The state of the coast

The Trustees of Reservations are making a report to display accelerating coastal environmental change on the islands of Massachusetts.

Owen Park Beach in Vineyard Haven.

On May 27, the Trustees of Reservations held a webinar showing a preview of its “State of the Coast” report, which is expected to be available in July, both in print and online. The presentation was led by Sam Hart, director of the Trustees of Reservations Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket properties, and Tom O’Shea, managing director of resources and planning. The event was sponsored by a group of Island libraries from Chilmark, Vineyard Haven, West Tisbury, Aquinnah, and Oak Bluffs. 

The report will encompass the climate and environmental issues of Martha’s Vineyard, Gosnold, and Nantucket. Thursday’s meeting focused on Martha’s Vineyard and Gosnold. A meeting focusing on Nantucket will be announced at an unspecified date. 

O’Shea said the reason the islands were their focus was because they are at the frontlines of coastal changes in Massachusetts, if not the country. 

The reports draw attention to sea levels rises and storm surges. O’Shea says there are only 10 to 30 years before “we see a real acceleration of both sea level rise and stronger storms, so this is the time to act now, and really make some choices that will prepare us for what’s coming.” Additional areas of focus include developed coastal areas, shorelines, beaches, marshes, coastal banks and other habitats, erosion rates, and shoreline loss. These topics will feature historic data and future projections. 

There will be pages focusing on each town of the islands, profiling concerns and listing possible solutions. 

The Trustees have collaborated with various groups and government entities to make this report. Examples of organizations contacted for data and research included the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Local communities were also contacted to gain feedback and a better understanding of what they might want featured for their areas, such as the Chappaquiddick Wampanoag Tribe for Chappaquiddick Island. 

The webinar concluded with a Q and A session for the attendees.

This is the Trustees’ second “State of the Coast” report, and work on it began in February. The inaugural report was published in 2020, focusing on 13 communities in the North Shore region of Massachusetts. The Trustees intend to make the “State of the Coast” an annual report. The report will have technical information, but written in a way that is accessible to the public. 

O’Shea said the “State of the Coast” was inspired by reports analyzing environmental change from different environmental organizations, particularly the “State of the Beach Report” done by Surfriders on a national level.