On April 28 Chilmark voters will be asked to endorse a plan that will:
• Add approximately 10.5 acres of oceanfront land to the town’s current Squibnocket Beach lease. The renewed lease will be for a term of 99 years. This additional land will increase the length of the town’s beach and shoreline from about 250 feet to over 1,400 feet.
• Provide space on the 10.5 acres for a new parking area. There are several possible locations that experts predict will last over 100 years. The new parking area will also have an accessible walking path to the shore. Plus there are other parking alternatives under consideration.
• Provide public recreational kayak and commercial skiff access to Squibnocket Pond.
• Provide several options for removing all or part of the current parking lot revetment. This has the potential to restore the current parking area and beach to its original barrier beach state. If done, it will also help improve the health of Squibnocket Pond as the ocean has natural water exchanges with the pond during significant storm events.
• Complement the Squibnocket Farm homeowners desire to permit and build an elevated roadway that provides safe and reliable personal and emergency services access to their homes. • Not increase taxes to pay for this by using existing Community Preservation Act reserve funds and hopefully federal or state coastal resiliency grant funding. A vote of confidence in this plan will allow the selectmen to move forward and bring the plan’s final design and recommendations to voters at a special town meeting in October 2014.
This plan was conceived, negotiated and reviewed with two independent coastal geologists, two engineering firms and with Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management experts. Since Dec. 3, 2013 it has been discussed with the public through a series of four presentations to get feedback, listen to questions and concerns and return with expert opinions to answer these questions before the April 28 annual town meeting. All presentations, reports and relevant documents are posted on the town’s website and have been filmed and broadcast on MVTV. The local press has also covered the progress of this project in great detail.
This proposal would not be possible without the dedicated efforts of the Squibnocket Farm Homeowners Association, the Vineyard Open Land Foundation and town government officials. It has been lauded as a thoughtful, deliberate solution to a complex problem of coastal erosion and public beach access for other towns to follow. We view it as an example of how private residents and towns can work together for the good of all including those not as fortunate to own water view property or have private water front access.
The town master plan states: “Efforts should be made to acquire additional shore property other than in Menemsha.” The board of selectmen has brought a plan forward. It is now up to the wisdom of Chilmark voters to decide how to proceed.
Thank you from the Chilmark selectmen.
Warren Doty is chairman of the Chilmark selectmen. Selectman Jonathan Mayhew and Bill Rossi also authored this piece.