Our E-Interview with AmeriCorps Member Celia Dávalos

A recent graduate of U. C. Berkeley, Celia Dávalos from Los Angeles County is the new AmeriCorps member assigned to the Wellfleet Conservation Trust and Conservation Commission.  We did the following e-mail interview to get to know more about her. 

What are some of your first impressions of Wellfleet?

Wellfleet so far has been very reminiscent of home to me; its people are very open and friendly like the folks in my hometown.  The natural beauty, however, is truly special and unique and I feel so fortunate that I get to serve here in my backyard because there is so much to see!

Any comparisons between Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean and beaches?

The beaches here on the opposite coast from what I’m used to are so neat because of how they seem so inconspicuous and tame compared to the Pacific Ocean waters. But, the two tides a day are something that will take getting used to and how close seals, sharks, whales and other marine animals come up so close to the shoreline!

What services you will be offering to the Conservation Commission and the Conservation Trust?

I will be serving alongside the Conservation Trust in a manner of performing inspections on Conservation lands and creating detailed maps using GPS and GIS.  Through the Health and Conservation Department, I get to travel with the Conservation Committee and learn from the members about new things I may not have been aware of before, and travel to beautiful sites throughout town!  I’ve been to nearly every pond in Wellfleet so far, most of the beaches, and some trails on Conservation Trust Lands.  Spectacle Pond is the most awe-striking to me of all the places I’ve visited.

What are some of the trails or places you’ve been to so far?

I’ve been to nearly every pond in Wellfleet so far, most of the beaches, and some trails on Conservation Trust Lands.  Spectacle Pond is the most awe-striking to me of all the places I’ve visited.

How are you doing with accommodations at the AmeriCorps house?

So far, I have loved having the opportunity to live in such a well-loved, historic, and traditionally New England home. We have a beautiful wood burning stove, and when I first arrived, I had never built a fire before in my life. Now, I build fires almost nightly in it for myself and my housemates to enjoy. 

Have you cooked for everyone yet?   If so, what did you make?

I have already cooked dinner for everyone in my house with my housemate Nick. We made sweet potato and black bean enchiladas which were a hit!

How did you like the Oyster Fest this past weekend?  Did you eat oysters?  Learn how to shuck shellfish?

I had a blast at Oyster Fest! There was beautiful weather all weekend, though Saturday was slightly overwhelming with the amount of people that showed up because of that! I was able to serve on both days, sorting recycling on Saturday and assisting with the Shuck and Run 5K on Sunday morning. I spent all of Sunday eating as many oysters as I could, hitting up 5 different vendors selling them! I still don’t know how to properly shuck an oyster, but I hope that by the end of my service term, that is a skill I leave the Cape with.

Are you looking forward to winter in New England and snow activities? 

Having lived in California all my life, I have never properly experienced all four seasons and the sound of winter on Cape Cod has been a bit daunting to me.  But, I have been given the same advice from different people: “layers!” I hope to get to experience snowfall for the first time and plan on fully embracing the cold winter months and participate in all the fun activities that there is to do! 

Tell us a little more about your experience of travelling to Cuba.

Travelling to Cuba for study abroad was so special mostly because it was my first time abroad in a new place all by myself, and the university program provided some remarkable opportunities. I was able to visit all the major cities of the island and traveled the entirety of the country. The people and seemingly untouched natural beauty of the places I got to experience are memories I reflect on often.

What were some of your favorite classes or teachers in high school, the community college and Berkeley?

Community college was where I completed all of my general education courses through an Honors track which allowed me to able to dip my toes in various subjects and get to know my professors and peers really well through the small class sizes. This was also where I solidified my choice in my major, so when I transferred to Berkeley to complete my degree, I took classes that were upper division and explorative. Berkeley was my dream school, and the academic experience was more prodigious than what I could have ever expected. Living in Berkeley was also the first time I had ever lived away from home, and experiencing the Bay area was complementary to my growing and learning experience.

Who or what have given you inspiration for conservation of the natural world?

