Massive retaining wall finished at Squibnocket Beach


A retaining wall built with colossal granite rocks reclaimed from a revetment that was recently removed to make way for a bridge is complete at Squibnocket Beach. Stonemasons Alan Hartmann and Gary Stead worked rain or shine with Peter and John Keene to erect the wall in time for Memorial Day weekend.

“This was a huge recycling, repurposing job,” Peter Keene said.

The wall supports the edge of the new beach parking lot. Stead said some of the stones weigh five or six tons, and extend five feet below the sand, where they sit on a bed of tailings. Hartmann said while some of the huge rocks have edges chains can grip, others have been rounded by the Atlantic, and required extra care in order to get chains to hug them sufficiently for an excavator to hoist. The wall contains no mortar. The rock has been stacked and wedged dry, Stead said. He described it as a typical retaining wall made on a massive scale.

Peter Keene, who did the hoisting with a Caterpillar 325 excavator, said for himself and the masons, it was the most rock tonnage they ever worked with in wall building.

“It was a real team effort,” Keene said.

Work to erect the wall began April 14, and finished May 18. On Monday, Keene and his brother John alternated work with a front-end loader, a grader, and a bulldozer in preparation for parking lot asphalt. Peter Keene said paving would begin Tuesday.

The work Monday all but caps Chilmark’s beach project, which has transformed Squibnocket Beach from a rocky stretch of coastline with a crumbling parking lot to sandy shoreline anchored by beachgrass and with a sturdy parking lot perched above it. The restoration was made possible in a deal that saw Squibnocket Farm, a well-to-do subdivision on Squibnocket Point, essentially give the town the beach in exchange for permission and easements needed to relocate a roadway from a failing revetment to a new bridge.

Chilmark selectmen chairman Jim Malkin told The Times he was very pleased with the beach project work, and praised the retailing wall work in particular.

“I’m delighted at how great it looks,” he said.

Chilmark selectmen will hold an opening ceremony for Squibnocket Beach Friday at noon.