Edgartown, Mass., Aug. 31, 2023 – The Trustees of Reservations announced today it submitted a Cape Poge, Leland, and Wasque Beach Management Plan (BMP) to the Edgartown Conservation Commission, following nearly a year of working with stakeholders to identify and address specific needs and address challenges.
“The plan provides for practical access, protects endangered wildlife and habitat, and builds resiliency to climate impacts,” said Darci Schofield, Trustees Director for the Islands. “Our goal has been to ensure that the natural beauty of these beaches can be experienced by everyone today as well as by future generations.”
Last summer, the Trustees rescinded the first version of the BMP to ensure that the public and stakeholders could have a larger voice in drafting the plan. The Trustees launched the Martha’s Vineyard Beach Management Working group and a new process to develop the BMP with more input from stakeholders and the broader public.
This process, and specifically the working group’s input, resulted in many changes to this new BMP. These include significant changes to oversand vehicle (OSV) access and beach management practices. “There are many different perspectives within the community as well as on the working group. While we are not able to honor every desired outcome, we believe we are releasing a plan that addresses much of what the community desires alongside our shared conservation goals, and it honors the tradition of beach access that is important to island residents and visitors,” said Schofield.
Proposed changes to how the beach is managed under the new BMP include the use of adaptive management practices, enabling The Trustees to provide OSV access as beach conditions allow. This means that the Trustees will use the current conditions to help inform which trails are open and accessible. OSV access to the Lighthouse, the Gut, and along the bayside of the Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge, conditions permitting, will be available. Dogs will be allowed on-leash on Leland Beach year-round and on-leash on Wasque Beach and the Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge from Oct. 1 to March 31. Shorebird protection efforts for rare and endangered species by The Trustees will continue at Trustees-owned beaches and on Leland Beach following established state and federal guidelines for protected species. In addition to this requirement, the Trustees will continue to provide protections for at-risk species such as American oystercatchers, while using innovative protection strategies that support protecting these species while enabling greater OSV access. Using existing conditions on the beach and guided by visitor data from traffic counters, The Trustees will monitor capacity limits to ensure they do not exceed 300 vehicles for Cape Poge and Leland beaches combined.
The working group members asked for stronger enforcement of Trustees Rules and Regulations on the beach, and this BMP therefore includes measures that include required viewing of an OSV training video for permit holders, tools be required to carry and inspected by staff, and a two-strike warning/permit revocation for violations. These activities were implemented in Summer 2023 and will continue as ongoing practices. The Trustees agreed to continue a text messaging system piloted in 2023 to alert OSV drivers to trail closures and to explore the feasibility of creating a live trail map on its website. The Trustees also committed to continuing monthly beach management working group meetings to allow stakeholders to provide ongoing input and feedback
The Trustees will seek an Order of Conditions from the Edgartown Conservation Commission, which will hold a public review process for the BMP. The Trustees is encouraging interested parties to attend the public meetings to express support for OSV access and the protection of natural resources.
The working group was formed with representatives of the Martha’s Vineyard Beach Access Group, Chappaquiddick residents, the Cape Poge District of Critical Planning Concern Advisory Committee, a Chappaquiddick Wampanoag Tribal Member, the Chappaquiddick Island Association, the Division of Marine Fisheries (owner of Leland Beach), BiodiversityWorks (local conservation organization), Dukes County, and other committed stakeholders.
Beginning in October 2022, the working group held six sessions, four of which were open to the public allowing people to ask questions and express concerns. Meeting summaries and recordings are available at thetrustees.org/bmp. The working group hosted speakers from the state, county, Town of Edgartown, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Department of Environmental Protection, and The Trustees. Speakers covered topics such as the impact of climate change on the beaches, what is required by state regulations, protecting shorebirds on the endangered species list, and wildlife habitat.
To read the full BMP and to understand the process and changes to the plan, please visit thetrustees.org/bmp.