Experts agree over Chilmark’s Squibnocket Beach plan

The existing parking lot looking west shows the narrow causeway that is at risk. — Photo by Nelson Sigelman

Presentations by two specialists hired by the Chilmark selectmen to evaluate the Squibnocket Beach plan reinforced the project’s basic assumptions and preliminary studies about the eventual erosion of the present lot and the road that crosses it.

The plan would move the often storm damaged parking lot to a more protected location, to save the town beach, to provide boat access to the pond, and to elevate the roadway that is the sole access to the Squibnocket Farm subdivision.

Greg Berman, a coastal processes specialist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and Jim O’Connell, a coastal geologist and land use specialist, presented the results of their studies at the selectmen’s meeting on Tuesday, March 11, before a full house.

While some details of their studies varied, their conclusions, that erosion would eventually destroy the current parking lot and the road that crosses it, were consistent. They both suggested the new parking area, as proposed by the town committee charged with finding a long-term solution to the perennial problem, should be moved farther west than the plan recommended.

The presentation was the third in a series leading up to a vote at the Chilmark annual town meeting, April 28, on an article that would let the selectmen know if the town supports the continuing development of the plan.

The plan includes the negotiation of a new or amended lease for the existing beach, expanding the length of its term by approximately 50 years, and it will provide for a 99-year lease of approximately 10.5 acres of land to be used for the expanded beach, the parking area, and water access for boats.

The plan as currently constructed would not require an increase in taxes, according to the committee’s report. Money from private sources for the road re-construction and existing Community Preservation Act funds would cover the costs. There is a possibility of funding from state and federal grants to further reduce the town’s cost.

The reports and a summary of the presentations are available on the town’s website.