Cuttyhunk Conservation Project

Clean water and clean beaches, scenic views across miles of salt water, abundant fish and wildlife, and unspoiled natural habitats — these are the timeless treasures of Cuttyhunk Island. It’s no surprise that thousands come here each summer to swim, sail, fish, and relax. But with its combination of both serene isolation and easy access from the mainland, Cuttyhunk is the most threatened of the Elizabeth Islands by real estate development. The Buzzards Bay Coalition has secured the opportunity to eliminate that threat forever, guaranteeing that the Cuttyhunk Island we know today remains unchanged in the future.

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In 2018, the Coalition secured an agreement to purchase the majority of the remaining open lands on Cuttyhunk owned by the heirs of William M. Wood, builder of Avalon and Winter House. These 67 acres comprise some of the island’s most extraordinary natural landscapes — the crowns of Haps Hill (also known as Lookout or Tower Hill) and Bayberry Hill and the Churchs and Barges barrier beaches. Half of the acreage had already been listed for sale, threatening that the land be spoiled forever by development and closed to public access.

What is at stake if we lose these lands to development?

Barges Beach on Cuttyhunk in Buzzards Bay

The mixed cobble and fine sand shoreline of Canapitsit Neck – or Barges Beach – stretches for nearly a mile along Vineyard Sound. This barrier beach is perfect for swimming, beachcombing, taking in the sunrise, and surfcasting for a famous Cuttyhunk striper.

Walking Trail Access for All

The beaches and walking paths on all of the 67 acres to be purchased are used today thanks to the permission of the current landowners. If sold on the real estate market, future owners could restrict or eliminate access to these treasured properties. Once acquired, the Coalition will manage all of these lands for public access and enjoyment. Days spent swimming, picnicking, and fishing at Barges and Churchs and walks on the top of Cuttyhunk’s highest points would remain forever part of life on Cuttyhunk.

Drinking Water Protection

The upland on Bayberry and Haps Hills maintains and protects the town of Gosnold’s only public drinking water supply well. Deep below the elevated surface, rain and surface runoff percolates through the soil to join the aquifer. Development of these lands with new septic systems, roofs and driveways, and lawns would threaten the quality of our currently clear and pure drinking water with new sources of pollution.

Scenic Beauty and Wildlife Habitat

The character and beauty of Cuttyhunk is defined by its rugged open lands and beaches. And its remoteness and unfragmented landscapes make the island a regionally important coastal habitat for an exceptionally wide range of plants and animals. Through active land management, the Coalition will maintain vegetation and enhance island habitats for a variety of migratory birds.

The Cuttyhunk Lands to be Protected Forever by the Buzzards Bay Coalition

map of the Buzzards Bay Coalition's Cuttyhunk Conservation Project

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Haps and Bayberry Hills – 32 acres

Head to the top of Tower Road and you’ll get the best view that exists of Buzzards Bay, Vineyard Sound, the Elizabeth Island chain, and the open waters of Rhode Island Sound. From these highest points on Cuttyhunk, the view from Haps and Bayberry Hills defines the experience and uniqueness of Cuttyhunk. It is a view that you never forget and it is also a view that is extremely vulnerable to spoiling by housing development. Below your feet, the crown of these hills is also part of the recharge area for rainwater supplying the town’s only public water supply wells. Additionally, the area is an important stopover for migratory birds.

The Coalition will manage these hills as an open space reserve available to the public. We will manage its vegetation to maximize its habitat value to wildlife and for maintenance of 360-degree scenic views. Wide, grassed trails will be mowed and clearly marked to allow everyone to more easily experience the extraordinary natural landscape of Cuttyhunk.

Canapitsit Neck – 24 acres

Extending east from the ferry dock and historic Coast Guard Boathouse, the shoreline of Canapitsit Neck – or Barges Beach – stretches nearly a mile toward Nashawena. Its mixed cobble and fine sand shoreline is perfect for swimming, beachcombing, or taking in the sunrise over Vineyard Sound. Its low dunes provide exceptional habitat for a wide variety of shorebirds. This dynamic barrier beach is also a great place for those looking to surfcast for a famous Cuttyhunk striper.

