A Chilmark resident offered to pay to replenish "renourish" Squibnocket Beach. — George Brennan

MA - To renourish or not to renourish? Squibnocket returns to the spotlight.

Chilmark’s select board learned Tuesday night that a local resident has offered to pay to replenish “renourish” sand at Squibnocket Beach through a project that would be run by the Woods Hole Group. Tara Marden, a senior project manager and coastal geologist at the Woods Hole Group, pitched the idea to the board.

“I was approached by a local property owner who wanted to do a restoration project here,” Marden said, pointing to a map of Squibnocket Beach. Marden said she believed parcels of land where the restoration would occur are owned by the Squibnocket Beach Association and leased to the town but one is outright owned by the town. Town administrator Tim Carroll said Vineyard Open Land Foundation (VOLF) also has land in the area.

Marden said the restoration would occur “seward of the parking lot” and inside the dune.” Marden said she assumed the reason for the restoration was so the beach would be “nicer in the summertime.”

The materials would be sand and cobble, she said.

Select board member Jim Malkin, who previously led a committee on Squibnocket, took issue with the idea.

Malkin said his former committee, the conservation commission, and Chilmark voters, previously endorsed a large project at the beach, Malkin said, and adjacent to Squibnocket Pond, that included dune building, erection of a long and privately funded bridge (often referred to as a causeway) and other work under the concept of managed retreat.

“This whole project was done, and was lauded by the state, as managed retreat,” Malkin said.

Managed retreat, as a Pennsylvania State University web page describes, is a “coastal management strategy that allows the shoreline to move inland, instead of attempting to hold the line with structural engineering. At the same time, natural coastal habitat is enhanced seaward of a new line of defense.”

The webpage further states, “This approach is relatively new but is gaining traction among coastal policy makers and managers in the face of increased coastal hazard risks. There is a growing recognition that attempting to ‘hold the line’ in many places is a losing battle.”

Malkin claimed as part of the managed retreat endorsement given by his prior committee and by voters, the town specifically opted out of the idea of rebuilding dunes or replenishing beach sand when it eroded. He also said the beach has a natural cycle of rotating terrain that includes sand, cobble, pebbles, and other combinations.

He cautioned against “opening the door” to a rejuvenation obligation the town decided against.

Marden said the Woods Hole Group has worked on a lot of managed retreat projects and nourishment is a common component of those projects.

Conservation agent Kara Shemeth said some members of the beach committee and the conservation commission made inquiries as to how beach sand could be replenished at the beach.

Shemeth said there have been complaints of “too many rocks on the beach” during the summer.

Select board chair Bill Rossi said as a taxpayer, he wasn’t against a private individual paying for beach sand, even though it “may or may not last.”

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