South Beach to be partly repaired for summer

Town officials want to redirect beachgoers away from Left Fork, and are pursuing federal and state funds.


Updated, March 3

Edgartown officials have been working to partially restore South Beach in time for summer following a series of devastating storms over the winter, but some of the area won’t be completely restored.

Town parks commissioner Andrew Kelly says that his department is working to shore up the beach as much as possible and install new dunes before the summer. But he also says that restoration will continue after the summer, including further dredging.

Kelly adds that beachgoers will need to be redirected away from Left Fork due to damage sustained in the storms. Left Fork refers to the Katama Road area. People will not be able to pass through the area at Left Fork where a bathhouse previously stood, after that structure was compromised and had to be removed.

At a town parks commission meeting on Thursday, Kelly also said that the commission is looking to relocate its operations, after the shack that they worked from was breached in the storms. He says that a temporary location may be established near the grass parking lot at the beach.

Part of the beach restoration so far has been dredging in the Down Harbor area. Town conservation agent Jane Varkonda says that 3,700 cubic yards of sand has been sourced so far to shore up Left Fork.

Varkonda added that because the town owns its dredge, it saves significant amounts of money. 

“We’re getting our sand for $21 a cubic yard, where if we were to import it it would be at least $72 a cubic yard,” she said on Thursday.

Snow fencing will also be installed along South Beach.

In the future, Edgartown officials plan to pursue funds for restoration at a special town meeting and from state and from federal agencies. The town is also consulting the Woods Hole Group to repair South Beach, and has hired a coastal geologist to figure out how much sand will need to be dredged in total.

As per a request from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) in January, Edgartown declared an emergency at South Beach. This declaration made Edgartown eligible for emergency assistance funds through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Kelly says that the process for these funds will take time, and that he met with FEMA and MEMA contacts at South Beach last week. Kelly says that in order to ask FEMA for funding, affected municipalities statewide must first collectively pool $12.9 million.

Kelly adds that before federal funds become available, residents will be able to vote on funding for South Beach repairs at a special town meeting. 

“There are hopes [for FEMA funding], but in the meanwhile, it’s my understanding that we will probably see something on special town meeting to help reimburse some of the costs. And the hope is that ultimately that money will be reimbursed by MEMA or FEMA.”

Conservation commissioners also said on Thursday that the town is looking into grant opportunities from the state Coastal Zone Management agency, and will be working closely with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) for further funding. Kelly said that the town has had a management agreement with DCR since the 1980s.

Kelly also noted that South Beach is a state-owned property.

Another significant impact of the storms was the failure of a culvert at Right Fork, which caused the partial collapse of Atlantic Drive. Kelly says that he thinks the road could be reopened to the public in mid-April.

“The Highway Department has done some work to shore up parts of the road, but there is still more that has to be done before we can open Atlantic Drive again,” he said.

Presale of stickers for Norton Point will start April 1, and the stickers will be ready for to be picked up starting May 1. Kelly says that people should keep in mind the possibility of further erosion.

“We’ve had some tough winter out there. There has been some work done. There are some low areas that … could wash out during the summer. As you’re thinking about purchasing your sticker, just keep in mind Mother Nature,” Kelly said.

“So, good stuff coming,” Kelly summarized at the Thursday meeting. “As long as Mother Nature doesn’t do her thing. But again, that’s who we’re fighting.”

Kelly added that he will release a beach status update this week.

Post was updated to reflect that beach stickers were for Norton Point.


  1. When will the island learn, that beach restoration is temporary. What needs to be done, is what many southern states have done, and that is to make artificial reefs, off shore. This will do trek major jobs. Break up the wave action and deposit sand, and create fish havens.

    • Very interesting. Also, saw on Chronicle a new invention designed by a Harvard grad school student called Wave Breakers. She said they are intended to break the wave height by 50%, thus preventing beach erosion. Currently being tested out in Oregon.

    • Robert and Margaret, really like the direction you’re going! We have to find solutions and there are really smart people out there willing to work hard until we find the best way to fix it.

  2. South Beach washed away, a 1 million acre wildfire burning in Texas, a California blizzard with a 190 mph wind gust recorded and 12 ft. of snow anticipated, 40 degrees above normal temps in the northern Plains in the upcoming days and on and on and on. Why isn’t global warming the number one priority with every conscious human on our planet (every human, that is, except those who exploit the planet for profit; that’s a whole other topic). Global warming is affecting us all either directly, with property damage or total loss, with exorbitant insurance costs, or both. What a waste of precious time this past decade has been; we are mired down with political division and dysfunction. Why aren’t we all on the same team: Team Earth? Why aren’t we all out in the streets demanding change? Why the apathy? A world without extreme weather events should be motivating. Why isn’t it?

    • We are spending billions on global warming you must not be paying attention on your next trip down to South Beach look out to the Ocean and see the whale killing windmills and that is only the start. More windmills to come and more tax payer billions to be be spent.

