Keep a sad eye out for Booming Ben
The Manuel F. Correllus State Forest was originally created in 1908 in an attempt to save the Heath Hen from going extinct. The heath hen, which was similar to a prairie chicken or a large grouse, was once extremely common in New England and on dinner tables but by 1900 over hunting by humans and feral house cats had driven them to extinction on the mainland and the last flock was on Martha’s Vineyard. In response, hunting was banned and 5,343 acres in the center of the Island was set aside as a preserve for the birds. For a few years it seemed the effort would be successful, and the population of heath hens rebounded from about 70 to nearly two thousand, only to collapse again due to a variety of causes, including a forest fire. The last Heath Hen–Booming Ben–died in 1932. Fortunately for Martha’s Vineyard, the heath hen preserve survives today as the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest, everyone calls simply “the State Forest.” There are some fourteen miles of relatively straight and flat paved bike trails. There are bridal trails, dirt roads, and unofficial mountain bike routes. There’s a frisbee golf course off the Barnes Road. There is even a statue of Booming Ben. Have you found him? Send us your picture with him.