A 2014 aerial view of Sconset Beach and Baxter Road area showing the bluffs with erosion along the eastern end of Nantucket. David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe, File

MA - Nantucket homeowners group agrees to remove their erosion shield

As the seas stripped away the earth beneath their homes, a group of Nantucket homeowners mobilized to protect their land. Their solution: massive tubes made of plastic fiber and filled with hardening sand slurry, stretching across some 900 feet of beach to serve as a shield from the encroaching waters.

But the privately funded project, which the homeowners began to install 10 years ago, catalyzed a long and bitter rift as neighbors raised the alarm about its environmental impact elsewhere on the island.

Now, the homeowners group from Siasconset, on the eastern end of Nantucket, has reluctantly agreed to dismantle the multimillion dollar project, seeing no way around a permit violation order calling for its removal. The move could bring an end to a heated, 10-year fight over how to grapple with climate threats on the island.

In a Jan. 9 letter to Nantucket’s town manager and Select Board, Josh Posner, president of the homeowners group, the Siasconset Beach Preservation Fund, wrote that his organization will remove the geotubes in compliance with a 2021 order from Nantucket’s Conservation Commission — “no matter how foolish removal may be.”

In 2014, homeowner Josh Posner sat on his bench that he has moved at times from the bluff on Baxter Road which has been eroding away. – David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe

Posner proposed the town abandon its heavily criticized plan to partner with his group to expand the project. Nantucket’s Select Board agreed, and the conservation commission unanimously approved the withdrawal at a Thursday evening meeting.

“It is a shame to see a lack of political leadership and the domination of unthinking ideologues force the destruction of a beautiful, historic community when there is way of protecting it that is working really well,” Posner told The Boston Globe in an e-mail.

Posner’s characterization of the removal order as “foolish” was “very unfortunate,” said Ashley Erisman, chair of the conservation commission, which found the homeowners failed to abide by permit obligations, including a requirement to replenish the area with clean sand.

”We wouldn’t have needed to issue a removal enforcement had [Siasconset Beach Preservation Fund] followed their order of conditions,” she said.

Siasconset, more commonly known as Sconset, is home to iconic shingled cottages, some worth millions of dollars apiece. But the bluff on which they are built has long been under assault by erosion, which has accelerated due to climate change.

Read more.