The Wellfleet Conservation Trust (WCT) just held its 34th Annual Meeting.
Ms. Heather McElroy, the Natural Resources/Land Protection Specialist for the Cape Cod Commission, delivered the keynote address. She described work of the Commission, with a special focus on the Commission’s work in Wellfleet.
In a presentation entitled, “Planning to Keep Wellfleet Special,” Ms. McElroy helped the audience understand the challenge for the Commission, first in terms of Cape geography, with its 560 miles of coastline, 15 towns, and a population of 216,000, which more than doubles in the summer, and a single freshwater aquifer. The Commission’s mission, “…to protect the unique values and quality of life on Cape Cod by balancing environmental protection and economic progress,” proceeds in a context of sea level rise and changing climate.
She then described the various strategies that the Commission uses to address these challenges, including helping to develop adaptation strategies and providing decision support tools. In Wellfleet, the Commission has worked on affordable housing and historical preservation. In addition there are Cape-wide projects, such as the Outer Cape Bike Plan. As an example, see “Buy Fresh, Buy Local,” an award-winning story map.
There was a lively Q/A session, in which the audience asked about the Commission’s work in detail, discussed political resources and constraints, and explored the relationship of the Commission to other organizations, such as the WCT.
The Annual Meeting began at 9:30 AM, with coffee and a spread of delicious pastries. It was called to order at 10:00 AM. During the business meeting, President Denny O’Connell presented an historical overview of the group’s actions and achievements. A key point was that the all-volunteer Trust now has 385 acres in Wellfleet under its protection. There was also a Treasurer’s report, an invitation to the upcoming Annual Walk, the election of new Trustees, and a tribute to the late Don Palladino.
Annual Meetings are open to the public; no reservation needed.
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
Some 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 whatever 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.
Eric and Mary Ellen Meyer donated land at 70 Cliff Road on the ocean side to WCT. It looks like we may have lost about five feet so far this calendar year! See our 2017 Summer Newsletter for background. -Denny O’Connell
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.
The Compact of Cape Cod Land Trusts held its 31st anniversary meeting at the Orleans Yacht Club on Monday, August 28, 2017. It was hosted by the Orleans Conservation Trust.
Perfect weather, with a splendid view of Town Cove was further enhanced by delicious hors d’oeuvre’s. There were several excellent presentations on the Compact, the Orleans Trust, and the role of Americorps. Mark Robinson delivered the keynote speech in which he spoke of “what keeps me awake at night,” One issue was what he fears is a loss of fervor in the environmental movement. A second is the responsibility inherent in the word “perpetuity”: How can we ensure that conservation efforts have truly long-lasting effects?
However, the highlight for most of the audience from Wellfleet was that Dennis O’Connell, Wellfleet Conservation Trust President, received the Ansel B. Chaplin Award for excellence in open space protection.
The award was presented by Peter Johnson of the Brewster Conservation Trust and Mark Robinson, Executive Director of The Compact. In addition, a commendation from the Massachusetts legislature was delivered by Representative Sarah Peake and Senator Julian Cyr
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.
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!”