Post-high school was really a time for me to experience some growing pains in the challenging of my thoughts and ideas of my then-scope of the world. From the people I have interacted with and the new ways in which I have experienced my world, I have a greater appreciation for the natural world and believe it should be something that everyone is consciously working to conserve and contribute to.

Did your family play a role in your interest in nature?    

My parents have raised my siblings and I to be curious and ask questions. My mother is an elementary school teacher/my personal hero and planted the seed in mine and my three younger siblings’ minds to love and appreciate our natural world.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?   In 10 years?

I had plans post-college graduation to serve in an AmeriCorps program but did not know about the Cape Cod placement until a few months before the application opened.  I am so excited to be here, learn as much as I can and be present during the rest of these nine months.  I have plans to someday return to school and pursue a law degree, but who’s to say what will actually happen!

Welcome, Celia!  We can’t wait to see what will happen during your year in Wellfleet.

Successful First Mushroom Exploration Walk September 28, 2019

Wesley Price, founder of the Cape Cod Mycological Society, led a group of almost 30 mushroom enthusiasts on an exploratory walk sponsored by both the Wellfleet and Harwich Conservation Trusts on Saturday, September 28th.  The mushroom foragers gathered in the parking area of Wellfleet’s Pilgrim Springs Woodland at 1 p.m. on another superb September day.  Tyler Maikath, Land Stewardship & Outreach Coordinator of the Harwich Conservation Trust, organized the participants and introduced mycologist Wesley Price.  Dennis O’Connell, President of the Wellfleet Conservation Trust, welcomed the assembly to Pilgrim Springs Fox Island Conservation land, a mix of WCT and Town Conservation holdings. 

Wesley Price was eager to explore the Pilgrim Springs Woodlands and wasted no time in finding a first mushroom by the split rail fence before the crowd even left the gathering place. 

A show of hands indicated there was a split of experienced gatherers and first timers.  The mushroom hunters split up in all directions or trailed Wesley Price to see what he would discover.  The directions to bring all finds back to a collection table resulted in a plethora of mushrooms.  The expected species of boletes, amanitas, Leccinum, and Tricholoma were included in the finds of over two dozen different types of mushrooms.

Wesley Price leads guided mushroom walks all around Cape Cod.  The Farmer’s Market booked him for two fall walks this year.  We will be keeping an eye out for his 2020 schedule and let you know what mushroom exploration you might be able to do with him next fall.

All photos courtesy of Gerry Beetham

12th Annual Guided Walk at Indian Neck Dedicated to Memory of Don Palladino

12th Annual Guided Walk around Indian Neck Dedicated to Memory of Don Palladino

About 90 people gathered at the Indian Neck breakwater for the start of our 12th Annual Guided Walk at 9 a.m. on Saturday, September 15th.  Vice president Bill Iacuessa dedicated the 3.5-mile walk to the memory of the late Don Palladino, who introduced the walk as our signature event in 2006.  

To kick off the walk, Dwight Estey, president of the Wellfleet Historical Society, discussed historic background and changes to the Wellfleet harbor front. 

The group proceeded along Indian Neck beach to WCT land where erosion has revealed a Native American shell midden. South Wellfleet historian Pam Tice discussed the year-round community of Nausets in the vicinity. 

The walk continued along the open beach to just beyond the Town landing at Burton Baker Beach.  There John Portnoy explained jetties, groins, and revetments—all attempted means of mitigating beach erosion, some now out of favor, others still used today.

Walkers enjoyed splendid views of Great Island across Wellfleet Bay.  After crossing Sewell’s Gutter, the group awaited Shellfish Constable Nancy Civetta for her scheduled 10:30 talk.  Since the walk had arrived ahead of time, Assistant Constable Johnny (Clam) Mankevetch pitched in until Ms. Civetta arrived.  She discussed oyster propagation, as well as recent efforts to increase quahog production in Wellfleet. 

The route continued along the beach to Field Point, where walkers turned into the Fox Island Marsh area.  At WCT’s Field Point turtle garden, Dr. Barbara Brennessel released terrapin hatchlings into the marsh with the help of her grandson, Sterling.  Alice Iacuessa spoke about Wise family’s midcentury modern home designed by Marcel Breuer.  Jeremy Wise, whose family donated the land which now includes the turtle garden, invited participants to walk around the home and explore the property. 

