From 1888 until 1919, plans were in motion to divide Duxbury Beach into 200 house lots. This would have resulted in a very different Duxbury Beach today! Many Duxbury families were concerned about the changes and feared Duxbury Beach would become the next Revere Beach or Coney Island. This forward-thinking group raised enough money to purchase Duxbury Beach and thus the Duxbury Beach Association was formed! This was when the mission of Duxbury Beach Reservation truly began.
November 29, 1919 – Frederick S. Pratt, who led the charge in the purchase of Duxbury Beach for the Association, transferred beach title to Duxbury Beach Association, a common law trust. However, it was a short-lived victory. In 1920 the state attempted to take the beach from the Association. Fortunately, in December 1922, the Massachusetts Land Court confirmed the Duxbury Beach Association’s title to the property.
When the Association took ownership of the beach there were many squatters’ shacks and gunning stands on the property. Dealing with rent, tax, and title issues was an ongoing challenge during the 1920s and into the early 1930s. Finally in 1932 the Land Court issued the Association full registered title to the entire 4 mile stretch of beach it had purchased 13 years earlier. During this time the Association also purchased the marshes adjoining Duxbury Beach.
As the popularity of the beach increased in the 1930s, the Association paid for the construction of two parking lots at the east end of the Powder Point Bridge – one for Duxbury Residents and one for the public. The town agreed to police the parking lots, and this began the traditional division of responsibility between the owners of the beach and the town.
The early 1930s also saw the Association’s first attempts at erosion control – erection of sand fence and the use of old bridge planks donated by the town. From 1933 to 1934, the Association was able to purchase beachfront in the town of Plymouth from the Duxbury line to the Gurnet, plus large tracks of marshland. Beach maintenance work continued into the 40s and in 1941 the Pavilion was constructed.
While access and facilities had been improved to meet public demand, this proved somewhat ill-timed due to US involvement in WWII beginning in 1941. Duxbury Beach Park was not operated at all during the summers of 1944 and 1945 due to a drastic decrease in demand. With gas rationed, getting to the beach proved a luxury for most. Despite the decrease in recreation during this time, the beach was still abuzz with activity. In 1942 the Association granted rights of beach access to the federal government so the U.S. Army could guard the coast. The army dug trenches, built gun emplacements, and conducted practice maneuvers on the beach.
Meanwhile, the State continued with efforts to take over the beach several times, including in 1935, 1949, and 1950. With town backing, the Association was successful in maintaining title of the beach.
Once recreation picked back up, recreational driving increased in popularity, especially in the 1960s and led to severe deterioration of the beach. The Association knew something had to be done!
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s many changes took place on Duxbury Beach to help slow the impacts to the beach due to recreation – patrols increased, fencing to restrict pedestrians and cars went up, erosion control efforts continued and the town lease of a portion of the property was established.
In 1975, the Beach Association decided that a more permanent organization was needed to manage the beach. The Duxbury Beach Reservation, Inc. was thus formed, and the five or so remaining families who owned the beach transferred ownership to the new, nonprofit Massachusetts charitable organization.
Just like those 18 families in 1919, the Reservation’s mission is the restoration and preservation of Duxbury Beach. To this day the Duxbury Beach Reservation takes this mission very seriously and strives ceaselessly to continue the tradition of Preserve, Protect, Enjoy!