Imagine how much change a person can make. In 1964, Island resident Anne Hale saw the need to create a space celebrating the wildlife of Martha’s Vineyard that was open to the public. There was no Land Bank, and much of the Island was privately owned.
Anne Hale, along with a few other conservationists persuaded a friend, George Moffett (of the Moffett Race), to buy a parcel of land abutting Sengekontacket Pond from the Smith Family (yes as in Walter Smith plumbing).
The land was about 200 acres and George did indeed purchase it for $106,000. Can you imagine how much the land would be worth now?
The First Program
At the time, the land was just open space, a place for people to come and enjoy the great outdoors. However, Ann saw a need — the need for children to have the opportunity to be close to nature.
That same year, the Fern and Feather Camp, for kids 4 – 16, was established. This camp is still popular today, 50 years later.
It’s a camp where children spend their time exploring the marshes, the ponds, the forests, the saltwater and more. What a way to spend part of your Summer.
In 1968, George Moffett donated the land to Mass Audubon and it became Felix Neck. Gus BenDavid was the first director, opening the sanctuary in 1969.
He was the director until 2006, and then Suzan Bellincampi took over. She is still in the position and is just as enthusiastic today as the day she started eight years ago.
The name Felix Neck comes from a Wampanoag who lived on the land, Felix Kuttashamaquat. In the 1600’s he lived on the narrow piece of land that juts out like a neck (actual term) into Sengekontacket Pond, hence the name Felix Neck. I didn’t know any of this history before today.
Since its creation, Felix Neck has continued to grow. I don’t think many people even know how much it has to offer for kids and adults.
There are community programs, which involve schools, like kayaking for high school gym class, bringing animals and nature to Windemere and more.
There are also camp programs, adult programs, private group programing, and public programs for kids, like Creature Feature and Seashore Discovery. Whew there’s a lot.
Felix Neck is one of those special places on the Vineyard. It allows you to explore a different side of the Island.
Get close to osprey, learn about native animals and plants, check out the barn owls and their chicks, watch the butterflies float across the sky, learn about horseshoe crabs, have the chance to get close to nature.
One of my favorite things to do at Felix Neck is check out the barn owls. There is a “Owl Cam’ on 24/7 so you can watch them.
Right now there are eight baby owls the parents are watching over, and some of them will begin to leave the nest as early as June 19th. If you want to see what the owls are up to, you can check out the Owl Cam.
For generations, Felix Neck has offered people the chance to immerse themselves in nature. Fifty years of making nature accessible and fun for all ages. That’s a great legacy, one that Martha’s Vineyard is lucky to have.
You have the space, and of course the people. In addition to Suzan, there are five other staff members including Philip “Flip” Hunsaker (property manager) and Laura Hearn (development assistant), who I managed to wrangle in for a pic here.
These people really love their job and have fun with you. It’s a family and it embraces you at every visit.
Celebrating 50 Years
With such a big anniversary, Felix Neck has even more to offer this year for outdoor enthusiasts. Starting with the Edible Event Series in May. I missed the first one earlier in the month, but on Saturday, May 24th, edible plant specialist and author Russ Cohen will hold a presentation on edible plants.
Did you know that Martha’s Vineyard is home to over 75 edible plant species? I had no idea. I sense a blog topic and an adventure coming.
In addition to this, there are tons of guided kayak tours, including moonlit kayak tours, shore bird beach tracking, guided nature tours featuring dragonflies and damselflies, and a bird seminar with world famous ornithologist,Victor Emanuel, which is a big deal for any birders.
There’s so much going on at Felix Neck. Each week there are options for getting you closer to nature, enabling you to see a different side of Martha’s Vineyard.
With such a big anniversary, of course there will be special events, but Felix Neck is also doing a lot of fundraising for scholarships for Fern & Feather Summer Camp.
Through the money raised, Felix Neck is able to help 30 to 40 Island children attend summer camp. That’s a lot of kids. So, this year the team is working on raising $50,000 to help enable children to explore nature and their surroundings.
In addition, Felix Neck will be raising money through sales of the new book, Martha’s Vineyard: A Field Guide to Island Nature. This book, written by Suzan Bellincampi, is the perfect way to get to know the “wild” side of the Island.
Suzan had no idea she was going to write a book. Originally she was going to update Felix Neck founder Anne Hale’s book Moraine to Marsh. However, so much had changed in the 25 years since the original book, a new one had to be written.
Suzan was planning a year of celebration activities, planning a wedding, and decided to write a book. Why not? Susan has a lot of energy and a lot of love for Felix Neck. No surprise it all got done — and done well.
The book is being released the week of May 26th. It was nice to get a sneak peek at this must-get book for any fan of the outdoors and the Vineyard.
The book has been completely paid for through previous fundraising, so all the profits go to Felix Neck when purchased there. It will also be available at Bunch of Grapes, Edgartown Books, and SBS.
So, perhaps this is the year that in addition to the amazing beaches and restaurants of the Island, you might want to see herons in flight, blue crabs scurrying along the shore, an osprey catching dinner or watch a box turtle quietly cross the path in front of you. A little time with nature can be good for the soul.
Thanks for reading the On Point Blog. You can learn more about Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary on Facebook. There’s so much happening you’ll want to check it out often. Don’t forget to check out the gift shop there. tons of cool stuff!