Some participants took advantage of a ride back to the breakwater parking lot, but a hardy group continued back on their own.  It was a long but memorable morning’s walk.  After the walk, many gathered at a memorial event put on by Don Palladino’s family.  Thus, the walk ended as it began, with a tribute to Don.

WCT Gains Two New Trustees

The Trust welcomes two new Trustees to our Board.  Jane Baron and David Koonce are two people who add their special skills and love of nature and conservation to the Trust. 

Introducing Jane Baron

Jane BaronSome of you may know Jane Baron for years as your insurance agent at Benson, Young and Downs or simply recognize her as that woman who walks down Main St. at noontime every day.  In fact, walking everywhere – Great Island, along the Herring River, Conservation trails – is Jane’s favorite Wellfleet activity.   Her appreciation for these special places led to her interest in joining the Conservation Trust.

Jane was born in Salt Lake City and moved to Worcester, Massachusetts where she lived until she was 9 years old.  Her family moved from there to Eastham, where she lived until she was 11.   Next, she moved to Wellfleet, where she has been ever since.  Her wedding took place right in the backyard of her parents’ Railroad Ave. home.  She and her husband Walter moved to Old Wharf Rd.  While their two boys were young, she began working for the insurance agency part time.  When the Barons moved to Old Chequessett Neck Rd., she could walk to work on Briar Lane.  She retired from Benson, Young and Downs after a 37-year career.  Jane also retired from her long term as an elected Trustee of the Wellfleet Public Library.

Retirement has given her plenty of time for walking and other favorite pastimes such as reading, boating and beaching in season.  Other groups she has become involved in are the Farmers’ Market, transitioning to a new location behind the Congregational Church and Mass Audubon’s Diamondback Turtle Propagation Program at the Head of Duck Creek and other locations.  She was thrilled to release her first diamondback hatchlings last year.  After the storms this winter, she helped clear Conservation Trust trails of downed trees.

Growing up and having her sons grow up enjoying the unspoiled open spaces and natural beauty of Wellfleet led to her great appreciation of conservation and to joining the Conservation Trust.  Jane hopes to see a future where conservation of trees and nature remain a part of Wellfleet’s essential character.  You may have seen Jane’s and  Walter’s photos on the WCT Facebook page which Jane now administers.

We are pleased that Jane has chosen to make the Conservation Trust a big part of her retirement activities.

 

Getting to Know David Koonce

For David Koonce, a perfect day in Wellfleet would be getting outside and enjoying David Kooncewhatever nature has to offer.  After a 40-year career travelling around the world, over twenty of them for General Electric, he is happy to have retired to Wellfleet to the home he built next door to the first house he rented around twenty years ago.

His interest in WCT was sparked by a number of his people who serve with him on Friends of the Herring River, the AIM Thrift Shop and the Mustard Seed Kitchen.  Even if they had not been there to guide him towards the Conservation Trust, he is drawn to participating in something that produces tangible results.  He believes in getting involved with conservation efforts that make things better today and into the future for generations to come.

David enjoys canoeing here and in Canada.  A little-known fact he supplied was his experience as an Eagle Scout in his younger days.  As a project, his troop created a working car.  Ask him sometime about driving it!

He missed most of our winter storms this year with the arrival of a new grandchild off-Cape, but felt drawn back to Wellfleet and his activities here.

Asked what he would envision ten years from now, David replied, “More property in the Conservation Trust.  This is a gem of Wellfleet some people don’t even realize we have.  He’d love to have more awareness of the efforts of the many organizations working to improve Wellfleet.  Foremost in his wish is seeing progress on the Herring River Restoration Project.  His hope is that people recognize the value of the project to shellfishermen, the health of the river and the whole town.

 

Welcome, David and Jane.  We are looking forward to working with you for many years to come. 

