Who Doesn't Want A Bike Path On Wauwinet Road? Wauwinet Property Owners

Jason Graziadei •

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A bike path out to Wauwinet has been identified as a priority by the town since the late 1970s. The twists and turns of the winding road combined with the traffic headed out to Great Point have made it a dangerous stretch for bicyclists and walkers.

More than 40 years after the town first marked Wauwinet Road as a possible site for a bicycle path, island planners - who now have some seed funding in hand from Uncle Sam - are preparing to begin the formal design process for a “sidepath” dedicated for walking, bicycling and “other mobility needs including baby strollers, wheelchairs, and rollerbladers.

But the town discovered this week that there’s a group very much opposed to the construction of the new sidepath: a group of Wauwinet property owners.

The Wauwinet Land Owners Association submitted an e-mail to town planners last week outlining a series of objections to the concept of a bike path down Wauwinet Road - calling it a “destination to nowhere.” The association believes it could result in “bikers wandering around private properties” and that such a path could create “security issues.”

“It is the WLOA board's position, as well as the super majority of its residents, that a bike path to Wauwinet would be detrimental to the Wauwinet community,” the association wrote. “The bike path would be a destination to nowhere. At the gate house, the Wauwinet Road becomes private. There is no general store, there is no drinking water source, and, except for the two lovely port-a-potties, there are no bathrooms. After a 10-mile bike ride from Town, these facilities would be necessary. Providing a bike path could bring 20, 50, 100+ pedestrians through Wauwinet wandering aimlessly looking for the beach, on the harbor and the ocean.”

Read the full letter by clicking here

The opposition included three other letters from Wauwinet residents opposed to the project, along with some letters in support. The new feedback on the project was reviewed by the Nantucket Planning & Economic Development Commission (NP&EDC) on Monday, and some members were incredulous.

“I read that letter yesterday, I didn't even know what to say,” Nat Lowell said. “I said a few years ago, if there was ever a time where someone said there’s too many people riding bikes on Nantucket, I think we’ve finally reached the apocalypse.”

Seth Engelbourg, who is the Conservation Commission’s appointee to the NP&EDC, also pushed back on the characterization of the proposed path as one to “nowhere.”

“Without being disparaging, I personally think some of the negative comments are off base,” Engelbourg said. “There are plenty of bike paths that terminate on Nantucket in what is being referred to as ‘nowhere’, essentially a beach. The Hummock Pond bike path terminates at Cisco beach, there’s no facilities there. The Madaket Road bike path terminates at Madaket beach, there’s a seasonal restaurant but not year-round facilities. Right now there are plenty of motorist and non-motorists who travel to Wauwinet daily to view the beautiful harbor resources and coastal property that’s there. I think the idea that there’s going to be security issues of people using the public road and public bike path is not a reasonable concern.”

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Despite the flurry of debate, the Wauwinet Road sidepath project is still in its infancy. There is still no formal design yet, or a final budget. But the town has already been awarded two separate grants from the Federal Land Access Program that is managed by the Federal Highway Administration. The grants were awarded to improve community access to federally-held conservation properties, which in this case is the Nantucket National Wildlife Refuge at the tip of Great Point. The two grants - totalling just over $1.2 million - were awarded in 2016 and 2018 - required a local match of roughly $320,000.

Right now, the town’s transportation planner Patrick Reed is working with the Federal Highway Administration to advance the design of sidepath - expected to be completed by the spring of 2023 - after which construction costs will be solidified.

The design will require approval by the Nantucket Select Board, and the project would still need to pass muster with state and local environmental review agencies, including the Nantucket Conservation Commission. Additional public hearings will be held in advance of any takings and/or easements required for the project, Nantucket Planning Director Andrew Vorce said.

While the Wauwinet Land Owners Association suggested the funds would be better used to shore up Nantucket’s existing bicycle paths, Reed made it clear that the funds are specifically designed to improve community access to federal conservation properties, and could not be shifted to other projects. NP&EDC member John Trudel emphasized that the the town would simply lose that grant funding

“That’s real money,” Trudel said. “If we don’t act on it and don’t do it, we’re going to just walk away from that. These are not funds that are going to be allocated for something else. If we don’t take advantage of it now, and do it sometime in the future, we will have lost at a minimum, $1.2 million-plus. This is real money that people have worked very hard on in the past, present and future. And I don’t know if we want to walk away from it.”

Wauwinet Main Page Photo

Another Wauwinet resident, Dr. Louise King, emphasized the potential environmental impacts of a new sidepath along Wauwinet Road in her letter to the town.

“I agree with my neighbors - there are surely other ways to increase safety on Wauwinet Road and to ensure access for those who wish to see this unique part of the island,” King wrote. “To be clear - I sincerely want more people to be able to safely and responsibly access the beauty of Wauwinet that I have been so blessed to know for so long. But there are better ways. Many options have been proposed including speed bumps on the road and creating more options for guided tours into the delicate protected spaces. Any option undertaken should be carefully explored with a non-biased assessment of environmental impact.”

Dave Iverson, another NP&EDC member, echoed the incredulity of his colleagues to the opposition, and also brought his perspective as a bicyclist.

“The Wauwinet area association needs to focus on what the greater good is here and trust the Conservation Commission and the Mass DEP (Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection) to make sure this is done in a way that protects our natural resources,” Iverson said. “Anyone on a bike, that’s a horrifying ride.That's just me. But more importantly, families that enjoy that area, this will make it far more accessible for them. Seth (Engelbourg), thank you for saying it in a much kinder way than I'm capable of.”

Read the other letters received by the town about the project

Click here for more information and FAQs about the Wauwinet sidepath project

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