OSV access on Chappy is essential; wealth transfers are not


To the Editor:

The nonprofit organization Trustees of Reservations (TTOR) are stewards of a sublime refuge on Chappy, consisting of 500 acres and nine miles of pristine shoreline. The majority of this land was generously donated, and the balance was purchased using public donations in the 1950s. These beaches constitute a full 35 percent of the total public beachfront on Martha’s Vineyard. TTOR sells permits to allow respectful, responsible, supervised over-sand vehicle (OSV) access to these beaches. OSV use is not a preference or a convenience. It is a requirement due to the lack of parking. There are only 20 public parking spaces for nine miles of public beach. A visitor cannot just “park and walk on.” There is effectively no parking! Therefore, the only way for the public to access these public beaches is by OSV. This is the simple reason OSV has existed on these beaches since the creation of the automobile. It is important to note that responsible OSV access should always respect the fragile nature of the beaches, the wildlife, and the rights of the abutters.

But now a small number of property owners who abut the TTOR refuge are seeking to abolish OSV access to these beaches. They have hired attorneys to represent them in public Edgartown conservation committee meetings. They seek to obfuscate and conflate various grievances they have with TTOR to achieve their goal of eliminating OSV access. Why do they want to eliminate OSV access? Because if OSV access is denied, those lucky few abutters would instantly be proud “owners” of a private sanctuary. At the same time, all other property owners across Chappy and across the Island would experience economic impairment due to lack of beach access. Is this our societal goal? Transference of wealth from the public to a tiny number of private landowners? Is this what Vineyarders desire? Business owners would suffer. The Chappy ferry would suffer. I am not being dramatic. These are all obvious consequences if beach access is denied to the public. 

Please do not allow this to happen. Please join me and the thousands of folks who enjoy the peaceful solitude of Chappy beaches. Please support continued respectful, responsible, supervised OSV access on Chappy beaches. I urge members of the public to join the next ECC meeting on this important matter, on Jan. 24 at 4 pm.

Rich Thompson