 

Exploring the North East Corner of Wellfleet on the 11th Annual Guided Walk

It was a perfect day for exploring the most northeasterly corner of Wellfleet, and that is exactly what 100 stalwart walkers set out to do on September 9th for the Eleventh Annual Guided Walk by the Wellfleet Conservation Trust. At 9 o’clock, WCT President Dennis O’Connell welcomed the crowd gathered at Gull Pond Landing, and Bill Iacuessa introduced the route which would include two antique homes, a mid-century modern house and studio, viewing of four ponds, the site of the first schoolhouse in Wellfleet and a number of uphill climbs on the sand roads.

Engineer Chet Lay, newly retired from his long career at Slade Engineering, presented information on William Rawlins, former owner of much of the land we were about to see. Early in the twentieth century, Rawlins bought up old woodlots in the area with a goal of preserving the woods and ponds.  Had he lived to see the creation of the Cape Cod National Seashore, he would have seen his vision fulfilled.  He also was responsible for installing the marker at the site of the first schoolhouse.  His initials “W.R.” appear on that plaque.

We set off, surging or trudging up Old School House Hill Road towards the sluiceway between Gull and Higgins Ponds. The route veered onto Steele Road.  Just before the sluiceway we were met by Pat and Randy Bartlett at their home on Gull Pond.  Pat gave the history of the lovely home built by the Higgins family in 1770.  She displayed an old photo of the full Cape cottage, situated on a knoll facing the pond.  She inherited the house through her mother’s line of ancestors.  In response to a question about the location of the outhouse, Pat explained that her family had installed works of art in it and called it the “Art House.”  Today’s house with all modern amenities serves as the Gull Cottage Bed & Breakfast as well as the Bartlett’s year-round home.  Pat says she continues a family tradition of a morning swim every day as much as possible.

While still gathered around for more background information, we heard geologist John Portnoy’s lucid explanation of the Cape’s  pond and land formation by the glaciers.  We then returned to School House Hill Rd., stopping at Patience Brook that connects Higgins Pond to Herring Pond.  There Herring Warden, Dr. Ethan Estey, discussed the herring count and some of the other denizens of the Herring River such as the snapping turtles who lurk in the culverts and the eel population.

The group stopped again to visit the outside of Nora and Sideo Fromboluti’s modern style home designed by Charlie Zehnder. We walked through the courtyard and looked into the house interior through the glass wall on the Gull Pond side. A second free standing art studio for this family of artists lay beyond their residence.

We proceeded to a small parking area at the intersection of Old School House Hill Rd. and Black Pond Rd. and walked to an approximate borderline to get a better look at Slough Pond in Truro. Bill Iacuessa gave an explanation of the terrible name for such a beautiful pond and Horseleech Pond beyond it.  The folks in Truro renamed the ponds, formerly Newcomb’s and Long, to dissuade tourists from disturbing their pristine state.   The locations for the Breuer, Chermayeff and Phillips mid-century modern homes were noted, but they are all on private grounds and not a part of the tour.

The walk turned back westerly along Black Pond Road, providing another full view of Herring Pond and a roof top look at the Saarinen modern home. Designed by Olav Hammarstom, the structure is nestled into the banking below the road at pond level.  At the junction of Old King’s Highway, walkers headed up the hill towards Truro on that road to the site of Wellfleet’s first schoolhouse.  There Dwight Estey, former WCT trustee and current president of the Wellfleet Historical Society and Museum, enlightened us on the early days of schooling when Wellfleet was still a part of Eastham.  Teachers boarded in revolving homes which also served as schools.  The fishermen’s schools met only during times when the boys were not called to sea.  Curriculum at the first schoolhouse was New Testament Bible and psalter only.

Chet Lay spoke again on the route of the Old King’s Highway when it was the main road traversing the town. It still exists disappearing and reemerging in its original location.  In Colonial times, the Old King’s Highway along the ocean side of East Harbor/Pilgrim Lake was also the only land route to Provincetown.  Chet reminded everyone that to see the original Wellfleet layout of the road, one would have to look in Eastham maps because Wellfleet was not incorporated as a separate town until 1763.

