Mary P. Wakeman, a woman who has devoted herself to the cause of conserva­tion on Martha’s Vineyard, was the guest of honor Saturday when Island conserva­tionists gathered at Cranberry Acres to celebrate her 82nd birthday and to start a fund-raising campaign for the Mary P. Wakeman Conservation Center.
Six Island conservation organizations have joined forces to build a $500,000 conservation center on a lot donated by the Vineyard Open Land Foundation in the subdivision off Lambert’s Cove Road in Vineyard Haven.
Ivo Meisner, as president of VOLF, told about 85 guests that Mrs. Wakeman, “a woman of great spirit, a driver, a spark plug, a gutsy lady,” has graciously allowed her name to be bestowed on the center. He described her efforts to protect the landscape of Martha’s Vineyard: “She’s never shied from controversy when she felt her cause was just.”
Her time and energy have been boundless, he said. “At times, when VOLF has teetered on the brink, she’s brought it back, with contributions both financial and of the spirit.”
Naming the center after Mrs. Wake­man is only appropriate. “We do so with gratitude and abiding affection,” Mr. Meisner said to the woman wearing yellow orchids, sitting in her classic yellow 1956 Thunderbird.
“I didn’t know I was going to get a eulogy,” she replied with a chuckle. “It certainly was very kind.”
Though the concept of the building wasn’t hers, she said, “I so thoroughly approve of it I’ll do everything I can to make it happen.”
Fontaine deGeofroy of the Vineyard Conservation Society (VCS), Edith W. Potter of the Trustees of Reservations, Arnold Brown of Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary and the Massachusetts Au­dubon Society, and Jessie McChesney of the Martha’s Vineyard Garden Club addressed the guests. The Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation also sponsors the ‘ conservation center.
James Spalding, as chairman of the fund-raising committee, reported that $20,000 has been raised to date, in donations ranging from $25 to $10,000. The $500,000 will cover the cost of construction as well as other long-range plans for the center.
He and Mr. Meisner said they hope to begin construction in a year.
Mrs. Wakeman was a founding trustee of VCS and VOLF more than a decade ago. When development threatened Wasque on Chappaquiddick, she led the movement to raise more than $170,000 to purchase it for the Trustees of Reservations. Later, she donated her 15-acre Japanese gardens on Chappaquiddick, called My Toi, to the Trustees.
In 1970 she was given he Conservation Award of the Trustees of Reservations, for “distinguished service in the field of conservation and the environment.”
In a letter to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in 1971, protesting his Nantucket Sound Islands Trust Bill, Mrs. Wakeman described the efforts to ensure proper development of the Vineyard, in harmony with the environment.
She wrote: “All this to the end that the Islands may maintain the vitality that only a working society is capable of in contrast to just a playground, while at the same time, through education and constant vigilance, trying to preserve the special physical treasures that are uniquely the Islands’.”