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The Changing Shape of Siasconset, Nantucket


In 2007, the Sankaty Head Lighthouse was moved 400 feet from its original location. Photo by Jen Dow

The effect of the erosion has varied along the length of the bluff. Felch says Codfish Park, a residential community at sea level, has eroded and accreted in a continuous cycle over the past 50 years. “[Since 1991] there have been eight to ten homes lost to erosion there,” he says. “However, further north on the bluff, which [stands] 70 to 90 feet in height, there [has been] more warning time. Many homes in danger were moved on their land footprint back closer to Baxter Road.” Regarding Baxter Road, which runs parallel to the shore, some locals are concerned because the neighborhood’s utilities and sewer system are built underground, next to the road. If the road erodes, these would have to be moved.

Josh Posner, president of the SPDF, has also seen the erosion worsen over time. “My family first started vacationing on the Sconset Bluff in 1960 when I was a child,” he says. “At that time, there was no erosion problem. The bluff in front of our house, which is now a steep cliff of sand, was a gently sloping fully vegetated bank with 200 feet of dune in front of it.”

In the early 1990s, Posner says homeowners in the area formed the ‘Sconset Trust with the simple goal of finding effective methods to protect their homes and their community from erosion.

In recent years, the SBPF and the Town of Nantucket together introduced a plan to install a series of geotubes along the toe of the bluff, where the erosion is worst. Though the project was at first rejected by Nantucket’s Conservation Commission, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection approved it, and the work began in 2013.

Now installed, these ‘tubes’ are made from a geotextile fabric that is filled with sand. The tubes are 200 feet long, seven feet high and 20 feet wide, and are arranged along the base or “toe” of the bluff in four overlapping steps. The longer the tubes remain in place, the general consensus is the sturdier they become. As of October of 2015, a total of 900 feet of tubes had been installed along the mid-portion of the bluff.

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