Prominent conservationists announced yesterday that they have acquired Barnard’s Inn Farm, a 60-acre parcel of land in West Tisbury that is highlighted by the arboretum created by Mary Louisa (Polly) Hill.
The property is important for several reasons. The farm is considered a key element in the rural stretch in the north part of town. It links several important pieces of conservation land.
In addition, the farm represents great natural diversity. It comprises 40 acres of woodlands and 20 acres of arboretum. It is also considered unique because of its geology, which is representative of both the down-Island plains and the rocky up-Island topography. Meanwhile, the unique arboretum created by Mrs. Hill is considered an Island treasure.
Last September, the David H. Smith Foundation announced its intention to take a lead role in raising money to buy the property from the children of Polly Hill and the late Julian Hill. The Smith foundation is named for Dr. David Smith of New York city and West Tisbury, a prominent medical researcher and conservationist. The foundation has also been instrumental in a conservation effort on Moshup Trail in Gay Head.
Yesterday, Dr. Smith declined to comment on the purchase, pending an official ceremony with state officials, which will take place in a few weeks. Mrs. Hill also declined to comment, pending the publication of an official news release.
Other conservationists familiar with the property, however, said the purchase is extremely important.
“Many people have worked for many years to save this remarkable property,” said Brendan O’Neill, executive director of Vineyard Conservation Society. “It harbors a unique assemblage of natural systems, in that it is located just on the edge of the western moraine where the flat outwash plain gives way to the up-Island hills, which is sort of an interesting aspect of the property. It’s strategically located; it completes a band of dedicated conservation land, stretching from the headquarters of the Mill Brook in Chilmark down through the Waskosim’s Reservation to the 500-acre Frances Newhall Woods preserve -- it’s amazing the way this one fits in.
“It’s a nice addition to the open space of West Tisbury. We’re thrilled with the outcome. It’s a great asset to the entire Island community.”
The news release, received yesterday by the Gazette, reads as follows:
“The Polly Hill Arboretum Inc. has acquired the Barnard’s Inn Farm in North Tisbury, on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and its horticultural assets from JoLouJeff Inc. The property has approximately 20 acres of horticultural plantings and 40 acres of woodlands, and contains the results of Polly Hill’s 40 years of study to define ‘the best plants and trees to grow on the Vineyard.’
“More than 2,000 individual species are now displayed around large meadows, including azaleas, camellias, clematis, crabapples, dogwoods, hollies, magnolias, pines, rhododendrons and stewartia. Most of these specimens have been grown from seed, as part of Polly’s experiment to determine if the zonal characteristics of plants and trees can be extended to include the Vineyard if growth is initiated with seed.
“Widely recognized as taking amateur horticulture to a new, higher level, Polly Hill has received numerous regional and national awards, the latest of which is the 1997 Gold Medal of Honor award of the Garden Club of America.
“The Polly Hill Arboretum is a newly created public foundation founded to preserve and enhance public access to the Polly Hill Arboretum, continue Polly’s experimental approach, use the arboretum as an educational environment for students of all ages and conserve the property to enhance the rural character of the setting and add to the natural ecosystem in the area.
“A life rights agreement with Polly to continue her seasonal residence and assume a leadership role in supervising the arboretum was integral to the foundation’s acquisition. The foundation has also secured a unique consulting contract with the garden department of the Winterthur Museum, Wilmington, Del., to assist in the management of the arboretum.
“ ‘A garden is not static. It either grows is or lost,’ expressed Polly Hill, ‘so I am thrilled that the arboretum will be preserved and used for education.’ Asked for advice for the future, Polly emphasizes, ‘Keep experimenting. There are three plants in bloom out there right now which everyone told me would never grow on the Vineyard.’
David H. Smith, founder and chairman of the PHAI, states, ‘Polly’s arboretum is an oasis of tranquility and beauty and has to be preserved. And Polly’s knowledge, enthusiasm and commitment are truly inspirational. What a role model. If the United States had as system of recognizing human treasures, Polly Hill would be at the top of the list.’
“The foundation’s purchase has been facilitated by lead gifts from the David H. Smith Foundation, members of the Hill family and anonymous horticultural colleagues of Polly Hill. The Department of Environmental Management of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts provided funds to place a conservation restriction on the property. 
“In order to conduct inventories and documentation and renovation of certain of the facilities, the arboretum will be closed to the general public until next spring. Group tours are available.”

From the July 11, 1997 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:


Editorial: Quiet Progress

Take a look at the news of the last few days and you will find that these are times full of contradictions for this community and its struggle to preserve an Island way of life now under siege.
First, the Fourth of July holiday weekend raised serious alarms about the Vineyard’s ability to manage huge crowds and too much traffic. This was especially true of Edgartown where some twenty thousand people jammed South Beach for holiday revelry. In the end Island services were stretched to the breaking point, from law enforcement to emergency systems to the capacity of the Steamship Authority fleet. Island officials already are talking about new and better ways to respond to public safety concerns triggered by holiday pressures.
Meanwhile, there was quiet and hopeful news from the conservation front where two strategic pieces of land were protected in West Tisbury, both major steps in the battle to preserve the Vineyard’s rural character. The Nature Conservancy, a highly respected national conservation organization, will take over ninety acres of old pastures and morainal woodlands on what is known as the John Hoft Farm off Lambert’s Cove Road. The farmland will serve as a field station headquarters to support land protection, habitat restoration and ecological research.
And in a second move of supreme importance to the Vineyard, the David H. Smith Foundation acquired the sixty-acre Barnard’s Inn Farm in West Tisbury. The property links other critical conservation preserves and features a national treasure, the twenty-acre arboretum created over many years by Mary Louisa (Polly) Hill. Brendan O’Neill, executive secretary of the Vineyard Conservation Society, describes the significance of the acquisition:
“Many people have worked for many years to save this remarkable property. It harbors a unique assemblage of natural systems, in that it is located just on the edge of the western moraine where the flat outwash plain gives way to the up-Island hills.”
The point of these last few days is that in our preoccupation with the immediate problems of growth and congestion, we sometimes lose sight of quiet but significant achievements to secure the future of the Vineyard before the Island is overwhelmed by outside pressures.