Beach Renourishment Stimulus

Vineyarders got their own shovels ready and recently delivered their own stimulus package to the area’s most critical infrastructure: the beach. Over a hundred volunteers planted beach grass on Joseph Sylvia State Beach, and crews followed them with dibbles at Bend in the Road beach in the days following. The community turnout showed a devotion to these sandy places that so enhance our lives, livelihoods and pursuit of happiness.

Which is just as well, because the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association this week warned the White House has pulled funding for all beach renourishment projects from the stimulus list prepared by the Corps of Engineers. If this information is on the mark, it is disappointing indeed.

It’s geological fact that the Island has been eroding slowly over centuries. For at least fifty years, this newspaper has called for a federally-backed approach to beach erosion control, and the issue has grown only more acute. The population has grown, property values have increased, sea level is rising, species are more endangered, our shellfisheries are more fragile and our economy has grown more dependent on tourists who come here for the beaches.

Looking after this precious resource must be a local as well as a national priority. At home, many Island conservationists have devoted energy and intelligence to coastline protection plans, and the sand management plan for our eastern shore is evidence of this. Knowing that the right plants can hold the sands against wind and tide, Islanders were pleased to emerge from winter, the season of greatest erosion, to help ready them by planting beach grass.

Yet historically, there have been irrational decisions to fortify Island beaches, sometimes at staggering costs. In some cases, an armory stuck out in one place causes more rapid wastage elsewhere. Nature does not respect town lines, so it makes sense, as the Vineyard Conservation Society is advocating, to revisit the shoreline regulation that already is a part of a district of critical planning concern through the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.

The condition of the shoreline is of critical concern to us all.