      • Bob– can you cite a single case where a whale has been
        killed by a windmill ?
        I heard that a republican member of the house likes
        to fly around in helicopters and shoot whales for fun.

      • Bob, it is inaccurate to say that the windmills are being funded with billions of taxpayer dollars. It would be more accurate to say that the windmills are being funded mostly by our power bills.

    • Annie, I’ve observed that some radio personalities tell outright lies. For instance, Alex Jones said that the school children and teacher killed at Sandy Hook were not killed at all and the families of those people were actors hired by Democrats. (I know people who still believe this, even though Alex Jones was sued by some of the families for telling lies). When this type of propaganda is believed by millions of people we have a problem. The same people lying about elections and Sandy Hook also tell lies about the environment and windmills.

  3. Wait, they’re selling STICKERS for South Beach??? Is that something new? I hope they mean the oversand stickers…

  4. Do you mean Parking Permits or Over Sand Vehicle permits for parking on the barrier beach towards Chappaquiddick?

  5. Though I hesitate to get into a discussion about climate change, the climate does change.
    Ask a dinosaur. The greed of the Human species is astounding. Make more energy so we have more to consume. Can someone tell me how much fuel is consumed building a windmill? Maintaining a windmill, in the sea? How much oil is in that turbine way up there? And what about those whale bodies washing up? At one time, probably around 2008, when the Dukes County Fishermen’s Association worked so hard to keep the windmills out of Vineyard Sound, I read about conical windmills which fit on top of utility poles. Open-mindedness is difficult when lines are being drawn and sides taken.

    • Shelly, I really enjoy using electricity! I’m grateful for all the things that happen in my world because of electricity. We need more solar panels on rooftops. Do you have solar panels? If you don’t I strongly encourage you to buy some panels for yourself. Do you have an electric car? I saw several used electric cars on a car lot the other day, only one to three years old, and all around $35k. An electric car coupled with solar panels is a dynamite combination! We don’t necessarily have to convert everything to solar all at once. Buy a few panels now and a few panels later. Every little bit helps. When you are replacing your roof, choose a white metal roof. Solar panels clip easily to the metal ribs with no holes in the roof. One of the biggest uses of electricity in a home is the clothes dryer. So every load we hang to dry reduces the electricity needed to be generated, whether it’s generated by windmills or coal. Another big home use of electricity is the hot water heater. Have you converted your traditional hot water heater to a heat pump hot water heater? Heat pump hot water heaters move heat from the air to the water rather than heating the water directly. It reduces the need for electricity. Heat pump hot water heaters use roughly 25% of the electricity compared to a traditional hot water heater. They’re available at Lowe’s or other supply stores. Heat pump air conditioners also use about 25% of the electricity compared to regular heat units. So instead of spending $4 for a unit of heat from traditional heaters, it’s only $1 for a unit of heat from heat pumps. It’s worth converting! Home Depot carries a bright solar landscape light of about 50 lumens for only $10 each. No wires so really easy to put anywhere. You can create beautiful uplighting on your home or put a few along a pathway to reduce electrical usage from the grid. Let’s exit the electric grid.

    • “How much oil is in that turbine way up there?”
      This is just guess.
      .0001% of the oil produced on a typical Gulf Coast oil production platform, per hour.
      Wind turbine lubrication is a dog whistle.
      Like poisoning the blood of our nation.

  6. I urge everyone to watch the Netflix documentary series “Life on Planet Earth.” It’s 8 parts, wonderfully animated and narrated by Morgan Freeman. Man’s time on earth is a nano-second, given that Earth is about 4 billion years old. Over time there have been FIVE extinctions, including the one that killed the dinosaurs (an asteroid hit Earth), and it seems pretty clear that we are now participating in-and causing-the SIXTH extinction.
    As the documentary makes clear, this is the first extinction in which those involved were aware of what’s happening…which means that we have the capacity to change the course of history.

  7. My first visit to Martha’s vineyard was summer in 1956 or 1957 for an American Youth Hostel bike trip, staying at that time, in the brand new hostel at the airport. I was young. I had a no-speed second hand bicycle. I could be off by a year or so. Edgartown was deserted, beach empty.
    I finally returned in 2012 having read Philip Craig’s books. I loved all that he picked up and reused from the dump. Major difference in number of people but just as lovely. Again in August 2019, then September 2021, and probably the last time by plane, in Sept. 2022.
    It will never be the same as in any of those trips. We cannot stop time or rewind it. We must go on.

    I really appreciate getting the news and the variety of comments.

    • Things are never as good as they use to be, they never were.
      People who first arrived in 60’s, 70’s 80’s 90’s feel the way u you do.
      The people who arrived since the turn of the century, not so much.
      Like the rest of “creation” the Island will continue to evolve.
      It will never be as good as it was.

Comments are closed.