The resignation of The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR) Chappaquiddick superintendent under forced circumstances has left many residents of the small easternmost Island community fuming.
This week, TTOR confirmed that David Babson had left the job he began 15 months ago. The news began circulating throughout the Chappy community Friday and left supporters of the popular land manager stunned and pressing for a reversal.
One underlying cause of TTOR unhappiness and Mr. Babson’s resignation was a series of management decisions he made that put state and federally protected shorebirds at risk.
Yesterday afternoon, TTOR leadership met with members of the Chappy committee, an informal advisory board made up of Chappy residents and property users, to discuss the situation. Committee members who had hoped that a torrent of calls, emails, and letters could save Mr. Babson’s job were disappointed.
One committee member who attended the meeting and briefed The Times but asked not to be identified said they told The Trustees officials that they were perplexed and surprised since Mr. Babson had admitted his mistakes. The committee member said the Trustees were adamant.
The bottom line is they are going to go forward. They said they lost trust in David and that’s what it boils down to, the Chappy resident told The Times and added, “damn birds.”
In a telephone conversation Monday, Mr. Babson said he had received a tremendous amount of support. “It’s been overwhelming,” he said. “I can say I feel like I have made a connection to this island. I love being here, and I love the people that I’ve met.”
Mr. Babson said he resigned in order to move forward and spare TTOR more turmoil.
In a telephone conversation Monday, Chris Kennedy, TTOR Southeast Regional director, described one shorebird incident that resulted in a “take,” a term used to describe any disturbance of a protected species up to and including death, of least tern chicks. Mr. Kennedy said that the incident was reported to state wildlife officials as required by law.
Mr. Kennedy said in that incident Mr. Babson did not react quickly enough to protect the birds despite being advised to take action. Mr. Kennedy said it would be incorrect to conclude that one mistake led to a lack of confidence in Mr. Babson’s ability to properly manage and supervise the property.
As with any personnel issue, Mr. Kennedy said, he is not allowed to talk about the circumstances surrounding Mr. Babson’s resignation.
Speaking generally he said, “The Trustees view our staff resources as probably some of the most valuable resources we have. We don’t do things arbitrarily.”
Mr. Kennedy said TTOR takes the training of employees seriously. “We all make mistakes and the Trustees understand that,” he said.
“Dave Babson is a wonderful guy,” Mr. Kennedy said. Anticipating criticism, Mr. Kennedy asked people to consider his stewardship over 20 years. “I value employees and I value Chappaquiddick and the Chappaquiddick properties. Nothing would be done arbitrarily. I think what The Trustees are asking people to do is keep an open mind and understand that there is another side to every personnel story that they hear.”
Mr. Babson was no stranger to Chappy or The Trustees before taking the job. He spent part of each summer in a family-owned cottage on Chappy since he was young. He was also assistant superintendent of TTOR’s Crane Wildlife Refuge in Ipswich.
For now, Sarah Trudel will take over as interim Chappy manager while The Trustees begin a search for a new superintendent.
The Chappaquiddick superintendent is responsible for the management of the Cape Poge, Wasque, Mytoi, and Norton Point Beach properties. The Chappy properties are popular destinations for hikers, kayakers, beach-goers, and fishermen.