ORLEANS — When is a closing an opening? When it’s a purchase that will ensure public access to Sipson Island, which has been privately held since 1711.
On Monday, the Sipson Island Trust and its partner, the Nadler family, closed on the purchase of the Pleasant Bay gem from the Dietrich family trusts. The Trust now owns six lots and will acquire two more from the Nadlers when an additional $585,000 is raised, amounting to almost 22 of the island’s 24 acres; the remaining land will remain with the Nadlers. The entire island will be protected with conservation restrictions.
“The raising to date of $4.8 million in private money for this acquisition may be the most extraordinary conservation success I’ve been involved with,” Mark Robinson, longtime executive director of The Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts, said in a press statement. The Compact was the fiscal agent for the Sipson Island Trust, which will own and manage the majority of the island.
“I think we’re extremely fortunate to have the Nadlers step forward,” Mon Cochran, a director of Friends of Pleasant Bay and chair of fundraising efforts for the purchase, said in an interview. “They’re very conservation conscious, and at the same time they’re very open to public access, and that’s quite an unusual combination. In my lifetime, which began in 1942, not only has there been no access to the island but active resistance to any interaction with the public. This is a dramatic shift.”
Cochran said he hopes the final half-million dollars that will allow the Sipson Island Trust to take over the two additional lots from the Nadlers can be raised by the end of the year. “Those are the two lots at the southern end of the island, basically the southern third of the island,” he said. They include a raised viewing platform.
“The beaches will open up for access this summer,” Cochran said. “The upland needs to be surveyed for plants, and there also needs to be protection put around the buildings before we have people wandering around up there.”
Over the next three years, three major buildings will be torn down and the land restored. The Trust will need to raise about $150,000 to accomplish that goal. The dock on the northern end of the island will be put back in service, but perhaps not this season.
The Sipson Island Trust “is gonna be an extraordinary conservation organization,” Cochran said, “with representation from all four conservation trusts around the bay as well as many others actively involved. It will be more challenging to make decisions with a lot of people involved, but we think there’s more wisdom in that.”
Cochran expects Pleasant Bay Community Boating, just across the bay, will be “a major educational conduit” for the island. Its 29-passenger floating classroom “Friends of Pleasant Bay” is “right on the verge of being certified by the Coast Guard for paying passengers,” said Cochran. “We’re really hoping that should happen this month or next. It will provide a wonderful venue, particularly for kids, but for children and adults. The island will become a destination.”
In the press statement, Cochran celebrated “the phenomenal outpouring of support that got us this far. We’re especially grateful to our lead donors, some of whom have given more than once, and to the neighboring land trusts surrounding Pleasant Bay, who stepped up so generously with funding and calls to their membership… We hope that folks who may not have pitched in yet will be excited to hear that this milestone has been reached, and help us add those last two lots to the conserved land.”
Gifts can be made at sipsonisland.org or by checks sent to The Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts (memo; Sipson Island Project), 36 Red Top Road, Brewster, MA 02631.