The Chilmark Pond Foundation is a community-centric organization established to support the science-based restoration of the Pond’s ecological health and to protect it for future generations. Restoration of this community treasure is our legacy.
The Full Story
Chilmark Pond is a treasure. One of the “Great Ponds” on the south shore of Martha’s Vineyard, it was formed millions of years ago by glacial action. It is rich with history, having provided abundant fishing and hunting grounds for the Wampanoag thousands of years ago, it was similarly used by subsequent Chilmarkers who also grazed farm animals along its shores and harvested pond hay to cultivate their farms. Nowadays, Chilmark Pond is primarily enjoyed for recreation and its dramatic natural beauty. It is always changing, but these days not for the better.
Chilmark Pond, like many other water bodies on the Island and indeed the planet, suffers from multiple stressors, both natural and human-caused. Excessive nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and bacteria from various sources, combined with hotter, dryer summers and a shallower Pond all contribute to its decline. These conditions cause rapid plant and algal growth that consume the oxygen needed for shellfish and fin fish to thrive and can promote toxic cyanobacteria (a.k.a. “blue green algae”) blooms. While cyanobacteria are a natural part of the ecosystem, when these organisms bloom they can produce concentrated cyanotoxins that can be harmful to people and animals. In addition, due to high fecal bacteria levels, the Commonwealth has closed Chilmark Pond to shellfishing and the Upper Pond bordering the Town beach at Lucy Vincent Beach has been closed to swimming.
We joined together to create the Chilmark Pond Foundation, lnc. a 501(c)(3) charitable organization in 2018 because of our shared love for Chilmark Pond and our frustration watching idly as it declines. We know that remarkable ecological improvement has been achieved at Edgartown Great Pond where after decades of study and data-driven action by the Town and community, that Great Pond has been designated Class SA with no limitations on shellfishing or swimming. We want to learn from that success and understand the dynamics of Chilmark Pond’s ecosystem, identify why it is failing, and together with the community develop actionable projects that will return Chilmark Pond to good health
Our work will start with programs to monitor and report on cyanobacteria, obtain dredge permits to improve circulation in the lower Pond, and the rigorous collection and analysis of data about Chilmark Pond. We are in this for the long haul and we look forward to working with the Chilmark Pond Association, the Town of Chilmark, and the broader community to develop and execute a long-term plan to restore our beloved Chilmark Pond.
Established in 1694, the Town of Chilmark is located on the Island of Martha's Vineyard in Dukes County and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
GPF has been an Island leader in coastal pond restoration since 1998 and has developed an extensive Ecosystem Monitoring Program. The foundation has become an important and respected advocate for data-driven and scientifically informed pond management.
Understand the current ecological health of Chilmark Pond
Engage and educate our community about the importance of pond restoration
Identify short and long-term pond management protocols as well as science-based restoration strategies
Implement remediation techniques in partnership with the community that restore and sustain Chilmark Pond’s ecological health
Riparian owners around Chilmark Pond formed an association and in 1904 became authorized by statute to control pond openings and closings of Chilmark Pond and collect taxes for that purpose.