Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation Preserves Martha’s Vineyard’s Natural Wonders
Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation (SMF) is a land trust that protects nearly 3000 acres of land on Martha’s Vineyard. SMF builds trails, maintains structures, and safeguards rare plant and animal life on the properties. Foundation-owned land includes several preserves, sanctuaries, and green spaces. Trails through easements purchased by or gifted to the foundation connect various properties, creating a network of trails for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, and even horseback riding. Your exploration of Martha’s Vineyard is not complete without a visit to at least one of the Sheriff’s Meadows Foundation lands.
Land use on Cape Cod, and Martha’s Vineyard in particular, has seen significant changes over the past century. Communities have grown to accommodate tourism and many areas that were farmed for generations have been reclaimed by nature, including invasive and non-native vegetation. Previously undeveloped land is dotted with summer residences and fences. Members of the Martha’s Vineyard communities have recognized the need to preserve the raw, natural beauty of the island. Land trusts like SMF have taken on the responsibility of managing properties, many of which are gifts from local residents or purchased with donations from visitors and locals alike. The work includes not only trail building and monitoring of conservation restrictions, but also providing access for fishing and hunting, leasing some areas to farmers and hosting educational programs. The resulting collection of publicly accessible natural space is one of Martha’s Vineyard’s greatest treasures.
Up-island you’ll find SMF sanctuaries, trails and preserves near Aquinnah, Chilmark and West Tisbury. Wallen, Preston & Shands sits on top of the Gay Head Cliffs at Aquinnah. Its trails take you over rolling, windswept hills and offer spectacular ocean views. At Chilmark, Middle Road Sanctuary is 100 acres of woodland with steep-walled valleys and large boulders left behind by glaciers. The hike is more challenging, but the wide variety of trees and plant life host an abundant bird population making it well worth the effort. Further east, Quansoo Farm sits next to Tisbury Great Pond with nearly 150 acres of meadows and forest. Twisted and shaped by constant wind, the trees at Quansoo are a dramatic backdrop to the views of open fields and ponds. The trail around the perimeter of the property is open to hiking, biking, horseback-riding and even cross-country skiing. To the north, Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary covers 400 acres of beach, ponds, streams, woods and rocky bluffs. While swimming and fishing are not allowed, you can easily spend hours exploring the miles of trail through the sanctuary. And these are just 3 of the 9 SMF lands on the west side of the island.
Down-island there are 13 more SMF gems in the Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, and Chappaquiddick areas. The largest are West Chop Woods, between Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs, and Caroline Tuthill Preserve at Edgartown. West Chop Woods’ 90 acres of pine forest are home to many birds and other wildlife. Four intersecting trails offer a variety of paths through the woods. Caroline Tuthill Preserve is more than 150 acres of forest, marsh and meadow next to Sengekontacket Pond. Several trails meander through the woods and along the marshes, and one is even ideal for mountain biking. Other down-island SMF jewels include the trail along the edge of Vineyard Golf Club (a conservation area itself), amazing views of Nantucket Sound from Sheriff’s Meadow Sanctuary and Ox Pond Meadow, and the scenic overlook above Katama Bay at Packard Preserve.
In all, Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation manages, preserves and welcomes visitors to 22 different properties on Martha’s Vineyard. Find a quiet spot to watch the wildlife and a sunset, take a hike, bring a bicycle, or check out the horseback riding and skiing options. The opportunities for exploration are limited only by the time you have to spend on the island.