The Trustees of Reservations manages 120 miles of coastline in the commonwealth, and has worked to protect the ecosystems of the properties on the Island for 60 years. TTOR’s current contract to protect Norton Point, which is owned by Dukes County, expires at the end of March this year, and the town of Edgartown is poised to take over the task.
This comes after the nonprofit’s draft beach management plan unveiled in July took a beating by the public — and by former Trustees regional superintendent Chris Kennedy, a longtime resident of Chappaquiddick who now lives on the Cape. Pushback mostly focused on new, tougher restrictions placed on over-sand vehicles and dogs on the beach. Many in the community commented that the area is family-friendly, and also an important point of access for fishermen. TTOR eventually pulled the plug on the plan and went back to the drawing board.
Edgartown parks commissioner Andrew Kelly then made the case for Edgartown’s management takeover of Norton Point to the Dukes County Commission at an early December meeting, saying, “We’re confident that we can manage the county-owned beaches within the town of Edgartown.” He included staying within the parameters of state and federal regulations concerning wildlife protection and dune restoration, along with pedestrian and OSV access and trail maintenance, which would be handled by the town’s parks commission.
Then, roughly a week later, TTOR announced in a press release that they had decided not to pursue renewing their March contract with Dukes County regarding management of Norton Point Beach. “After careful consideration, the decision not to pursue renewal of this contract was made in order to focus more on the wide and exciting variety of other programs and properties on Martha’s Vineyard that the Trustees owns outright,” the press release stated.
This should make everyone happy, right? Edgartown can see a way clear to take it over, and TTOR bows out gracefully. Not so.
Now the debate is over a two-phase beach restoration plan that was not completed by TTOR. The Norton Point nourishment project, which began in 2021, was slated to enhance the resilience of the coastal landscape by enforcing sand dunes and repairing eroded beachfront. The second phase of the project, which was set to begin at the end of 2022, was made possible through a relief grant from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 of $100,000, which was applied for by the town of Edgartown and secured by state Sen. Julian Cyr. TTOR says the price tag to complete the beach nourishment project is $360,000, leaving the nonprofit to make up the difference.
Edgartown officials are calling foul over TTOR dropping the second phase of the project. Trustees’ senior director of government relations Linda Orel sent a letter to Cyr about plans to completely abandon the latter phase of the beach restoration project, in addition to relinquishing its stimulus funding.
TTOR says that since the organization will no longer be taking care of Norton Point, it’s not responsible for the completion of the project. “It’s just no longer feasible for us to do that, since we won’t be managing the beach,” Cynthia Dittbrenner, director of coast and natural resources for the Trustees, told The Times.
Some Edgartown officials say the town applied for the $100,000 grant secured by Cyr and that TTOR should finish what it started. We think that Edgartown lobbied for management of Norton Point, and they appear to be well on their way to getting what they asked for. Expecting TTOR to actively fundraise for the remainder of the cost — and to complete a project that will no longer fall under their purview — just doesn’t make sense. Sounds a bit like Donald Trump saying that Mexico should pay for the border wall.