Why Inkwell & Pay Beaches In Oak Bluffs Are Seeing Black – Martha’s Vineyard

On Tuesday afternoon when there was a little tease of spring weather, I decided it would be fun to go to Inkwell Beach to collect shells and enjoy a little time outdoors.

When we got there, I was shocked and appalled at the state of the beach. There was tons of this stinky black stuff covering Inkwell Beach and parts of Pay Beach as well.

It was stinky and looked just plain gross against the blue water and clean sand. I was fit to be tied!

How could this happen to one of the most popular public beaches on the Vineyard? What was Oak Bluffs thinking?

What’s Happening At These Beaches?

I was mad and sad. Thinking that the town has such little regard for itself.

So, one of the first things I did on Wednesday morning was to call Oak Bluffs Parks and Rec to figure out why they would do this to the beach. They had me contact Liz Durkee at the Conservation Commission.

I left Liz quite the lengthy, less than pleasant message on her voicemail. Shortly after, when she called me back, I gave her an ear full.

Why does Oak Bluffs have such little pride? Would this happen in Edgartown? The beach is ruined for my children, etc. Boy was I wrong and being dramatic.

Then, Liz filled me on the plan. She was wonderful to talk to, and was really excited about what the town is doing.

The sand — yes, it is actually sand — is from the dredging project by the draw bridge. It was tested thoroughly and was found to be the same size and a match for the sand on Inkwell and Pay Beaches.

The problem is that this sand, though I still want to call it sludge, hasn’t seen the light of day in forever. Also, it’s full of shells, some clay and peat, and decomposing sea creatures, so it’s stinky.

Inkwell Beach

Inkwell in particular has lost a lot of sand due to storms, and this winter was really hard on the beach too. Because of this, the town has to replace the sand, and the stuff from the bridge project is the only solution we have.

The State won’t pay for it, and won’t let sand be taken from the ocean. So, what are we to do?

The answer is the sand that they put there. I don’t like it, and neither do most people, but it is a necessary evil.

The stuff that’s there is actually pretty clean. If you go look at, you’ll find that there’s a lot of shells in it.

Over the next month, once winter finally releases its hold, the dark sand will be spread out. Then, it will be up to the sun and rain to help bleach it and make it more like the sand we know and love.

So, by summer, it will be better than OK. The beach will be bigger and better. Now, I don’t know if it will be perfect this summer, but by next year, we’ll be pretty happy that these beaches got this sand.

This happened a couple of years ago at Jetty Beach, and it was gross for the summer. The big problem was that the dredged material was put there too close to summer.

Inkwell and Pay Beaches have a longer time to have the sand be exposed to the elements, and once it’s spread out and raked — people should be happy.

Ahead of the Curve

I was still not confident about the situation, but Liz shed a little more light on things for me. She told me that Oak Bluffs, as a town, is ahead of other towns on the Vineyard, as far as working to protect the shoreline.

Yes, the sand that was put there is not perfect right now but it is necessary if we want to keep our beaches.

Also, there will be more sand from dredging projects used on Oak Bluffs’ beaches. The beach by the Steamship Authority building will most likely get sand from the dredging from the underwater lines that are being laid. This area needs sand too.

The sand is necessary to increase the size of the beach from all the erosion from over the years. Soon, this area will be widely used, since the fishing pier is now there, and soon there will be a boardwalk there too.

Oak Bluffs is redoing the seawall by the Island Queen dock. It’s going to be about 4 feet higher to help protect against sea surges and erosion.

On top of the seawall will be the boardwalk. It will be about 10 feet wide and connect that area down to where the Steamship building is.

I stopped in to see Liz at her office. I wanted to meet her, thank her for her time, and for educating me. I also wanted to take a look at the plans for the boardwalk, which look very cool.

With all this in mind, it seems as though Oak Bluffs is working hard to help fight erosion, repair the beaches, and make town more pedestrian-friendly and pretty. That’s is a benefit not only to summer visitors but for us that live here too.

I do love the new fishing pier — it’s really nice! I can’t wait to see what the boardwalk does to the area.

So, as a community, we are going to have to suffer with stinky sand for a while, but know that it is for our own good. I don’t like it, but I understand why and am OK with it now.

Oak Bluffs is working on ways to better itself, and sometimes you have to think about the bigger picture — no matter how hard it may be.

On a side note, I feel a little silly that I got so mad, but I just had visions of having to drive to the beach all summer long. Also, I like be able to walk to the beach now, and don’t like that I have to wait.

Well, I don’t have to but I will wait a while. However, once I took the time to find out why, I understand that this is a good thing for the beaches and the town. Sometimes you just gotta ask.

A little heads up — there might soon be a similar situation on State Beach as soon as the dredging by “Little Bridge” begins. It’s going to be tough to have to deal with, but once again, it’s necessary if we want to keep our beaches viable.

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2 thoughts on “Why Inkwell & Pay Beaches In Oak Bluffs Are Seeing Black – Martha’s Vineyard”

  1. Guinevere,

    I assume that you have followed the issue of the dredge material that was placed on the two town beaches and then (mostly) removed in late May. If you would like more information about beach replenishment in OB, I would welcome the chance to talk with you. I am a seasonal resident (spring and fall) and I’ll be on the island most of September.

    Richard Seelig

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