In 2017, the Nantucket Land Bank acquired what was the Reyes family property at 219 and 231 Polpis Rd. The Land Bank worked to restore the site and create a park on the nearly 16-acre parcel. The property, now officially known as Reyes Pond, consists of roughly an acre of upland surrounded by diverse wetlands, including a man-made pond as well as a variety of specimen trees from around the world.
Reyes Pond has an intriguing and well-documented history, dating back to the early 1900’s when a Cape Verdean gentleman named Joe Tavares began farming the land. Nantucket has been truly multicultural since European settlers joined the Native American community in 1659. Whaleships from Nantucket often stopped at the Azores and Cape Verde Islands to reprovision and hire crew. Mr. Tavares was only one of many individuals who made their way to Nantucket from Cape Verde as a crew member on a whaleship and ended up settling down here. This migration resulted in a vibrant Portuguese-speaking community on the island in the early 20th century. Once he set himself up at Reyes Pond, Mr. Tavares raised pigs and established a cranberry bog on the property. At that time, cranberries were a lucrative business, and the berries were nicknamed “red gold” as a result of their high value.
Jose and Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Reyes purchased the property from Mr. Tavares in the 1950’s and designed the grounds to be a private retreat with a landscape reminiscent of places they had lived and travelled. Jose Reyes, of Nantucket Lightship Basket fame, was a native of the Philippines, where the couple had lived in the early years of their marriage. Mrs. Reyes was an avid gardener and naturalist and built a botanical paradise in her backyard as a tribute to her journeys through Asia. In the process of creating her oasis, she carefully selected plant specimens she may have come across in Japan or the Philippines. Some people collect souvenirs to honor their fondest memories, but Mrs. Reyes planted species in her yard in recognition of her favorite destinations.
As part of the Land Bank restoration, the former homestead near the pond had to be removed due to an irreversible state of disrepair. Much of the non-native and overgrown vegetation was also cleared to showcase and sustain a variety of specimen trees and improve viewing areas overlooking the pond. The pond was constructed by Mr. Reyes by dredging the former cranberry bog. Today the pond and the surrounding area are home to painted turtles, irises, swamp azalea, and other wetland vegetation.
The Reyes Pond property is open to the public and can be viewed as a botanic garden where the specimen trees are labeled with species information and country of origin. These trees are wonders to behold, a testament to the scrupulous care Mrs. Reyes gave her collection.
Reyes Pond is located at 231 Polpis Road. From the Milestone rotary, drive east on Milestone Road for 0.3 miles before turning left onto Polpis Road. Drive 3.4 miles, and turn right into the dirt parking lot.
Land Bank trails are marked by the post shown here. Most Land Bank trails are created as loops and if you follow the arrows—the trail should return you to where you began.