I do not support Chilmark’s warrant article 28. Without providing a serious analysis of the alternatives, the selectmen are asking voters to support a complex project with irreversible consequences and a questionable future — building a 420-foot, two-lane bridge along a valuable section of beach, adding new revetments along the shoreline, removing other revetments, widening the Squibnocket Beach Road and building various facilities on a protected barrier beach. Given the risks associated with a project of this magnitude, we owe it to ourselves to turn over every rock in our review of the alternatives.
The town needs the additional time to complete its planning process as we have but one chance to get it right. First, the plan calls for a 420-foot steel and concrete bridge that will be located in close proximity to the shoreline. On one end, the bridge is 20 feet from the top of the coastal bank and at the other end 75 feet from the bank. Given its proximity to the shoreline and its 19-foot height above sea level, this bridge will be the dominant feature for a large segment of Chilmark’s shoreline and beach (from the far end of the parking to the other end of Money Hill).
To make matters worse, the bridge will be nearly 20 feet wide (the width of State Road) and will shade the parts of the beach in the early afternoon. If one of the objectives of the plan is to improve Squibnocket’s beach, the plan fails its first test by degrading a large section. Second, the bridge is a hard structure and cannot move as the beach migrates. Some consider it a benefit that the water will pass under the bridge rather than striking a revetment; however, water passing through a bridge is not helpful when the end points are also under water. While Squibnocket Farm feels confident in the security of its bridge, the town’s geologists recommended new revetments at both ends.
Conservationists, including the Vineyard Conservation Society, recommend against these hard structures on shorelines.
We have heard the arguments from the Squibnocket Farm people that accessibility has an impact on property values. However, it’s not clear that a higher property value justifies a level of acces s that harms the environment, if less damaging alternatives are available. No one is interested in denying access to the Squibnocket Farm but it would make sense to examine these expectations for access and the related performance standard for a challenging area like this one. This exercise co uld open other possibilities for solutions. Last, this plan calls for changes to a bar rier beach that has been maintained as forever wild to serve as a flood damage prevention system during storms, under the stewardship of the Vineyard Open Land Foundation. Proposed changes to the barrier beach include widening of the Squibnocket Beach Road from one to two lanes and the development of a parking lot and paths or board walks to the beach. Not only is the removal of this vegetation inconsistent with Massachusetts statutes, the location of the parking lot could be inconvenient for many. Let’s take the time and do this right.