To renourish or not to renourish?

Squibnocket returns to the spotlight.

A Chilmark resident offered to pay to replenish "renourish" Squibnocket Beach. — George Brennan

Chilmark’s select board learned Tuesday night that a local resident has offered to pay to replenish “renourish” sand at Squibnocket Beach through a project that would be run by the Woods Hole Group. Tara Marden, a senior project manager and coastal geologist at the Woods Hole Group, pitched the idea to the board. 

“I was approached by a local property owner who wanted to do a restoration project here,” Marden said, pointing to a map of Squibnocket Beach. Marden said she believed parcels of land where the restoration would occur are owned by the Squibnocket Beach Association and leased to the town but one is outright owned by the town. Town administrator Tim Carroll said Vineyard Open Land Foundation (VOLF) also has land in the area. 

Marden said the restoration would occur “seward of the parking lot” and inside the dune.” Marden said she assumed the reason for the restoration was so the beach would be “nicer in the summertime.”

The materials would be sand and cobble, she said.

Select board member Jim Malkin, who previously led a committee on Squibnocket, took issue with the idea.

Malkin said his former committee, the conservation commission, and Chilmark voters, previously endorsed a large project at the beach, Malkin said, and adjacent to Squibnocket Pond, that included dune building, erection of a long and privately funded bridge (often referred to as a causeway) and other work under the concept of managed retreat. 

“This whole project was done, and was lauded by the state, as managed retreat,” Malkin said. 

Managed retreat, as a Pennsylvania State University web page describes, is a “coastal management strategy that allows the shoreline to move inland, instead of attempting to hold the line with structural engineering. At the same time, natural coastal habitat is enhanced seaward of a new line of defense.”

The webpage further states, “This approach is relatively new but is gaining traction among coastal policy makers and managers in the face of increased coastal hazard risks. There is a growing recognition that attempting to ‘hold the line’ in many places is a losing battle.”

Malkin claimed as part of the managed retreat endorsement given by his prior committee and by voters, the town specifically opted out of the idea of rebuilding dunes or replenishing beach sand when it eroded. He also said the beach has a natural cycle of rotating terrain that includes sand, cobble, pebbles, and other combinations.

He cautioned against “opening the door” to a rejuvenation obligation the town decided against. 

Marden said the Woods Hole Group has worked on a lot of managed retreat projects and nourishment is a common component of those projects. 

Conservation agent Kara Shemeth said some members of the beach committee and the conservation commission made inquiries as to how beach sand could be replenished at the beach. 

Shemeth said there have been complaints of “too many rocks on the beach” during the summer.

Select board chair Bill Rossi said as a taxpayer, he wasn’t against a private individual paying for beach sand, even though it “may or may not last.”

Chilmark Harbormaster Ryan Rossi pointed out the town was poised to attain dredging permits for several areas of Menemsha. Prior dredging in Menemsha has generated dredging spoils that were “certified clean,” Rossi said. Those prior spoils have been deposited on Menemsha Beach. However Rossi suggested that may not be a continuing option. Rossi suggested future dredging spoils could go elsewhere, like Squibnocket, without any stockpiling wait for dewatering, as in years past. 

“Bottom line is we need to move sand but we don’t have anywhere to put it,” Rossi said, “so Squibnocket would be a great option especially if someone else is paying the bill.”

Select board member Warren Doty was onboard with endorsing research and permitting for the project for consideration at a future time, however the board ultimately took no action on the subject.

Rossi later told The Times the person who’d offered to fund the work was Doug Liman. Liman, a Chilmark homeowner and a major motion picture director, previously locked horns with the town and with the Squibnocket Farm, a subdivision, over the bridge. Reached by phone Wednesday morning, Liman said the work wasn’t being funded by him per se but an organization he’d started called Friends of the Pond. He said Friends of the Pond is modeled after the Central Park Conservancy in New York. Liman called Squibnocket Beach “such a precious resource” and worth “restoring and preserving.” To that end, he said Friends of the Pond secured the Woods Hole Group, which he described as “the premier coastal engineers in the region.”

In other business, the board voted unanimously to support sending the Housing Bank warrant article, previously voted in by the town, to the state legislature, with three amendments made by the housing bank review committee. The first amendment would reconfigure the composition of town advisory boards from having two members from a given town’s housing committee to one member and filling that gap with a member of the town’s board of assessors. The second amendment constituted clerical corrections to language. The third amendment specified that grants or gifts received by the Housing Bank can be used “only for the purposes of that grant or gift” and would be subject to rules and guidelines found in the Housing Bank legislation and also subject to any restrictions placed by the donor or grant giver.


  1. Liman was not only a vocal opponent of the new configuration at Squibnocket, he was also part of the group that spread misinfomation via flyers and ads in the paper. Furthermore, legal actions taken by him and others wound up costing the town a significant amount of money. He has a lot of nerve even showing his face at that beach.
    If he and his pals want to pay for sand replenisment, let them. It will be all gone in a few years. The sand used for the revamping came from dredging Menemsha channel and that lasted just three years.
    In a normal summer sand returns on the beach. This year was an anomaly.

  2. This is an easy one if someone wants to pay to have sand put on the beach let them. Make sure it is done correctly which if WH is on board it should be. And if it is gone in 3 years maybe they come back with more and if not we had fun while it lasted. No need for more discussion but i am sure people will.

  3. I think if the Town of Chilmark decides to replenish the sand at Squibnocket beach they should make sure it does not have chunks of asphalt within the sand as it did the last time. I don’t take issue with the cobbles they are naturally occurring but the sand that was dumped onto the beach after the causeway bridge was constructed was full of chunks of asphalt. I don’t know where that came from but it was not clean by any stretch of the imagination. Where the sand should come from is out of Squibnocket Pond where a large quantity was pushed by Hurricane Bob and the no-name Storm.

  4. If the Town of Chilmark and all island towns for that matter are serious about beach management the construction of stone revetments needs to be seriously curtailed. All that energy that hits the shore where revetments have been constructed gets deflected to other parts of the shoreline. This just exacerbates erosion. Replacing beach sand is a fool’s errand. Spend your time and money on something that might actually work.

    • It depends on how the structure is built. Prior to hurricane Bob the seawall at Squibnocket had a good slope on the shoreward face. That prevented wave energy from having much impact. After Bob the rebuilt wall was quite vertical. The newer wall allowed for wave energy to rebound seaward and actually contributed to the rate of erosion. This was evidenced by the number of times parts of that wall collapsed and had to be rebuilt. Any structure that is subject to wave action needs to be configured in a way that dissipates the energy of waves if erosion mitigation is the goal.
      Groins and jetties are another factor since they interrupt the natural flow of longshore littoral currents. Place a jetty in one spot and it will accrue sand on the side facing up current while starving sand from areas down current.

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