“I stayed just for the walk.” For frequent summer visitor Deb Firtha, this was her fifth Wellfleet Conservation Trust (WCT) annual walk, so she knew that it would be worth it to delay her return to Ohio, and stay for another.
She was not disappointed. Along with 101 others, she enjoyed one of the best walks yet. The weather was perfect: sunny skies, low 70’s, and gentle sea breezes.Walk leader Bill Iacuessa pointed out that there were few ticks in this habitat, the mosquitoes were diminished by the drought, the green heads were past, and there was little poison ivy to worry about.
The walk (open to the public and free as always) began at 9 a.m. at the Lieutenant’s Island causeway in South Wellfleet. It continued a tradition dating to 2007 for the public to experience the beauty of Wellfleet’s open space and conservation lands.
Along the way, we paused at key locations to hear from naturalists and other local experts who could share their knowledge of the history, geology, and ecology of the area. For example, Fire Chief Rick Pauley related several anecdotes about the challenge of providing emergency services to an island, whose road is often impassable at high tide.
Pam Tice, who writes the South Wellfleet history blog, explained why the island’s name is spelled two different ways. She also told us about early settlers, how Lt. Island was once an area for raising horses, and how it later developed as a residential area.
Bob Prescott from Mass Audubon spoke about that organization’s role in preserving habitat in the area, and especially about the terrapin gardens. Bill Huss spoke for the Lt. Island Association, sharing what it’s like to live there. Ginie Page talked about the problem of erosion and the revetments used to counter that. She also talked about how the shoreline had changed over the years. Dwight Estey filled in more of the history, especially about shellfishing and blackfish. Bill Iacuessa helped to connect many ideas throughout and to keep the balance between walking, exploring, and discussing.
Other topics included the causeway and bridge, whale try works, salt haying, and aquaculture. We also talked about specific conservation lands, and how town and private organizations coordinate both to preserve these beautiful habitats and to make them accessible to the public. We discussed potential acquisitions on Lt. Island, which would further connect conservation lands and expand opportunities for enjoying nature. Several of the participants were Lt. Island residents, who were learning new things about their own neighborhood.
The walk was about 2.7 miles, with some soft sand and a few stairs. Walkers were offered the opportunity to leave the walk earlier if necessary. Much of the route was exposed to the wind, especially on the shore of Blackfish Creek, but the mild weather kept the walking pleasant.
Deb Firtha wasn’t the only repeat walker to experience the unique combination of outdoor fitness with learning about nature, history, and the community. But for many of the walkers, this was their first WCT guided walk. They were already asking where next year’s walk would be.
Wellfleet has so much natural beauty that we’ve been able to conduct ten of these walks so far, each to a different area. Wellfleet is full of hidden gems and breathtaking vistas. We hope it always stays that way. That’s what we’re working for.
[Thanks to Susie Quigley and Dwight Estey for many of the photos, to Mark Gabriele, Mary Rogers, and Susan Bruce for suggestions on the text.]