Over-sand vehicle access approved for Chappy

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Chappaquiddick. —The Martha's Vineyard Times

Updated

A months-long dispute over whether to allow over-sand vehicles on Chappaquiddick beaches managed by the Trustees of Reservations has ended in time for the Memorial Day weekend surge of visitors.

On Wednesday, the Edgartown conservation commission unanimously agreed to allow limited over-sand vehicle access on Leland Beach and Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge, two areas popular for fishing and beachgoing. 

The decision on over-sand vehicles, or OSVs, can be appealed over the next two weeks. 

The decision allows 200 over-sand vehicles to utilize Leland Beach, which is near the Dyke Bridge, and 30 vehicles farther north, at Cape Poge. 

Trustees staff will erect signs to notify drivers when the two beaches have reached vehicle capacity, and to warn visitors away from restricted areas. 

The Trustees had applied to sell vehicle permits last September, but the commission resisted giving approval until its concerns were addressed. Members wanted more details of the beach management plan. 

In 2022, the Trustees released a beach management plan that would have heavily restricted OSV access on their Chappaquiddick properties. 

Some Islanders and the commission criticized the plan because it would nearly eliminate access to the two beaches for those needing wheeled transport. The Trustees then produced a revised version that sought to address those concerns. 

The decision ends what Geoffrey Kontje, a member of the commission, called a contentious, at times hostile, series of disagreements between the Trustees and some Chappaquiddick landowners. 

Kontje faulted the “lack of continuity” in the Trustees leadership for the discord, and asked the group to become more attuned to the community to avoid friction in the future. 

He asked both the Trustees and landowners to settle their disagreements without going to court, as some landowners have done. “Let’s not make this into a trainwreck,” he said. 

Kontje also chastised Katie Theoharides, the Trustees president, for publishing a letter in Island newspapers this month that he called an “inflammatory,” “inaccurate,” and a “cheap shot.” 

Theoharides’ letter said the conditions proposed by the commission prioritized the interests of private landowners over public access to recreational space. 

Darci Schofield, the Trustees Island director, said it was unfortunate the dispute had become a “political quagmire,” but said she was thankful the process was finished. 

A previous version of this story stated Cape Poge was farther south than Leland Beach. 

5 COMMENTS

  1. The Edgartown Conservation Commission is now a laughing stock. The Commission has so obviously sided with a small group of wealthy Cape Poge homeowners on this issue. The new limits approved for the Chappy beaches are in lockstep with proposals by the homeowners. How can the Commission completely ignore the pleas of hundreds of beach users all for the benefit of a small wealthy minority of stakeholders.

    • The Conservation Commission is appointed by the people we elect not a small wealthy minority of stakeholders.

      • Albert Hess, in my opinion the Commission is not doing a very good job representing the general public as a whole. It does not matter that they are elected, they can be influenced by the threats of lawsuits etc. It is a common theme along the northeast coast that those with the wealth will ignore regulations and litigate. Volunteer commissions are easily swayed by the threat of litigation and will cave because the community does not have the budget to fight the good fight for the masses.

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