The Trustees of Reservations will not renew their contract to manage Norton Point Beach, after leadership said Friday that the non-profit land conservancy would relinquish control of the dynamic, two-mile shore front property early next year.

The decision from The Trustees comes as the town of Edgartown recently submitted a proposal to take over management of the beach, which is owned by Dukes County.

In a statement sent Friday afternoon, a Trustees spokesman said that the non-profit wanted to focus its energy on managing the Vineyard properties that it owns — such as the Cape Pogue and Long Point wildlife refuges — and that the organization would offer support to Dukes County in its transition of the property’s management.

“After careful consideration, the decision not to pursue renewal of this contract was made in order to focus more on the wide and exciting variety of other programs and properties on Martha’s Vineyard that The Trustees owns outright,” spokesman Aaron Gouveia said. “The Trustees has offered to support Dukes County in transitioning the management of Norton Point to Edgartown, or whichever entity is ultimately chosen.

The Trustees’ contract to manage the beach will expire on March 31, 2023, at which time the organization will relinquish stewardship of the property, Mr. Gouveia said.

The organization, which is the largest land conservation non-profit in the state, has managed Norton Point beach since 2006.

A sensitive but highly-visible stretch of beachfront that connects Edgartown to Chappaquiddick, Norton Point has long been a popular destination for recreational beachgoers, particularly because of its ease of access for over-sand vehicles relative to other Chappaquiddick beaches.

But the beach also plays host to a variety of rare shorebirds, including piping plovers, and is subject to powerful ocean currents that have caused overwash and breaches throughout the years, forcing managers to balance the often conflicting wishes of ecologists and recreational beachgoers.

Those issues came to a head earlier this summer, when The Trustees released a beach management plan that drew widespread criticism from beachgoers and a former Trustees employee. The Trustees pulled the plan, and promised to revisit the beach management draft with a working group that included a broader swath of stakeholders.

In early December, the town of Edgartown made a formal presentation to the Dukes County Commission to take over management of the beach, saying the town would provide greater transparency with over-sand vehicle permit numbers and reinvest money from sticker sales into the beach.

Over-sand vehicle permit sales have provided a significant windfall for The Trustees since they took over beach management in 2006. According to numbers provided by the county, sticker sales for Norton Point brought in $286,000 in revenue in FY2021. Edgartown did not say in its presentation if it planned to change the sticker-sale process for Norton Point if it takes over management.

On Friday, The Trustees said in their release that the organization planned to continue management of Leland Beach on the east side of Chappaquiddick, and Cape Pogue Wildlife Refuge.

Darci Schofield, Cape and Islands Director for The Trustees, said that if the organization and the town were to competitively vie for management of Norton Point, it would force a lengthy procurement process that would not give the organization enough time to prepare for the 2023 summer season and delayed the appointment of a beach manager.

“We begin selling over-sand vehicle (OSV) permits and hiring seasonal staff in January, and there are other important decisions and deadlines related to management of Norton Point that would not fit within the likely procurement timeline,” Ms. Schofield said in the release. “By relinquishing management of Norton Point, The Trustees can place an additional focus on its protection of access to more than 1,600 acres of special places and 12 miles of pristine beaches on Martha’s Vineyard including Long Point Wildlife Refuge.”

The Trustees said it would continue to work on its beach management plan, holding meetings with Cape Pogue residents, local officials, over-sand vehicle permit holders, conservationists and local officials. The organization is currently in discussion with the town’s conservation commission about renewing its over-sand vehicle access for the other Edgartown properties it manages, including Cape Pogue.

In a phone call, Edgartown town administrator James Hagerty said he was aware of The Trustees’ decision, and that the town would continue to pursue management of the beach.

“I understand the Trustees position,” Mr. Hagerty said. “We’re going to go forward accordingly, and we appreciate the partnership between the trustees and town over the years to manage Norton Point.”