Edgartown unveils beach plan for Norton Point

Former Trustees superintendent calls the plan ‘excellent,’ ‘very flexible.’

Paulo DeOliveira

During a public hearing Wednesday, Edgartown’s conservation commission was given a presentation on the town’s draft beach management plan for Norton Point.

Authored by Edgartown’s parks commission and conservation agent, the 33-page plan outlines the town’s goals as the new managers of Norton Point, a barrier beach stretching over two miles connecting Edgartown to Chappaquiddick.

The presentation of the new plan comes only a few months after the Trustees of Reservations (TTOR) — managers of the county-owned beach since 2006 — formally announced the relinquishment of their stewardship as Edgartown pursued a takeover

Edgartown’s newly crafted plan, which still must clear a handful of hurdles before implementation, won the approval of former TTOR regional superintendent Chris Kennedy, who vehemently opposed TTOR’s draft plan last year, calling it “rubbish.”

That plan was withdrawn in July after being widely criticized by Edgartown officials and members of the public, mainly due to its significant restrictions on over-sand vehicles (OSV) and dogs on the beach. 

On Wednesday, Kennedy, a long-time Chappaquiddick resident who now lives on the Cape, extolled the town for drafting what he called an “excellent plan.” What makes the town’s initiative so appealing, Kennedy said in a phone call with The Times Thursday, is the flexibility it allows for management staff in dealing with such a “dynamic barrier beach.” Any beach management plan must serve as a kind of “living document,” he said; it must be adaptable to a continually changing landscape.

In terms of accessibility, Edgartown’s program calls for a more fluid approach. Daily vehicle limits are not determined, but rather the town and its beach management staff will consider a number of different factors when it comes to OSVs. 

Pursuant to the plan’s language, these factors include “beach profile, location of wrack line, width of the beach, room for a travel corridor, location of listed species,” and will be at the discretion of the beach director.

Kennedy said Edgartown’s plan is “accurate, short on flowery language,” and involves a healthy amount of substantive data and detailed mapping. “It’s realistic,” he said. “[The plan] doesn’t try to do too much all in one fell swoop … An incremental approach is by far a better approach.” 

Kennedy said he’s impressed by the proposed draft, especially given the short amount of time in which it had to be turned over before TTOR’s contract with the county for stewardship expires at the end of March. Edgartown has done “an exemplary job on it,” he said.

Before implementing the initiative, Edgartown must finalize negotiations and its memorandum of understanding agreement with Dukes County. That agreement is currently being reviewed by town counsel. The plan must also receive the stamp of approval from the conservation commission, along with state organizations regarding wildlife related restrictions. 

On Wednesday morning, the parks commission voted to accept the bid from Mass Audubon in response to the town’s request for proposals (RFP) for overseeing shorebird monitoring at Norton Point, parks commissioner Andy Kelly said.

That two-year contract will allow adequate time for the town to formulate an in-house shorebird protection strategy, parks administrator Jessica McGroarty explained in a call with The Times Thursday. 

The overall charge as new stewards is to find a balance between the state’s guidelines and regulations concerning wildlife, while still allowing beachgoers the access they’re looking for, McGroarty said.

On access, she said “we’re going to have to kind of flow with what the environment and mother nature is giving us day to day.” The conservation commission is set to hold a special meeting on March 15 to continue the public hearing.


  1. Hmmm sounds a bit contradictory that the Edgartown Conservation Committee is saying that it would be up to “the discretion of the beach director” to the impact of humans on the barrier beach.

    Lets herd the pipeing plovers into a protective barrier. Right

  2. Habitat enhancement is a sound approach. There are reasonable step’s available to lure birds to a specific area while making more
    trafficked areas less so. These steps are outlined by the USF&W and many have been urilized by beach managers in NY and on the
    cape. All that is needed is a “willing” board of managers. Discarded christmas trees placed
    strategically in the dunes and along trails serve as an excellent deterrent to birds that look to “re nest” on the bay side is just one example.

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