Everyone went back towards Wellfleet on the Old King’s Highway, crossing the intersection with Black Pond Rd. and passing over the Herring River stream. Just after the stream was the driveway into Peter Matson’s 1800’s house.  He and his friendly black Lab welcomed us in the front yard of his three-quarter Cape house, which his father had purchased in derelict state in the 1930’s for $400. By that time, it was one of the few remaining homesteads from the settlement that bordered the Herring River.  After the mouth of the river had been diked in 1909, the area had become undesirable with too many mosquitoes and the low water level.  He did recall that the Peters family’s cattle still came to graze in the fields that still existed before the trees took over the abandoned neighborhood.

The walk resumed going uphill on Old King’s Highway to the intersection of Old Hay Road. There we turned east back towards Gull Pond and eventually took a path that completed the loop and brought us right back to Gull Pond Landing where we began our trek three hours earlier.

 

Meet Barbara Cary, Our Newest Trustee

Our newest Trustee Barbara Cary joins a very special group of daughters, who have followed in their fathers’ footsteps on the Board of Trustees. Now that she has retired to Wellfleet full time, she has volunteered her considerable talents to the Wellfleet Conservation Trust.  This profile of Barbara originated on a cold April morning along Route 6 where she was picking up trash with the WCT Adopt-A-Highway crew.  Highway background noise is not very conducive to conversation, so we switched format and posed a series of questions that Barbara answered in her own words.

 

Your introduction to Wellfleet?

I grew up in Belmont, MA, and lived in Concord MA for thirty years or so until retirement and the move to Wellfleet. I came to Wellfleet as an eight-year-old in 1958!  I think it was then I decided I wanted to live here.  I was one lucky kid when my parents, Herb and Irene Daitch, bought the house at the corner of Main and Commercial in 1961, and I was able to spend more and more time here, riding my bike everywhere, exploring the now long-gone oyster shacks at the railroad bridge over Duck Creek, later in cars with cousins and friends, and generally a boat hanging off the roof or out the back.  Ten-hour days on the beaches and in the ponds, sunset cookouts and bonfires at Duck Harbor.  My first real job, waitressing at Holiday House in 1969.  The house in town was sold when my parents bought my current home, on Chequessett Neck Road, with the overwhelming views of the harbor and Great Island.  My daughter, Jocelyn, first visited at four months old, and loves Wellfleet as I do.  I finally moved to Wellfleet, as a full-time resident, in December, 2015.  What a joy it was, last year, not to need to drive away after Labor Day!

 

Favorite Wellfleet things to do?

Duck Harbor, all day, through to sunset.  (Still!) Swim the ponds. Watch and listen to the ocean.  Walk the trails.

 

Professional Career?

BA American University in Washington, DC 1972, Majored in Communication and Political Science. JD Suffolk Law Boston, MA 1977.  For the most part I was corporate, in-house counsel at several high-tech companies in the Boston area, including Digital Equipment Corporation and Sybase, Inc.  I handled product-related, as well as employment litigation, software licensing and distribution.   While I enjoyed the work, the best part of my career was the teamwork and my colleagues, and the travel (domestic and international).  But I often feel I missed my calling, in that I’ve always been enthralled by the natural world, (without a doubt inspired by Wellfleet!).  My favorite course in college was Earth Science, and my initial interest was in Environmental Law.  (Go figure!)  I am passionate about habitat and wildlife conservation, and the climate change crisis. So I am very excited to be able to work with the Wellfleet Conservation Trust to preserve the land and habitat to the greatest extent possible, for the sake of future generations, and the planet itself.

 

Your other current organizations and activities?

Since landing in Wellfleet, I have been a member of the Charter Review Committee, the Board of the Historical Society, and the Outer Cape Chorale.  Also the Wellfleet Democrats, and I am looking forward to becoming more involved in climate change initiatives.

 

Anything that people wouldn’t know about you?

Something people don’t know about me?  I wish I were mysterious, but I have no secrets!  Well, most people would probably be surprised to learn that I was a high school and college athlete – field hockey and swimming, respectively.

 

A few words about your father?

My father, Herb Daitch, was a Trustee for many years prior to his death in 2011 – and I am particularly honored to be able to follow in his footsteps.   He loved the work, maintaining and inspecting the land, and working the swath along Route 6.  He loved Wellfleet – as his “table” at the marina says: “Enjoy!”