By Katie Genthner
The town of Siasconset, commonly referred to as ‘Sconset, is known for its pristine beaches and infamous bluff walks. But these eastend island beauties are in need of protection. Each year, ‘Sconset Beach and Bluff is at risk for further erosion. In some recent difficult storm years, up to 30 feet have been lost from the Bluff, with an average loss of approximately 3-4 feet each year. With these extreme numbers, a total of twenty of the island’s east end homes have been either moved or demolished (leaving vacant lots (eight) or moved back to the roadway (twelve). With this said, the island’s east end is not at a complete and utter loss. In fact, the installation of a 900-foot pilot geotubes project in 2014 showed that we can protect and preserve the historic ‘Sconset Bluff, Baxter Road, and access to Sankaty Head Lighthouse while maintaining the quality of our beloved beaches.
Since the early 1990s, The Siasconset Beach Preservation Fund (SBPF) has undertaken a variety of research on an experimental basis, and have worked alongside the Town of Nantucket to find a series of measures that might control the erosion of the ‘Sconset Beach. Their goal is to ultimately identify ways to protect and preserve ‘Sconset Beach and Bluff that are mainly environmentally responsible and help Nantucket in its adaptation to climate change and a rising sea level. Pursuant to the agreement with the Town, these efforts of control have increased the number of geotube layers from three to four, planted vegetation and installed a drainage system to limit the impact of surface runoff, and delivered thousands of dump truck loads of sand to assure that there is no negative impact on surrounding beaches. “Geotubes”, formally known as Geotextile tubes are “giant sausages” constructed of extremely durable plastic mesh filled with sand. This sand is replaced every year through the SBPF and protects 950 feet of the most endangered section of the bluff. The SBPF aims to extend this approach to protecting the entire bluff from the end of Baxter Road at the Sankaty Lighthouse property to the point at which erosion has begun (with bank erosion beginning at around 63 Baxter Road and dune erosion occurring farther south around 53 Baxter Road).The town of Siasconset, Nantucket is one of the many remarkable landmarks of the island, and is in great need of the community assistance in protecting its beauty. The Siasconset Beach Preservation Fund is continuing to work collaboratively alongside the Town of Nantucket to successfully undergo these measures of protection, “hopeful that protecting ‘Sconset Beach and Bluff can serve as a model for other communities who may choose similar measures in the future.” If you are interested in learning more about these efforts of enforcement, you can visit the SPBF website at http://sconsetbeach.org/ or call 508-443-6443 to listen to the audio tour. If you are interested in supporting or further donating to the fund, submit donations directly through their website, or email them at email@example.com.