Some of the most breathtakingly beautiful and authentically Martha’s Vineyard spots on this island are also some of the most difficult to get to. That all, of course, helps in keeping them true local experiences.
One such place is serene Ice House Pond (formerly Old House Pond) in West Tisbury. This is a deep glacial freshwater pond, or kettle pond, and one of the few that is accessible to the public. No streams or brooks feed the pond and it is totally and solely replenished via groundwater. The sparkling waters enclosed by woods are a favorite hidden location for locals to get in a morning or evening swim. The pond is part of the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank Manaquayak Preserve, a large wooded preserve that also includes trails, bird-watching and Rainwater Pond at its southern end. Ice House Pond got its name from its previous life as a source of ice for the refrigeration ice harvesting business the Vineyard Ice Company. It served this role from 1908 to 1953.
The Land Bank originally purchased Ice House Pond in 2004. It did so through a straw buyer as it was believed the sellers would not sell to a public agency. This proved very prudent as, once they were revealed as the purchasers, the sellers and a number of summer resident abutters tried to restrict any public and local access to the pond or indeed to allow swimming in the pond. Fortunately this was unsuccessful, although a number of unique restrictions are in place for the Land Bank to manage; the Land Bank have to monitor the bacterial load in the pond and there are tight limits that once breached require the pond to be closed for swimming until the bacteria results are back to acceptable numbers; there is no beach at the pond, access is only via one jetty (or perch); no canoeing or kayaking are allowed; and only 20 swimmers may be in the pond at any one time; parking at Wintergreen Lane next to the pond was limited to 4 cars. A rather “helpful” sign at the entry to the parking tells you that if the 4 spaces are already taken that you should try later!
This all makes it a destination more suitable for adults and swimmers rather than families. Families are better suited heading to nearby Seth’s Pond
In 2015 the Preserve was expanded with the purchase of abutting land that included Rainwater Pond. This is a wonderful spot for bird-watching, where if lucky you’ll catch sight of Peregrine Falcons and Upland Sandpipers. The expansion also gave access via additional trails to Ice House Pond from parking on Lambert’s Cove Road. This meant swimmers could now park at Lambert’s Cove Road (20 spaces) and hike the 1/2 mile to the pond. The 4 spaces at Wintergreen Lane are now reserved for seniors (70 years and older) and those with physical disabilities. You can also of course bike to the Wintergreen Lane lot.
So to arrive on the perch to take the plunge into the shimmering and pristine waters of Ice House Pond requires a 1/2 mile traipse through the woods. But like a cold drink on a sweltering day, a summer’s swim is made even more enjoyable if there is a journey involved in getting there.
Ice House Pond is only 5 miles from the Nobnocket Boutique Inn