The Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation figures this year for the first time in the list of tax-exempted property in the town of Edgartown. The property so designated is the old ice pond known for generations as Sheriff’s Meadow Pond, and the land immediately around it, now assured of preservation for all time in its present native state.
The Foundation was established in 1959 through the efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Henry B. Hough who turned over to it irrevocably, without compensation, the pond and its setting of pines, and other wild growth among which dogwood, holly, tulip trees, red maples, cedars, and other evergreens, set out in recent years, are now growing. The Houghs had acquired the property from the Louis H. Pease heirs about ten years ago, after the cutting of ice had been discontinued and the ice house torn down.

Purposes Stated in Charter

The purposes of the foundation, as defined in its charter, are as follows: “To preserve, administer, and maintain natural habitats for wild life on Martha’s Vineyard for educational purposes and in the interests of conservation; to acquire, receive, and protect such natural areas so that they may serve as living museums and as a means of assuring to future generations a knowledge of the natural endowment of the Island of Martha’s Vineyard and of similar terrain in New England; and to cooperate with other agencies in the field of education and conservation to further their aims as much as possible in the public interest.”
School children have already carried out nature projects on the property.
Future administration of the Foundation will be in the hands of three trustees or directors, to be named, one each, by the Massachusetts Audubon Society, the Massachusetts S.P.C.A., and a third conservation society.
Part of the explanation of the establishment of the Foundation, according to the Houghs, lies in the fact that when they first came to Edgartown almost forty years ago, there was a great deal of wild or native country in which anyone could walk; but year after year, the real “country” has been reduced until there is little left in or near the settled part of town that is under public control, or ownership in the interest of the public.

For Enjoyment of Nature

The Sheriff’s Pond Foundation gives assurance that this bit of country, within a stone’s throw of the built-up streets, will be kept in its present state permanently. As in the case of sanctuaries maintained under similar plans, there will be no bar to bird watchers or others who wish to take walks in country surroundings. The purposes of the sanctuary - and in any case the limited area - preclude recreational uses other than the enjoyment and observation of nature.
The property includes one segment of John Butler’s Mudhole, the historic small tidal pond which is connected by a ditch with the Eel Pond. From the dike which limits the ice pond at that end, there is a wide view across the Eel Pond over Vineyard Sound.
On the practical side, the Foundation removes from taxation a property valued by the assessors at $2,000. Its existence, however, will add value in years to come to a number of abutting properties. If the growth of the town continues in the next forty years as in the past forty years, this enhancement of value may eventually be considerable. There are thirteen properties which, by reason of the Foundation, will have unobstructed and permanently attractive outlooks.