Dear Edgartown Voters:
The trustees of the Katama Airfield Trust and the Commissioners of the Katama Airfield urge you to vote “yes” for the replacement of the hangar at the Katama Airfield at the Town Election on April 11th.
To the Edgartown voters who question why the town ought to pay for a hangar to benefit an airfield they will never use, please remember that, in 1983, Steve Gentle, the owner of the airfield, sold 122 acres of rare sandplain for $1.45 million. $625,000 of the purchase price for an expanded acquisition of 190 acres was paid for by the Town of Edgartown, the balance was paid for by the State of Massachusetts (mostly) and The Nature Conservancy. Even then, the Gentle’s gift was ridiculously generous. Steve his wife Dorothy gave up tens of millions of dollars to preserve a unique open space for the entire Island, but in particular for the people of Edgartown. His only request, and a request to which Edgartown agreed, was that the unique grass airfield be maintained as it had been since he started flying there in the 1940’s. For the voters of Edgartown who wonder why the Town and its taxpayers ought to maintain an airfield that they do not personally use, they should try to imagine the tall grass at the end of the Airfield property replaced by 10 – 12 three-story mansions blocking the view from Herring Creek Road. They should imagine the grass strip replaced by rows of condominiums not unlike those that grace Katama Road, a mile to the east. In the early 80’s, the State of Massachusetts Office of Environment Affairs contributed over $1.8 million to the conservation of this land because they recognized it as “one of the top five rare species habitat in the Commonwealth.” The Town of Edgartown, prior to the Gentle gift, had long sought to protect this then unprotected land in the center of 700 acres of protected open space along the Vineyard’s south shore. It was the Gentle gift, and subsequent contributions from the State and The Nature Conservancy, that preserved the Airfield as a truly special place.
Edgartown voters should vote in favor of the hangar because they want to keep faith with the spirit of the agreement with Steve Gentle and the remarkable partnership between the Town and The Nature Conservancy that has resulted in the continued preservation and stewardship of this extraordinary tract.
The hangar is the center of operations for the Airfield. Every airfield has and needs a hangar. The present hangar is an eyesore and is about to fall down. The roof leaks, the foundation is shaky and the wood support beams have lost their original strength. The hangar is essential for the Airpark’s continued operation and will store equipment, replace adjacent shipping container storage units, and permit limited aircraft storage (for rent). Steve Gentle knew that when he pieced together the current hangar after the ’34 hurricane. The Katama Airfield Trust has raised over $150,000 in recent years from private donors many of whom are not pilots but who want to assist the Town in replacing the hangar. The Katama Airfield Commission has previously applied for and received a Community Preservation grant. This combined work has allowed the Town to significantly reduce the amount of the warrant article this year from $1,200,000 to $950,000.
We ask for your help in voting “yes” for the Katama Airfield Hangar on April 11th. It is a vote to keep faith with the agreement between Steve and Dorothy Gentle and the Town, and it is the right thing to do.
Learn more about the Katama Airfield at katamaairfieldtrust.org
Trustees of the Katama Airfield Trust and the Commissioners of the Katama Airfield