Once acquired, the Coalition will manage Canapitsit Neck and preserve the public access for swimming, walking, and fishing that is such a treasured part of island life. We will also manage the beach’s rare bird habitats and work in partnership with the town to maintain the integrity of the barrier beach and protect the navigational channel into Cuttyhunk Harbor.

Churchs Beach – 2 acres

Church's Beach on Cuttyhunk Island in Buzzards Bay.

The Buzzards Bay Coalition’s purchase will preserve public access to treasured Churchs Beach as well as use of the road to Copicut Neck, which is currently privately owned but utilized by island visitors.

With its sandy beach and easy access to Cuttyhunk Harbor, Churchs Beach is one of the most popular places on the island and is easily accessed by both boaters and visitors on foot. In the summer, it welcomes countless families to swim in its shallow waters. The Coalition’s purchase will preserve public access to this treasured beach as well as use of the road to Copicut Neck, which is currently privately owned but utilized by island visitors.

Copicut Neck – 8 acres

The acquisition of the 8-acre “Orchard Lot” in the middle of Copicut Neck will complete the protection of the majority of the peninsula and ensure that it remains an enjoyable habitat for walkers, fishermen, birds, and wildlife. Lying immediately adjacent to lands granted to the Massachusetts Audubon Society by Oriel Ponzecchi, the acquisition greatly increases the value of the already-protected marshes and beaches that greet people entering the harbor.

Completing the Vision: Spaulding Family Conservation Restriction

Cuttyhunk West End Pond and Gosnold Monument

With its miles of shoreline and system of three coastal ponds, the beauty and natural resource significance of the West End landscape is unmatched on Buzzards Bay.

For generations, the Spaulding Family has served as stewards of Cuttyhunk’s expansive West End, living lightly on the land and caring for its beaches and wildlife. Recently, the family decided that the time was right for them to honor their parents’ and siblings’ longstanding wishes and their own connection to Cuttyhunk by preserving the land with a permanent conservation restriction (CR) to be held by the Coalition. Under a CR, the land will remain privately owned, but the majority of its development potential will be extinguished forever, leaving the landscape much as it exists today.

With its miles of shoreline and system of three coastal ponds, the beauty and natural resource significance of the West End landscape is unmatched on Buzzards Bay. With its planned ownership of the adjacent Lookout and Bayberry Hills parcels through this campaign, the Coalition will be well situated to monitor and assist the Spauldings with land management as needed.

Your Support Needed

fundraising pie chart for the Buzzards Bay Coalition's Cuttyhunk Conservation ProjectThe support of everyone who loves Cuttyhunk and its unparalleled beauty is vital to the success of the Cuttyhunk Conservation Project. A total of $7 million must be raised before December 2019.

Due to the uniqueness and natural diversity of the Cuttyhunk landscape, we expect to raise $4.6 million from federal and state grant sources. Major federal funding is being requested from the Natural Resource Damage penalty funds paid in relation to the Bouchard 120 Oil Spill in 2003 and from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. From the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we are pursuing grant funds aimed at protecting the town’s drinking water supply wells and improving public access to trails. The town of Gosnold is being asked to contribute $400,000, or 6% of the total project, to match state funds.

That leaves $2 million to be raised from private individuals and families. Payments can be made over three calendar years — 2018, 2019, and 2020 — allowing donors to maximize charitable income tax deductions. We hope that you’ll join your friends and neighbors in protecting these extraordinary lands and securing the future of Cuttyhunk’s scenic landscape, forever.

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Current Issues

Land Conservation

Conserving land is one of the most important ways to protect clean water in Buzzards Bay. Since 1998, the Coalition has forever preserved more than 7,000 acres of land across our region.

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Working to Save Buzzards Bay

The Buzzards Bay Coalition is a membership-supported organization dedicated to improving the health of the Buzzards Bay ecosystem for all through education, conservation, research, and advocacy.

We work to protect clean water on the Bay and on the land: