Maintaining trails

A friend commented that he had done a lot of hiking and walking on nature trails, but that he’d only recently become aware of the many decisions and the work it took to build and maintain a trail. He would be interested to see what we do with Wellfleet Conservation Trust trails.

We plan these trails to entail minimal destruction to the environment. They should be obvious so that walkers can stay on them without creating social trails through the woods. But we like them to be as unobtrusive as possible. This requires a balance of engineered and natural features.

Visitors from Nepal helping to repair a roped off area at Herring River Overlook

Among other things, we cut overhanging branches that pose a hazard to walkers, but leave any vegetation higher than a Celtics player, unless it’s in danger of falling. We make the trail wide enough for anyone to walk easily, but usually require a single file. We place trail blaze arrows at confusing junctions, but try not to use more than absolutely necessary.

In some places we’ve added stakes and ropes to discourage off trail walking. As enticing as that bushwhacking may be for some, it can be very destructive for the land. For example, at the Herring River Overlook trail, walking down the dune towards the river kills fragile lichen, moss, bearberry, mayapple, violets, sea oats, and other vegetation. That in turn can lead to serious dune erosion.

National Park Service plea, too often ignored

The ropes are easily bypassed, but we don’t want to mar the sites with massive barriers. We have to trust that responsible visitors will recognize the message and stay on the trail.

In many parks today we see the sign that “vegetation grows by the inch but dies by the foot.” That’s especially true on Cape Cod. Tenacious plants can survive despite salty winds off the sea, sandy, nutrient poor soil, and hungry wildlife, but only if we’re on their side.

Earth Day, Saturday, April 22, 2023

Earth Day is an annual event to demonstrate support for environmental protection.

First held on April 22, 1970, it now includes a wide range of events including 1 billion people in more than 193 countries, coordinated globally by . The official theme for this year is Invest In Our Planet.

Earth Day is a perfect match for land trusts. Many more land trusts focus on it each year.

With a similar mission from the beginning, Wellfleet Conservation Trust signs began appearing in Wellfleet neighborhoods starting in 2012.

Hike the Woods of the Seven Ponds Area in Wellfleet

Photo courtesy of Jim Gillen

Date: Friday, April 28th (10 a.m. – noon)

Cost: $20 per person. Reserve. Driving directions included in your confirmation receipt.

Sponsored by Harwich Conservation Trust and Wellfleet Conservation Trust, join Mark McGrath for a hike around the seven ponds area in Wellfleet while recalling fascinating stories and conversations between Thoreau and locals as discussed in his book, Cape Cod, featuring this region.

This unique corner of the Outer Cape was where Bauhaus architects including Gropius, Breuer, and others enjoyed idyllic beach lifestyles in their ‘modern’ and inexpensive summer houses.

This hike will begin and end at Newcomb Hollow Beach and will cover 2.5 miles across unpaved roads and several well-travelled social trails in the woods.

Saving the Cape: History of land conservation on Cape Cod

One of the many reasons to conserve land

Mark Robinson has put together an excellent presentation on the History of land conservation on Cape Cod. Follow the link to see his slides.

The presentation begins with Wampanoag people 10,000 years ago and takes us to the present and beyond. It includes the rationale for conservation, lots of interesting historical background, and beautiful photographs of Cape Cod conservation areas.

Open Space Survey

The Town of Wellfleet is in the process of updating its Open Space and Recreation Five-Year Plan and needs your input.

WCT supports the Wellfleet Open Space Committee in getting wide distribution of the new survey. It takes about 10 minutes to complete. All responses are anonymous.

The open space survey will identify needs and concerns of the community regarding open space and recreation resources. Having an approved OSR Plan is required to qualify for State reimbursement programs, which offset acquisition costs so that these important community assets can be protected in perpetuity.

You can help:

  1. Take the survey by February 13, 2023.
  2. Ask others in your household to complete it.
  3. Send it to neighbors, friends, renters, regular summer visitors, contractors/handy-people, etc. – anyone who might not be on one of the “official” Town lists.

If you’ve already responded to the survey, please pass it on to someone else who might be interested in Wellfleet’s future.

Land Trust Alliance’s new Resource Center

Herring River Overlook

Last month, the Land Trust Alliance opened its new Resource Center.

It’s described as “a one-stop-shop for volunteers, staff and board members of land trusts and other conservationists to learn, connect and grow.” The Resource Library holds more than 3,000 documents, courses, events and other materials related to land conservation.

There’s too much there to give a detailed summary, but it’s easy to browse. The Library is interesting to explore and can be valuable to anyone interested in conservation.

The Alliance has nearly 950 land trust members across the country, including Wellfleet Conservation Trust. The members are  community-based, nonprofit organizations that work to conserve land by acquisitions or conservation restrictions. They also manage or restore land once it has been conserved.

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday is November 30 this year. This is a great opportunity to help Wellfleet Conservation Trust assist and promote the preservation of natural resources and rural character of the town of Wellfleet.

Your donation can help conserve land in its natural state in perpetuity for enjoyment by current and future generations.

Annual Walk, September 17, 2022

By Bill Iacuessa

The 14th annual Wellfleet Conservation Trust (WCT) walk was held on Saturday, September 11.  Due to COVID the walk was cancelled twice, so it was 3 years in the planning but well worth the wait.  Denny O’Connell, President of WCT, welcomed the walkers at the Long Pond parking lot.  Bill Iacuessa, organizer of the event, oriented the group to the unpaved roads and trails of the walk which are almost exclusively in the Cape Cod National Seashore. The highlights included Spectacle Pond, Kinnacum Pond and Gross Hill. As usual there were stops and speakers along the way.

Before heading off, Bill passed out photos of the ice house that existed along Long Pond in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Arriving at Spectacle Pond, John Portnoy, a scientist at the National Seashore for many years, spoke about the geology of Wellfleet ponds and Spectacle Pond in particular. Mary Rogers entertained the group about the quirky ways the names of streets and unpaved roads in town are changed. 

At Kinnacum Pond, David Wright explained the rich life of Dr. David Belding, who built the cottage on the pond.  The cottage is on private land and not normally accessible to the general public.   Dr. Belding was a shellfish biologist and medical doctor.  His work ushered in a century of purposeful aquaculture in Wellfleet, resulting in today’s robust and sustainable system of grants, licensing, propagation and management.

Along Isabell Way, near Gross Hill, Dwight Estey spoke about the lives of the famous Gross sisters, as they came to be known.  Copies of the daguerreotype of the sisters, made in 1851, were passed around.  When taken, the eldest was 85 and the youngest 57.  It would be the only time that the sisters were all together.

The final section of the walk, along a narrow trail, passed by a grove of Tupelos which are known for their beautiful fall foliage.  This grove is on high ground, an unusual site for this tree, which loves a moist, low-lying environment.  The trail also passed by an abandoned foundation whose story is now lost.   It was a perfect day weather wise and over 75 walkers enjoyed the trails and presentations.