Several members of the public appearing before the Edgartown conservation commission on Wednesday voiced their concerns over the proposed beach management plan by the Trustees of Reservations for its Chappaquiddick properties.
The commission is charged with reviewing and either approving or denying two separate notices of intent (NOI) for vehicle access on Leland Beach, Wasque, and Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge.
On Wednesday — when the hearing was continued a third time — complaints about the Trustees’ application ranged from a lack of details in the proposed plan to the organization’s ability to find a proper balance between conservation and responsible recreation, and the vague nature of the nonprofit’s “adaptive management approach.”
“I still don’t understand what that adaptive management approach is,” Chappaquiddick resident Tim Moriarty said. He noted that when TTOR Island Director Darci Schofield had been asked about the implementation of the approach, she responded that the nonprofit had already done so.
“That doesn’t instill a lot of confidence that the Trustees will be able to carry out what they propose to do,” he said.
Moriarty said the beach management plan, which is a replacement of the plan the Trustees rescinded last year following significant public pushback, lacks important information on how the organization expects to achieve its stated goals.
It lacks “relevant environmental studies,” and documentation outlining topography, vegetation, location of wildlife and breeding habitat, and wetlands areas and elevation, he said, in addition to there being “no explanation of concrete measures that the Trustees will take toward implementing an adaptive management approach,” and a failure to demonstrate “that the resource areas will not be negatively impacted by what the Trustees propose.”
“You’d expect to see some type of increase in budget, increase in staffing, protocol for daily management of conditions, marking of OSV trails, rerouting, enclosures … you’d expect to see some type of program to increase training of TTOR personnel,” he said. “But there’s none of that there.”
Additionally, “there are no engineer site plans,” Moriarty added. “That’s something that’s required of every applicant that appears before the commission.”
In her testimony, Chappy resident Ann Floyd shared parts of a letter she’d written concerning the Trustees’ management of its Chappy properties in 1998, titled “When conservation borders on exploitation”: “There’s a credibility gap,” she had written. “People do not believe that conservation and preservation are foremost in TTOR’s mind.
“Preserving and conserving land is supposed to help diminish the impact on the land, but the TTOR policies now in place will have a greater impact in further loss of character … Advertising policy and expansion of programs on Chappaquiddick are negatively impacting Chappaquiddick, as well as people’s view of TTOR.”
“Now this was 1998,” Floyd told the conservation commission. “And now here we are. Nothing has changed.”
She urged the commission to carefully consider its charge when it comes to reviewing the Trustees’ latest proposal. “This has got to be managed,” she said. “I don’t believe the Trustees have our best interests or the land’s best interest in mind.”
In his lengthy testimony, resident David Tyler also called upon the commissioners to take their time to carefully review the beach management plan and all it entails, recommending that commissioners engage a third party to assist.
“Preserving and conserving land is supposed to help diminish the impact on the land, but the TTOR policies now in place will have a greater impact in further loss of character,” he said. “This presentation by the Trustees is too important to rush through now.”
Trustees Director Schofield took a moment to acknowledge stakeholders and the members of the public who have voiced their concerns or provided feedback, and said TTOR is willing to “look to make some changes [to the management plan] where we can, and negotiate with the public on these matters where it’s applicable.”
She added that the Trustees “would seek to revise the beach management plan accordingly, or do that through the order of conditions.”
“Our interest is in having a fruitful public process so we can work together to try to best achieve our conservation priorities and our over-sand access priorities,” she said.
The Edgartown conservation commission will be holding a special meeting on Dec. 6 to continue review of the Trustees’ applications.