Plans to widen a trail at the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank’s Wapatequa Woods Reservation in Tisbury will not go forward after being denied by the land bank commission this week. 

The proposal would have turned the trail into a “firebreak,” meant to improve vehicle accessibility at the property in case of a wildfire. But commission members felt the plan did not fit the conditions of the property, and voted unanimously against the plan at its meeting Monday. 

Part of a countywide wildfire protection plan developed by several groups and led by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, the proposal called for doubling the trail’s width to 12 feet, allowing Tisbury’s off-road fire truck to enter the reservation.

MVC planner Dan Doyle said the project would have been paid through a prospective U.S. Forest Service grant.

At the land bank commission meeting Monday, land superintendent Harrison Kisiel said conditions on the Wapatequa trails might not be conducive to creating a firebreak. 

“Trying to manipulate the trail to get what the desired outcome is, I don’t think is the correct way to go about doing it,” Mr. Kisiel said. 

Following a recent site visit to the property, Mr. Kisiel recommended redesigning the route, with the land bank staff completing the work.

In the last 20 years, there has been one wildfire on the property, which the fire department accessed using a brush breaker truck, said land bank ecologist Julie Russell.

“I feel like it’s working backwards from the grant,” said Tisbury commissioner Nancy Weaver.  

In an interview with the Gazette, Mr. Doyle expressed disappointment with the land bank’s decision to deny the project. Part of the reason that area was chosen, he said, was because the nearby neighborhood is a state designated environmental justice community, with a high proportion of vulnerable senior and minority residents.

“I just think we need a bigger community recognition that our most vulnerable communities need protection,” he said. “We need more defensable landscapes when it comes to mitigating this risk…sometimes it’s going to involve some tradeoffs.”

While the land bank commission voted against the plan for Wapatequa, Mr. Doyle said the Martha’s Vineyard Commission was planning to apply for the same grant to create a fire break on the Nature Conservancy’s Woods property in West Tisbury. 

In other business on Monday, Ms. Russell updated the commission on the ongoing work to open the Squibnocket Pond Reservation in Aquinnah, the former location of the Kennedy family’s Red Gate Farm. 

Following approval for the property management plan from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs this April, Ms. Russell said she is mapping out the area’s wetlands, in preparation for bringing plans to the town conservation commission and planning board.

Following approval from the boards, said Mr. Kisiel, trail building work will begin, with plans to open the property late next year.

Also at the meeting, the commission appointed officers for the year. Wesley Mott will serve as chairman, Nancy Weaver as vice chairman and Kristen Reimann as secretary treasurer.