After a stormy day this week, Squibnocket Beach had all but disappeared, as frothy waves lapped against a stone revetment that contains a parking lot and the only access road to the houses at Squibnocket Farm.

Five years ago, Hurricane Sandy ravaged the parking lot and access road, leading the town of Chilmark to begin exploring ways to respond to erosion at the beach. The complex restoration plan that emerged was shot down by voters in 2014, but an outline of a new plan passed unanimously the following winter.

Two-part project has been billed as a managed shoreline retreat. — Mark Lovewell

Two years later, stormy skies have yet to clear over Squibnocket, as some residents continue to try to block the Squibnocket Farm homeowners association from building a raised causeway over wetlands to their homes. That portion of the project is set to begin in October, although details and a time frame remain unclear. A separate part of the project sponsored by the town that would relocate the town parking lot and remove a stone revetment would come later.

The new push by opponents seeking an alternative plan has brought up many of the same issues that have stalled the project since 2015, even as local permits have been granted and town voters have reaffirmed their support for the causeway.

The project was expected to begin last October, but became mired in an appeal. Meanwhile, the town lost its second consecutive grant from the state office of Coastal Zone Management for $280,000, although it was able to spend some of the money on engineering, legal expenses and other costs. The town reapplied for the grant last year, raising the amount to $400,000, but was denied.

The appeal has reportedly been settled, although an online petition titled Citizens Against the Bridge now aims to continue the fight.

Rendering of proposed causeway. Project was slated to begin in October. — Courtesy VHB

“Do you want to bathe under a 300’ long and 13’ high concrete and steel bridge?” says the anonymous petition, posted August 15 on As of Thursday, the petition had collected 206 signatures and 84 comments, but it was unclear how it would affect the project.

“I don’t know where things like that go,” Chilmark selectman Jim Malkin, who previously chaired a town committee that reviewed alternate plans for the beach, told the Gazette this week. He said the petition would not affect the town process.

But some see the petition as a sign of growing opposition to the association plan, which they say does not reflect the low causeway that the town committee had recommended and that voters approved in 2015.

“It’s nice to hear from architects, from seasonal people, from other Island people, other Island towns,” Thomas Bena, an outspoken opponent of the plan, said of the petition. But he too was unable to say how it would affect the project. “People keep asking me and I don’t know,” he said.

The two-part project has been billed as a managed shoreline retreat, although some have questioned the need for hard structures near the beach. Concerns focus mostly on the causeway, which needs to be in place before the town can remove the stone revetment and relocate the parking lot farther inland. Voters have approved a total of $960,000 for the town portion. The homeowner association plans to pay for the causeway.

Voters in April agreed to amend the town’s Squibnocket Pond District bylaw to allow the causeway to be built. That proposal triggered a new wave of opposition from on and off the Island.

Town officials have defended restoration plan. — Mark Lovewell

Mr. Bena and others are calling for the association to pursue an alternative that is more in line with the 2015 recommendation.

“It’s also not managed retreat,” he said of the plan. “The beach is moving back. The bridge is going to be in the middle of the water. And we don’t know how much time, but looking at Houston, looking at these crazy storms we are having, it seems to be sooner rather than later.”

Association board president Warren Spector declined to speak for the record this week.

Damon Vickers, who lives at Squibnocket year-round, expressed dismay over the rising legal costs for the association (he estimated around $1.5 million so far) and for the town. Around the time of the annual town meeting in April, he helped lead a charge against the causeway plan, but when it came to the association vote itself, he eventually joined the majority.

“At the end of the day, I have to yield to the people that live there in Squibnocket, which are my neighbors,” he said this week. “And I have to inevitably yield to the fact that people in Chilmark voted for [the causeway].” But he also called for a meeting between association members and those who oppose the plan — something he said has never occurred.

Town officials have defended the restoration plan as reflecting a thorough and transparent public process. Following the months-long review beginning in 2014, and the town meeting vote in 2015, the final projects were unanimously approved by both the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and town conservation commission last year.

Hurricane Sandy ravaged parts of Squibnocket Beach, which is popular with surfers. — Mark Lovewell

“There are unhappy people,” Mr. Malkin said. “Everyone has done everything they were supposed to and they didn’t like the result.”

Doug Liman, another outspoken opponent of the causeway plan who filed the appeal last year, said the matter was settled this summer when the association agreed to obtain a building permit.

Mr. Liman and others have also raised concerns about the Vineyard Open Land Foundation, which has agreed to sell a five-acre stretch of beach to the homeowner association, which will then lease it to the town. That agreement also freed up land for the causeway.

Mr. Vickers said the lease of more than 1,000 feet of beach was a key benefit for the town, and he suggested that the association was dedicated to making it happen.

But he also saw ongoing legal issues as clouds in the forecast. “Doug will persist, and so will members of the homeowners association,” he said. “The real losers in this are people that just enjoy that beach. It could be so much better if we could stop our silliness.”