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First aid neededBooming Ben LbNA #70473

Owner:The Washashores Contact
Plant date:Aug 3, 2014
Location: Manuel F Corellus State Forest
Found by: GSLeader
Last found: Jun 20, 2018
Hike distance:1 mi
Last edited:Aug 29, 2016
The Heath Hen was once plentiful along the eastern coast. By 1870, due to over-hunting and habitat loss, the last few hundred Heath Hens in the world were limited to Martha’s Vineyard. Although efforts to save the species were unsuccessful, they paved the way for modern-day conservation. Manuel F. Corellus State Forest is the lasting legacy of the once plentiful Heath Hen.

The Manuel Correllus State Forest was originally created in 1908 as the Heath Hen Reserve, after the mainland populations of these birds were long gone and the Island their only refuge. Purchased for $2,420, the establishment of this sanctuary was one of the early efforts to save a species in decline. Wardens were hired to protect the world’s last population, maintain their habitat, and dispatch predators.

The population of heath hen in the reserve fluctuated greatly. Before a particularly devastating fire, there were more than 2,000 birds! By 1927, there were only twelve Heath Hens left in the world. In just one year, the last twelve Heath Hens became one - a sole male. Islanders named him ‘Booming Ben.’ Booming Ben lived alone from 1929 until his death in 1932 when his loss marked the extinction of the Heath Hen.

Inspired for his “Lost Bird Project”, Todd McGrain chose the Heath Hen to be one of five extinct bird species to be sculpted. His breathless sculpture of the Heath Hen commemorates the last time the bird was seen.

On June 2, 2011, The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation dedicated the Heath Hen Sculpture at Manuel Correllus State Forest. The Heath Hen statue, and our letterbox, can be approached on foot by taking a five to ten-minute walk into the forest from Gate 18 or Gate 19 on the West Tisbury-Edgartown Road. However, our favorite approach is by bicycle: Park your car in the small parking lot on County Road directly adjacent to the West Tisbury School. Hop on your bike and take the paved bike path that heads to the south, and later east, for approximately 3 miles til you reach the Heath Hen Memorial Statue. Off behind and to the right of the statue as you face it from the bike path is a plaque with the sad story of Booming Ben.

To find the letterbox (which is actually a pouch made of camo-colored duct tape): stand back to back with the Booming Ben statue, looking in the opposite direction toward the tree line. Take approximately 7 average adult steps southeast, uphill towards the tree line. Then turn to the northeast and take 17 average adult steps. Look to your right to find the pouch hidden beneath sticks and leaves between the trunks of two small pine trees. Please bring your own ink and writing implement.