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South Beach to be partly repaired for summer

The lifeguard shack at South Beach is out of commission. —Edgartown Parks Department

Posted on March 4, 2024

Edgartown officials have been working to partially restore South Beach in time for summer following a series of devastating storms over the winter, but some of the area won’t be completely restored.

Town parks commissioner Andrew Kelly says that his department is working to shore up the beach as much as possible and install new dunes before the summer. But he also says that restoration will continue after the summer, including further dredging.

Kelly adds that beachgoers will need to be redirected away from Left Fork due to damage sustained in the storms. Left Fork refers to the Katama Road area. People will not be able to pass through the area at Left Fork where a bathhouse previously stood, after that structure was compromised and had to be removed.

At a town parks commission meeting on Thursday, Kelly also said that the commission is looking to relocate its operations, after the shack that they worked from was breached in the storms. He says that a temporary location may be established near the grass parking lot at the beach.

Part of the beach restoration so far has been dredging in the Down Harbor area. Town conservation agent Jane Varkonda says that 3,700 cubic yards of sand has been sourced so far to shore up Left Fork.

Varkonda added that because the town owns its dredge, it saves significant amounts of money.

“We’re getting our sand for $21 a cubic yard, where if we were to import it it would be at least $72 a cubic yard,” she said on Thursday.

Snow fencing will also be installed along South Beach.

In the future, Edgartown officials plan to pursue funds for restoration at a special town meeting and from state and from federal agencies. The town is also consulting the Woods Hole Group to repair South Beach, and has hired a coastal geologist to figure out how much sand will need to be dredged in total.

As per a request from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) in January, Edgartown declared an emergency at South Beach. This declaration made Edgartown eligible for emergency assistance funds through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Kelly says that the process for these funds will take time, and that he met with FEMA and MEMA contacts at South Beach last week. Kelly says that in order to ask FEMA for funding, affected municipalities statewide must first collectively pool $12.9 million.

Kelly adds that before federal funds become available, residents will be able to vote on funding for South Beach repairs at a special town meeting.

“There are hopes [for FEMA funding], but in the meanwhile, it’s my understanding that we will probably see something on special town meeting to help reimburse some of the costs. And the hope is that ultimately that money will be reimbursed by MEMA or FEMA.”

Conservation commissioners also said on Thursday that the town is looking into grant opportunities from the state Coastal Zone Management agency, and will be working closely with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) for further funding. Kelly said that the town has had a management agreement with DCR since the 1980s.

Kelly also noted that South Beach is a state-owned property.

Another significant impact of the storms was the failure of a culvert at Right Fork, which caused the partial collapse of Atlantic Drive. Kelly says that he thinks the road could be reopened to the public in mid-April.

“The Highway Department has done some work to shore up parts of the road, but there is still more that has to be done before we can open Atlantic Drive again,” he said.

Presale of stickers for Norton Point will start April 1, and the stickers will be ready for to be picked up starting May 1. Kelly says that people should keep in mind the possibility of further erosion.

“We’ve had some tough winter out there. There has been some work done. There are some low areas that … could wash out during the summer. As you’re thinking about purchasing your sticker, just keep in mind Mother Nature,” Kelly said.

“So, good stuff coming,” Kelly summarized at the Thursday meeting. “As long as Mother Nature doesn’t do her thing. But again, that’s who we’re fighting.”

Kelly added that he will release a beach status update this week.


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