After years of delays, Nantucket is finally getting a new harbor action plan.
The old plan, approved in 2009, was only meant to last 10 years, but unexpected complications - most notably COVID-19 - kept pushing back the process of drafting its replacement. Now, work has begun on the new plan, starting with a public meeting held on Monday. Approval is expected in spring of 2024.
The Town team responsible for the new plan includes members from a bevy of town boards and local organizations, as well as two at-large members. Just like in 2009, the town is also working with UMass Boston’s Urban Harbors Institute. The purpose of the plan, according to Kristin Uiterwyk, the Institute’s director, is to “identify [the community’s] vision and its goals for its waterways.”
At this point, work on the plan, which will cover both Nantucket and Madaket harbor, is still in its earliest stages, and the planning team is actively seeking public comment. The team hopes that public input will help identify the changing goals and needs of Nantucket’s community and create an effective roadmap for the future.
“We want to know what we’re missing,” Uiterwyk said.
The team held a public meeting at the Nantucket Hotel Monday to seek that input. During the meeting, participants split into six groups covering the major areas of concern the team hopes the plan will address: boating and navigation, fishing and shellfishing, water quality and natural resources, public access, coastal resiliency, and a catch-all ‘other’ category.
This last category drew some criticism. Some attendees, including charter boat Captain Bob DeCosta, wanted to know why issues like commercial and residential waterfront usage were grouped under the ‘other’ category. DeCosta pointed out that Nantucket boaters have to pay much more for fuel than boaters on the Cape and argued that issues like this should be central to the new plan. Other attendees raised similar concerns.
Kim Starbuck, a senior research associate at the Institute, emphasized that the categories were meant to make the event more manageable and did not necessarily indicate that the issues grouped in the ‘other’ category were less important to the plan. Starbuck said that issues like commercial waterfront usage would have dedicated chapters in the plan, just as they do in the 2009 iteration.
There will be another similar meeting this summer, and the team plans to make a survey available that all members of the Nantucket community can complete to voice their opinions. Even after the plan is drafted, the public will have opportunities to give input while the Select Board and later the state determine whether to approve it.
During Monday’s meeting, several members of the team stressed that the public should take advantage of the opportunities to give public input, as the plan will shape the management of the harbor for at least the next decade.
Some harbor action plans only look for municipal approval, and getting state approval makes the process slightly more complex, but Nantucket has navigated it before with considerable success.
“You guys are sort of what everyone looks to when it comes to plan implementation,” Uiterwyk said. The 2009 plan had over 100 recommendations, and according to Uiterwyk, at least 80 were “completed or mostly completed,” though there are different ways to measure the completion of some recommendations.