Retreat: Land Bank Plans To Relocate Cisco Beach Parking Lot Due To Erosion

Jason Graziadei •

Cisco beach kit noble
The Cisco Beach parking lot. Photo by Kit Noble |

The threat of erosion has prompted the Nantucket Land Bank to forge ahead with a plan to relocate the Cisco Beach parking lot - one of the most heavily used areas along the island’s south shore.

On Tuesday, Land Bank staff proposed a calculated “retreat” from the dune along the beach which would move the parking area farther inland as part of a coastal resiliency strategy. The Land Bank Commission voted unanimously to endorse the plan, and allow the organization's staff to move ahead with the permitting for the project.

“Future erosion will result in the front row of parking being compromised and to avoid this being an issue, the Land Bank is planning to move the parking area further from the beach, using a coastal resiliency strategy known as retreat,” said Rachael Freeman, the Land Bank’s director of environmental and agricultural resources. “Shifting the parking area to be perpendicular to the coastline during this move is also a coastal resiliency strategy that will limit the impacts of erosion to a few parking spaces at a time as opposed to potentially losing an entire row of 20 or more spots in one storm event.”

The move is not expected to happen anytime soon, but the vote and permitting effort are intended to be a proactive approach to the ongoing challenges of erosion.

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The Cisco Beach parking lot sees many thousands of visitors over the summer months, and is home to the Nantucket Island Surf School, and as many as three food trucks. The current parking area is parallel with the dune, but like many other areas along the south shore, it is threatened by erosion and the constantly shifting coastline. But that’s not the only reason for the proposal.

“Land Bank staff are recommending this design for a number of reasons,” Freeman said. “First, the parking area will have to be moved in the future due to erosion along the south shore. The south shore of the island encounters varying rates of erosion and, as Cisco is one of the most popular Land Bank beaches, we have been closely watching the progression of the dune system into Falmouth Ave as well as the veins of soil that are lost every winter along the front row of the parking lot. The second reason this design is being considered is because rare species surveys and potential mitigation for any impacts are required and we are actively working with the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Massachusetts Natural Heritage Program to permit a relocated parking area. Although habitat for rare wildlife is present, far fewer rare plants were found within the site we are proposing for the new parking lot.”

Freeman acknowledged, however, the tradition of island residents and visitors pulling their vehicles up to the edge of the dune to watch the sunset and the activity on the beach.

“In addition to the above considerations, we are also aware that both Nantucketers and visitors treasure being able to park on the Cisco bank and overlook the ocean,” she said. “Our hope is to promote accessibility by always retaining some parking that allows people to see the water from a vehicle.”

Nantucket Island Surf School owner Gary Kohner declined to comment about the proposal.

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