While gazing upon the iconic island off the coast of Good Harbor Beach, beachgoers have noticed a slight change to the landscape.

Thirty-eight posts — from what the eye can see through binoculars — at the isle’s edge, to be specific.

Over the past month, residents and visitors have observed a number of people who looked a little too formal to be the casual explorer land on Salt Island at low tide, scout the area, and erect the posts that now outline the island.

“At one point they brought a mini excavator and tried moving rocks,” John Knowlton of Brier Neck said while sitting at home, looking the backyard view of the island he has had since the 1970s.

“That seemed to get people’s attention,” Knowlton added.

The unusual activity even garnered the attention of the police, who were dispatched to the island on May 12 at 10:20 a.m. for possible illegal construction. At the time, dispatchers notified officers that the island’s owners did not have any permits granted by the city for construction purposes.

A quick call to Martignetti Real Estate group cleared things up for the time being.

“We are working in coordination with the appropriate Gloucester departments as applicable to install a barrier to contain goats,” John Paul Martignetti of the Woburn-based real estate company said.

The island has been infested with poison ivy for years, leaving curious kids to finish a day of play itching with hives. Hungry goats, Martignetti said, are a natural cull to eradicate the pestering plant.

He was unable to disclose where the goats were coming from and when they would arrive on the island.

“We are still in the process of preparing the island,” Martignetti said. “With the introduction of goats, we understand that there may be some novelty to that but we do ask that beachgoers are respectful of their presence.”

His father, Ronald, chimed in.

“The fence will be there to keep the goats in, but is not meant to keep people out,” he said.

An island everyone wants

The Martignetti family, also known as Salt Island LLC by the city Assessors Office, purchased the island in December 2017 for $250,000 as a personal endeavor, Ronald Martignetti said.

Prior to the Martignetti family purchasing the island, others had taken a stab at acquiring the island for conservation purposes.

In 2013, Karen Kimball Maslow, daughter of the late James E. Kimball II and executor of his estate, came to the Friends of Good Harbor with an offer to sell the island for $300,000 with the caveat that her family would be guaranteed six parking spaces at Good Harbor Beach.

As the Friends of Good Harbor raised the money to purchase the island, the city would not issue the parking passes.

According to documents provided by Friends of Good Harbor, any efforts to modify the purchase price and eliminate the parking condition also failed.

“On Oct. 10, the Purchase and Sale Agreement was allowed to expire and the owners were expecting to pursue a sale of the island on the open market,” the document read.

A few years later, the island reappeared on the market — this time at the much higher price of $750,000.

At the time, a coalition of Cape Ann conservation groups led by Greenbelt, Essex County’s Land Trust, were negotiating to buy and protect the land. The groups involved included the city’s Historical Commission, Friends of Good Harbor, the Brier Neck Association and Save Our Shores Gloucester.

However, the Martignetti family landed the island — at lower than the asking price.

Ronald Martignetti said the family purchased the island because “it was interesting, it was romantic, and it was beautiful.”

“I am a dreamer,” he added.

According to city records, the 5-acre island has been assessed at $8,400 for the past four years.

A dream that developed

Since the Martignetti family purchased the island, not much has happened until recently.

Children still venture over the sandbar at low tide, surfers share its waters to catch a wave, and photographers capture its monstrous presence in all sorts of lighting.

Then artist renderings featuring a grandiose mansion with a lighthouse and pool surfaced and the rumors started.

Ronald Martignetti said that he was speaking with an architect who had asked him what he was going to do with the island in the future.

“I said I don’t know,” he recounted.

The architect fooled around with a few renderings of what could be, Ronald Martignetti said. But those were all dreams, he reassured. Making the land accessible to all is his priority.

“Do I have plans to build that rendering? Not really,” Ronald Martignetti said. “Would I love to built that? Perhaps at some point. But I don’t have any imminent plans to build that.”

But without that voice in the neighborhood on the day the fence posts went up, the chatter became an uproar.

“Like everyone else, it was news to me that workers were seen constructing a fence on Salt Island across from Good Harbor Beach,” Denton Crews of Gloucester wrote to the Times last week. “I was a friend of the previous owner, James Kimball, II, a lifelong resident of Brier Neck and a lover of all things Gloucester. Naturally, I would now like to meet the new owners and learn what their plan for Salt Island is. Over fifty years, there has been harmony between owners and neighbors. As president of the Friends of Good Harbor — friends also of the ocean habitat, marsh vegetation, rugged granite outcroppings, beach recreation, and vibrant neighborhoods nearby — I would propose getting together with the owner to share interests and perspectives in order to achieve harmony and mutual benefit.”

With goats scheduled to make appearance on the island soon, both island owners and beachgoers are eager to chat about what the future holds for this landmark off the coast of Cape Ann.

And in regards to any construction on the island: Ronald Martignetti said that he might put a park bench for explorers to rest at on the island. But that is it for now.

“It is a beautiful place,” he said. “And it is going to remain a beautiful spot.”

Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford may be contacted at 978-675-2705, tbradford@gloucestertimes.com or on Twitter at TayBradford97.

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