The Nantucket Conservation Foundation has hired a police detail to patrol the Moors around Gibb’s Pond in response to risks posed by high school parties. For decades, the more than 9,000 acres of conservation land on Nantucket has been the go-to place for high schoolers to party over the weekend. Following one of such parties near Gibbs Pond in early March, a fire was found still smoldering Saturday morning amid a clearing littered with bottles, cans, and the remnants of bottle rockets. When the fire department was called to put out the still smoldering pallets, the Conservation Foundation decided that it was time to make some preventative measures.
High school Environmental Science teacher Ashley Erisman expressed her concern over the condition of the Moors saying, “Highschool parties pose a number of threats to the conservation land.” The first is that plastic waste left in the Moors can permeate for a millennium and will likely find its way to aquatic ecosystems where it will pose a threat to the wildlife. Broken glass can also pose a threat to the safety of non-party-goers and their pets who may use the conservation land for its intended purposes.
Ms. Erisman explained that the threats are actually more extensive than most believe with, saying, “Everything from parking to the pallets to the bottle rockets can pose a threat. The conservation land is the home to endangered plant species that can be damaged by your cars without you even knowing it.” Ms. Erisman also mentioned that “container breeding mosquitos” can take advantage of cans and bottles to breed which can lead to the spread of pathogens.
Both Erisman and Nantucket Conservation Foundation’s Director of Marketing and Communications, Grace Hull, mentioned the fire hazard that these parties pose. The Moors are covered in Scrub Oak which is not only imperiled but also great kindling when dry. Hull explained, “Even with the firebreaks spread throughout the conservation land, a party could spark a wildfire that could devastate hundreds of acres of conservation land.” This is especially dangerous seeing as the sandplain heathland habitat of the Moors is critically imperiled.
In light of all of these factors, the Conservation Foundation decided that they would hire a police detail to patrol the area on the weekends in order to deter parties. Though the Conservation Foundation is under no assumption that the parties will cease to happen, they hope that this will send a message to the high schoolers.
Nantucket High School Senior Camden Willett expressed that he was not surprised by the actions of the Conservation Foundation saying, “I have definitely noticed that the parties are getting messier.” Willett admitted, “we have definitely dropped the ball this year, but I think that the patrol will be an effective message to the high schoolers. I, for one, will definitely be more conscious about the mess we leave in the future, and can hopefully pass that on to the underclassmen as well.”
The patrol was only hired for a month, but at $258.57 a night, the detail is by no means inexpensive. Assuming that the Conservation Foundation will have the detail on patrol Friday and Saturday night for four weeks, they will be spending at least $2,000 dollars that could be directed elsewhere for the preservation of the island. The Conservation Foundation will reevaluate the situation at the end of the month and determine at that time how to proceed. Until then, the parties will be held elsewhere. The Conservation Foundation remains hopeful that the detail will deter parties and remind the high schoolers that the Conservation Land is not just for them, but for the community.
By Henry Dupont