Trustees pull Cape Poge from vehicle access plan over appeal threat

The withdrawal will restrict 2023 OSV access to Cape Poge.

Cape Poge

Updated March 14

The Trustees of Reservations is pulling Cape Poge from its plan to provide over-sand vehicle (OSV) access on Chappaquiddick in order to maintain access in other similarly managed areas.

In a statement issued Friday afternoon, the Trustees announced the decision to remove Cape Poge trails and beaches from its OSV permit application with the Edgartown conservation commission, citing concerns of a potential appeal by nearby homeowners, with whom the land organization is currently in litigation. 

A lawsuit filed in April 2022 in Massachusetts Land Court by seasonal Chappaquiddick residents Victor and Dawn Colantonio claims that their property has been subjected to trespassing and environmental damage through the sale of OSV permits by the Trustees. The easement allowing access to the Colantonios’ residence has caused “irreversible damage to the fragile coastal environment,” the complaint states; therefore, the court should disallow selling access to that easement. 

Friday’s statement said an appeal would threaten all of the Trustees’ property on Chappy with regard to OSV access — including Leland Beach and Wasque — since all Chappy beaches managed by the Trustees are lumped together in a single application with the town’s conservation commission. 

“We are taking this action because it appears inevitable to us that one or more of the homeowners on Cape Pogue would appeal an Order of Conditions, if granted, for continued use of the OSV trails, so long as that Order of Conditions permits use north of the Jetties,” the Trustees’ statement reads. “But an appeal of a unified Order of Conditions would make us unable to issue permits for any of the beaches until it is resolved, and so we are withdrawing the area beyond the Jetties.”

With that lawsuit continuing to work its way through Land Court, the Trustees’ decision to remove Cape Poge from its pending application to sell OSV permits also follows pushback from members of the public regarding Chappy beach management, many who have advocated for separate applications for each Trustees-managed site, rather than a unified order of conditions. 

“We originally applied for a single Order of Conditions that would cover all Chappy beaches because that is what the conservation commission had approved in the past; it is in fact one network of [over-sand vehicle] trails, and the resource areas are subject to the same regulatory requirements and management practices,” the statement reads.

“We believe this course of action will be the most expedient and sure way to provide access to M.V. residents and visitors, the fishing and birding community, and all who have enjoyed these beautiful and special places for generations.

“We also are committed to preserving the public’s access to these beaches in a manner consistent with the mission given by the legislature to the Trustees, to preserve places of great beauty for all to enjoy, not just a few private interests. We are confident that a solution can be found on Cape Poge, so long as all parties are working in good faith.”