Demolition Underway On Sipson Island

by Ryan Bray

ORLEANS – More than three years after purchasing Sipson Island, members of the Sipson Island Trust last week witnessed their vision of the island’s future start to come to life.

Last week, a barge was brought out to the island, where three pre-existing single family homes were set to be demolished to make way for efforts to “rewild” 22 acres and return it to its natural vegetative state.

“It’s very exciting,” said Diana Landau of the trust. “I don’t know if it’s going too far to say that undevelopment of this scale is unprecedented. I’m guessing it certainly is on Cape Cod.”

The trust raised approximately $5 million to purchase the island in July 2020. It has stewardship over 22 of the island’s 24 acres, and all of the acreage is under a conservation restriction.

Removal of the three homes and their accompanying septic systems is central to the trust’s efforts to rewild the island. Prior to the demolition, a controlled burn was held with the assistance of the Orleans Fire Department to rid the area around the homes of invasive plantings and materials.

On Nov. 7, the 140-foot barge out of New Bedford owned by Robert B. Our made its way to the island.

“They came up with the best proposal for completing the job in an efficient, timely way, while solving the problem of doing deconstruction work in protected marine habitat,” Rick Pomroy of Pomroy Associates, the project manager on the rewilding effort, said in a statement released by the trust.

Demolition of the homes was expected to begin Monday, Landau said, and the work is likely to continue into January. Once the homes are razed and the materials removed, work to remove invasive species and bring native plantings to the island will begin.

The trust is working with Wilkinson Ecological Design on what Landau called a “master plan” for rewilding the island. She said the work will be done in phases across different areas of the island. The island’s south side, for example, is overrun with bittersweet that will be removed as part of the process.

“There are different areas that will need different kinds of attention,” she said. “There’s different types of native plant communities that will be encouraged in different areas.”

Rewilding work on the central portion of the island in the area of the three homes is expected to be complete by June. While that work is ongoing, recreational access to the island’s system of trails and paths will be closed. The trust anticipates reopening the island to residential access by the end of the year.

In the long term, the trust believes the rewilding effort will allow not only enhanced recreational use of the island, but also educational uses by local groups and nonprofits.

“This whole removal and renewal project is a means to an end,” Mon Cochran, the trust’s president, said in the statement. “We want to make this special island a model for similar rewilding efforts in other places, as well as a locus for marine science and education, and a place for the entire Pleasant Bay community to enjoy, care for, and respect as its former Indigenous inhabitants did.”

Landau said the trust sees the rewilding effort as ongoing.

“Like so many places around Pleasant Bay, there’s very little of what resembles completely natural habitat,” she said. “Invasives are a perennial problem. They’re never going to go away, so it’s a matter of controlling.”

Meanwhile, the trust continues its efforts to raise the $760,000 that’s needed to fully fund the rewilding work. Cochran in the statement said the trust is “nearing” its fundraising goal, but that donations are still being accepted. To donate, visit

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