The Edgartown conservation commission grilled The Trustees of Reservations Wednesday as the statewide land nonprofit continued its bid to renew its oversand vehicle program on Chappaquiddick.

For several meetings, the Trustees has been asking the commission for permission to allow vehicles to drive on the sand trails of Chappaquiddick, but the question of whether the Trustees can continue to sell oversand vehicle passes has launched greater concerns about the organization’s management practices. Wednesday’s hearing centered around whether the Trustees can adequately apportion funding and staffing to responsibly manage its beaches.

Those concerns reignited after a recent incident of a Cape Pogue visitor driving recklessly, damaging some of the dunes and vegetation. Trustees Islands director Darci Schofield said the affected area has since been remediated, and the organization’s winter ranger has been keeping an eye out for the offending party. 

Ms. Schofield said that on rare occasions, the organization has rescinded individuals’ stickers for bad behavior. 

“Instances like these have happened maybe one or two times,” she told the commission. “[But] we are taking very diligent steps to manage that.”

Some members of the commission also took issue with the Trustees’ beach remediation plans currently underway. As of now, the Trustees’ plan stands to leave 1,600 cubic yards of the town’s available dredged sand – $52,000 worth of sand – unused.

Although Ms. Schofield admitted that the sand could be utilized for other remediation projects in the area, she said the organization has only budgeted for 1.5 weeks of work.

“This sand the town is providing isn’t available every year,” commissioner Geoffrey Kontje said. “To leave half of it on the beach when so many different trails need to be nourished, I think, is a mistake which goes back to concerns about funding.”

Ms. Schofield replied that the sand could be used for another project down the line.

“One thousand cubic yards will be blown away in a week unless you use all of it,” conservation agent Jane Varkonda said.

This isn’t the first time the commission has doubted the organization’s commitment to maintaining its properties. For months, the town of Edgartown and the Trustees have sparred over whether the organization is responsible for paying a portion of repairs to the Dike Bridge and bulkhead, the sole point of access to the Trustees’ waterfront Chappaquiddick properties. 

Trustees attorney Dylan Sanders has maintained that the organization does not own the land around the bridge and therefore cannot contribute any funding to its repairs. An engineering firm hired by the town estimated necessary repairs to be roughly $4.3 million.

Earlier this week, Edgartown town counsel Ron Rappaport wrote that assessors' records show the Trustees does own lots that include the deteriorating causeway and bulkhead, and the land trust should pitch in to fix the bridge. 

“I believe that [the Trustees] has incorrectly interpreted certain documents in its chain of title that assert ownership of the area in question and has overlooked the organization’s historical claims of ownership,” he wrote in the letter to town administrator James Hagerty and conservation agent Jane Varkonda.

No decisions have been made on the bridge’s future but town officials have called on action to be taken in the short term.

While several public commenters at Wednesday’s meeting spoke in support of oversand vehicle access, nearly all acknowledged that access must come with stringent conditions to ensure Chappaquiddick’s natural resources can endure for generations.

Cape Pogue resident Rachel Self proposed a limit of 30 to 50 vehicles, a considerable decrease from the Trustees’ proposed 300-vehicle limit. Former Trustees Islands director Chris Kennedy said the organization must increase its transparency to build better trust with the town. 

Both Ms. Self and another commenter, Seena Pidani, said the Trustees’ current application with the town lacked many of the impact studies and ecological surveys present in the organization’s original 1990 application. Recently, MassWildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program rejected the Trustees’ application, requesting more detail.

Mr. Kontje clarified that his concerns with the Trustees went beyond Ms. Schofield’s purview.

“I’d like to see a commitment to the will of the organization,” he said. “Not just you, I know your will is high…This is an institutional commitment I’m looking for.”

The conservation commission Friday voted to allow the Trustees to continue oversand vehicle travel until Jan. 24, when the issue will be taken up again.