations about issues the Island is grappling with,” Bena told The Times.
Adding that he hopes the organization will give the island community, regardless of one’s personal beliefs or opinion, a place where it can come together and learn from each other. “I think we agree on a lot of the same problems,” he said. “We want our kids to have a field to play on, we want our kids to have safe schools, [to know] They’re not going to get shot.” The space won’t completely solve these issues, said Bena, but being able to “hear each other” and bring people together is of utmost importance.
With his background in Buddhist philosophy, Jake Davis, mindfulness meditation retreat instructor and Stillpoint advisor and collaborator, plans to offer “a discussion series that would use quiet, rather than film, as a tool to bring deeper conversations” in a “nonconfrontational” way. .
The property had been approved as a 13-lot subdivision when Miller purchased it.
“Without Claudia, none of this would be possible,” Bena said in the release. “She had the original vision to transform a 13-lot subdivision into a magical place to walk, be quiet, and enjoy nature.”
Bena said the nonprofit will close on the purchase on April 30, and is working “methodically” to prepare for an informational meeting with the West Tisbury planning board on May 2.