by Dr. Sarah Treanor Bois
Director of Research & Education at the Linda Loring Nature Foundation
Nantucket may only be about 14 miles wide, but there are still people who identify as west-enders and east-enders. Since I live in Surfside and work on Eel Point Road, taking a drive to ‘Sconset for a walk or trip to the playground seems like a holiday. Many have noted the particular charm of ‘Sconset Village as well as the beautiful ocean views along the Bluff Walk. Watching the sunrise from Low Beach you can feel the magic of the east end. There is one organization in particular whose mission is to preserve this historic character while also making life livable for ‘Sconset residents. This is the nonprofit organization, the ‘Sconset Trust.
Founded in 1984, the original mission of the ‘Sconset Trust was to preserve open space on Nantucket’s east end. They explicitly wanted to protect smaller parcels in and around ‘Sconset. The mission has since expanded to protect the unique character of ‘Sconset Village preserving not only the open space, but the saving of historic structures and those with architectural significance around the village of ‘Sconset.
Many people know the ‘Sconset Trust for the preservation of the Sankaty Head Lighthouse. The ‘Sconset Trust was responsible for the most recent move of the lighthouse in 2007, when they took ownership of the historic structure. But the ‘Sconset Trust cares for more than just the lighthouse. They continue to preserve the historic character of ‘Sconset Village as well as the green belt around the central village.
Today the ‘Sconset Trust boasts over 130 acres of land. The most recent purchase was the former Coffin estate now known as Reddick Commons. The property lies to the east of the ‘Sconset golf course (formerly Skinner’s). This now 59-acre property consists of freshwater wetlands, shrubs, and grassland habitats. Purchased in 2012, this was a collaborative effort with the Nantucket Islands Land Bank. It is named after the late Perry Reddick who was instrumental in making this deal happen.
There is an extensive trail system at Reddick Commons, which is open to the public and regularly maintained. Three different entrances will get you there: one on Burnell Street, another on Plainfield Road, and the main entrance off of Milestone Road. The Milestone entrance has ample parking.
It may be right off of our state highway, but Reddick Commons is a quiet reprieve from the hustle and bustle of Nantucket summer. This hidden gem has the feeling of a secret garden. The low trees and surrounding shrublands line well-maintained trails. This is a different ‘Sconset from the rose-covered cottages and privet-lines properties. Preserving this property as a public wild space helps us see the ‘Sconset landscape in its natural state.
The trails welcome bikers, walkers, and leashed dogs. ‘Sconset trust is continuing to improve the Reddick Commons experience, adding several benches and making improvements to signage. Meandering along the trails, you’ll see native wildflowers, shrubs, small trees, and native vines; perfect habitat for wildlife: deer and rabbits, but especially birds. Part open and part shaded, the trails make for a nice dog walk or a decent ramble among the wooded landscape. You can easily forget that you are on a busy summer island as you stroll into the fog. It is a timeless landscape preserved for the community in perpetuity. Visit sconsettrust.org to download a map of Reddit Commons.
Property ownership isn’t the only conservation tool, however. The ‘Sconset Trust also holds conservation and preservation easements on private properties. These easements are an important conservation and preservation method to preserve the character of the east end. Easements protect a property for future generations by preventing further development, subdivisions, and restricting some uses.
The ‘Sconset Trust was also instrumental in changing some of the zoning for ‘Sconset Village in 2012. The ‘Sconset Trust leadership worked with the Town of Nantucket to change some properties to Village Neighborhood (VN) zoning. This will help ensure the continuation of the village center, preserving some commercial uses. Having some commercial properties serving the neighborhood will maintain ‘Sconset as a village center not just as a Nantucket suburb.
The ‘Sconset Trust continues to collaborate with on-island organizations as well as the Town to ensure the character of the east end of the island. Up next, they have their eyes on the 190 acre LORAN property at Low Beach. Formerly a United States Coast Guard LORAN Station, the station was decommissioned in 2010 and currently faces the threat of development. The site is host to numerous rare plant species and would be a welcome asset to the ‘Sconset Trust holdings.
For details on the ‘Sconset Trust properties, fundraising events, and how you can support the organization visit sconsettrust.org.