The Trustees acquire Gerry Island

Courtesy photoGerry island off Marblehead represents the 117th property now protected by the Trustees of Reservations. 

MARBLEHEAD — The preservation and conservation nonprofit The Trustees of Reservations said Wednesday it had closed on the acquisition of the Gerry Island in Little Harbor, forever sparing from development the 1.6 acre island that can be walked to over a natural gravel land bridge at low tide.

The organization also announced it had also raised $250,000 to care for and manage the island. The island sits just off Orne Street, Doak Lane and Fort Sewall.

The donation of the formerly privately owned island by Ted and Julie Moore of Marblehead makes Gerry Island the organization's 117th reservation.

"They donated it to us, which was incredibly generous," Trustees spokeswoman Kristi Perry said.

The organization said in a statement it plans to carry on the Moores' legacy of sharing the island with the public and protecting it for generations to come.

"We were actually approached by the landowner," said Vanessa Parker-Geisman, a land conservation specialist for the group. She said the donation permanently protects Gerry Island, with its unique views of the harbor and the adjacent Fort Sewall. A call was placed to Moore's home seeking further comment.

"It's so rare to have the opportunity to protect open space in such a densely populated area," Parker-Geisman said.

Other islands preserved by The Trustees include the nearby Crowninshield Island, also known as Browns Island, a few hundred yards to the north. The Trustees also oversee the Misery Island Reservation in Salem Sound off the coast of Manchester-by-the-Sea.

Perry said the organization raised the $250,000 from 90 donors from Marblehead and across he state in a short period to establish the endowment to care for and manage the island, and to put in place amenities for visitors such as a short trail, benches and informational signs.

The Marblehead Conservancy, which supported the fundraising campaign, also plans to provide stewardship of the island.

"We are so grateful for this generous gift of land from Ted and Julie Moore, as well as all of the support we've received for the stewardship endowment," Trustees President and CEO Barbara Erickson said. "We are so happy to carry on the Moores' legacy of caring for this special place so it can remain open and maintained for all to enjoy for many years to come."

The Moores owned the island through a subsidiary called Redstone Realty LLC of 8 Doaks Lane in Marblehead, according to town records. This company's manager is Glover Property Management Inc. whose president is Ted Moore. The island was purchased for $380,000 in 1998. The town assessed its value at $279,900.

The Trustees plan start stewardship projects soon, including cleanups and the management of encroaching vegetation. They plan to install a short trail, benches and signage to welcome visitors and provide information about the island's namesake, the Gerry family.

Thomas Gerry owned the island in the mid-18th century.

His son was statesman and diplomat Elbridge Gerry, a former Massachusetts governor and vice president under President James Madison who was involved in the shaping the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Bill of Rights.

His name is synonymous with the practice of gerrymandering, the manipulation of boundaries of a voting district to favor one party over the other. Gerry signed into a law a redistricting bill favoring his party and an 1812 newspaper cartoon of a North Shore state senate district resembling a salamander gave rise to the term.

Town Historian Don Doliber said the island at one time had a couple of private summer homes on it. It was also used to graze cattle.

 "I'm glad the Trustees have taken it over," Doliber said.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.