On Tisbury Great Pond, a Family Feud

By MANDY LOCKE

A divided family, hundreds of feet of unlicensed docks and the future of a cove on Tisbury Great Pond has sparked a drama in West Tisbury.

Complicating the story is that the family member who installed these unpermitted docks is a town selectman. Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter reportedly installed four seasonal floating docks on Manter family land over the last few years. This week his older brother, Whit Manter, said it's gone too far.

"Years ago, my family used to live with the pond," said Whit Manter, during a Wednesday afternoon walk on what remains of the family's original 42-acre neck, a thin strip of land between Muddy Cove and Town Cove.

This month, the family feud came before the West Tisbury conservation commission, the board charged with the care of town's wetlands. Tuesday evening, the commission - whose members are appointed by the board of selectmen - tried to sort through the details of the unlicensed docks.

"There's no advantage for having done it first and asking permission later," warned commissioner Ebba Hierta, after Glenn Provost of Vineyard Land Surveying explained that the four docks in question have been in the pond for "some period of time." Skipper Manter, who stayed home to avoid the appearance of a conflict, hired Mr. Provost to present his case. Reached by phone yesterday, Skipper Manter said he did not want to comment on the docks while the commission application is still pending.

"I hardly know where to begin," Whit Manter, a former member of the conservation commission, told the board Tuesday. "You've been misled by my family for the last 20 years. They once asked to dig up a dike [to allow for better flow in the pond]. My family doesn't give a damn about the environment. They just wanted to get boats in there and trash the place up."

These docks, two of which stretch a third of the way across Muddy Cove, seem to have struck a nerve beyond the Manter clan. A handful of Tisbury Great Pond neighbors also came out Tuesday to protest Skipper Manter's docks.

"The feeling is that it's like a little marina in there," said Carly Look, who lives just across Muddy Cove. While the lengths of the four piers total more than 244 feet, Ms. Look said that number doesn't take into account the dozens of appendages off the main body of the docks. This week, 22 of the nearly 30 wooden dock pieces were stacked on Manter Family Trust land at the tip of the neck, a stone's throw from the water.

What's more, neighbors say, Skipper Manter has been clearcutting portions of the shoreline, and a dam at the head of the cove seems to be getting larger.

"It's a huge issue - all of that work around the edge. I assumed all of that went through your board," said Arnold Fischer Jr., whose family owns more than 100 acres on a nearby neck. The conservation commission said they had reviewed no such plans.

Nearly a quarter-mile of shoreline - running across land owned by Skipper Manter and three other pieces owned by Skipper and Whit's mother, Janice - has been stripped almost bare. Lowlying scrub oak, several trees and patches of phragmite no longer blanket the edges of the pond on much of these properties. A well-trimmed lawn now stretches down the eastern slopes of these properties.

At the head of the pond, an earthen dam 10 feet wide blocks a small pool of fresh water from the rest of the cove. A dock with a number of attachments stretches across this farm pond.

"He's taking a piece of Tisbury Great Pond and [has] turned it into a private estate," said Whit Manter later this week.

The conservation commission handed a laundry list of questions over to Mr. Provost and instructed him to bring answers to another hearing April 15. Commissioners wanted water measurements in the cove, the number of boats to use the docks and a reason why they need to be longer than most any dock on the pond.

"This seems like a hot potato, and it seems to go beyond the docks," Mr. Provost said later this week.