Increasing Accessibility at Felix Neck

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From: Suzan Bellincampi, Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary

To: Bluedot Living

Our friends at Felix Neck wrote to update us on the latest measures they are taking to improve accessibility in the outdoors, environmental education, and the places where they intersect our social sphere. 

At Felix Neck, we believe all people should be able access, enjoy, and explore our natural places and take part in our educational programs and activities without barriers. This guiding principle is enshrined in our organization’s new Action Agenda, with a goal of inclusive and equitable access to nature for all.

Honoring the First Peoples 

Mass Audubon’s Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary is named for Felix Kuttashamaquat, a Wampanoag man who lived on the land that is now the Martha’s Vineyard sanctuary. 

Mass Audubon is committed to taking action to support Indigenous rights and to work in partnership with Indigenous communities. Recognizing the loss of land experienced by Indigenous peoples, we will provide greater access to the lands we currently steward by offering free admission to Mass Audubon sanctuaries for all Indigenous people in the state. Knowing that Indigenous voices, experiences, and histories have too often been ignored or erased, we commit to performing scholarly research into the pre-colonial history of the lands we currently steward, with the goal of sharing this rich history on our property and in our programs.  

In collaboration with Sassafras Earth Education, a Wampanoag co-founded organization, Felix Neck hosted an Indigenous People Day Event in fall 2021 and we look forward to including more Indigenous voices and programming at the Sanctuary.

Bringing Kids Outside

Felix Neck is known for our Fern and Feather nature camp, which has engaged children in exploring Island habitats since 1964. More recently, we founded a Fern and Feather nature preschool for ages ages 2.9 to 5.

Both programs provide financial aid and tuition support to Island families. Cost should never be a barrier to kids having a great summer or parents being able to go to work. Felix Neck provides more than $30,000 annually for Vineyard families to send their children to Fern and Feather camp and preschool. Felix Neck also leads more than 100 field trips and classroom programs a year for Island students, from kindergarten seasonal walks to high school climate action. We are embedded in all Vineyard schools.

For All Abilities

Our ADA-compliant Nature Center provides a solid foundation for a Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary visit. A cane chair and noise canceling headphones can be borrowed to improve the visitor experience. Explorer Packs, filled with tools, a companion guide, and activities are available for sale at our Nature Center on a sliding scale, providing guidance and opportunities for parents and caregivers to assist their children in independent nature adventures. 

Guests take a ride with Philip Hunsaker in the Access ABLE golf cart. —Photo courtesy of Felix Neck

Out on the trails, we can also provide support. Broken ankle, back problems, or limited mobility, we’ve got you covered. With the assistance of the Vineyard Golf Club, we purchased a golf cart for accessible guided tours of the property. For those who want to go it alone, we are working to acquire an all-terrain wheelchair in the coming year.

Internships and Opportunities 

Felix Neck helpers. —Photo courtesy of Felix Neck

Protecting nature is work that can’t be done alone. With help from the Tower Foundation, Felix Neck and three other Mass Audubon Sanctuaries statewide provide internships for youth with disabilities. Weekly visits from students in the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School special education programs provide for learning, social interaction, and project assistance. These students learn job skills and help the Sanctuary by feeding birds, clearing trails, and working in our wildlife gardens.

A new project called Pollinating Partnerships, recently funded by the Martha’s Vineyard Community Foundation, takes the internship program to the next level. The students design, plant, and maintain pollinator and wildlife gardens at the Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living. These youth work with elders at the Center for Living to create a garden oasis for wildlife and the enjoyment of their program participants. 

You are welcome to experience our many offerings here at Felix Neck and our community programs around the Island. Let there be no roadblocks to finding your path to nature! 

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