The Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation and Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank announced early Thursday morning that they will buy nearly all the undeveloped land at Red Gate Farm, the historic, ecologically rare oceanfront estate in Aquinnah owned by the family of Caroline B. Kennedy.
The purchase price is $27 million for 304 acres in two distinct sections, Sheriff’s Meadow executive director Adam Moore said. The Kennedy family is keeping 95 acres in the center of the property, including their homes.
A closing on the below-market transaction is set for December, a press release announcing the purchase said.
The conservation purchase — the most significant on the Vineyard in recent memory — will include a mile of pond frontage and half a mile of Atlantic-facing beach. It will be open to the public after a yearlong biological study, the press release and Mr. Moore said.
“This is perhaps the most significant acquisition in the history of Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation,” Mr. Moore said. “It’s very similar to the 1967 effort led by Henry Hough to preserve Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary. It’s a wonderful thing for all the people of Martha’s Vineyard and all the generations to come who will all be able to enjoy an appreciate the beauty of this land.
He said Sheriff’s Meadow will contribute $12 million to the purchase, $9 million of which has already been raised, and the land bank will contribute $15 million.
The property was placed on the market about a year ago with an asking price of $65 million.
Mr. Moore said conversations with the Kennedy family have been under way for most of the last year, and negotiations began in earnest this spring.
Red Gate Farm served as a private retreat for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis until her death in 1994. It encompasses some 340 acres of stunningly beautiful windswept coastal dunes, wetlands, hillocks and salt-blasted heathlands between Moshup Trail and Squibnocket Pond.
The Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program has described the property as one of the most important tracts of land in the commonwealth.
Mrs. Onassis bought the property in 1978 for $1.1 million from the Hornblower family, saving it from potential development and creating a refuge for herself from an exceedingly public life.
She and her daughter fiercely protected the land over the decades.