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Hard work with a big payoff: The Fox Island Marsh conservation area

Visitors and residents of Wellfleet enjoy the enticing walking trails in conservation areas established by the Wellfleet Conservation Trust. We have many people to thank for making these possible.

One of the most notable of these areas was developed in 2010. The Town, the State Fish and Game Department, and WCT created a 181-acre conservation area. It included Fox Island March, Pilgrim Spring Woodlands, and Whale Bone Point. Mark Robinson said at the time:

[It is] the largest publicly-accessible conservation area outside of the National Seashore on the Lower Cape…. Almost two miles of public trails have been established, viewing benches installed and parking defined. More importantly, the recurring partnership between the town and WCT on land deal has enabled us to work closely on other open space projects throughout Wellfleet.

Mark H. Robinson, WCT Newsletter, Fall 2010

Mark’s complete article in that newsletter describes the complicated process to acquire such a beautiful property. It includes a map of the area and the trails, as well as several photos.

Welcome, Barry Turnbull

WCT’s newest trustee is Barry Turnbull, Ph.D. Barry grew up in Wellfleet and graduated from Nauset Regional High school in the early 1970’s. He worked summers at the Yum Yum Tree and the Wellfleet Recreation and Beach programs. Barry met his wife Dawn Hill in Wellfleet, and they split their time between Wellfleet and Needham, Mass. for about thirty years. Barry was a Biostatistician for Squibb, Parexel and Alkermes before forming a clinical trials consulting company with others from Boston University. Their company was later bought by a larger healthcare firm in 2005. Since then, Barry has consulted with pharmaceutical and biotech firms and volunteered his statistical services to the Dana Farber Cancer Center plus serving on numerous data monitoring committees for local biotech companies.

Barry, Dawn and their four children spent their summers in Wellfleet with their kids working at the Chequessett Club, Wellfleet Recreation Program, Moby Dick’s and the Catch of the Day.  Dawn and Barry returned to Wellfleet full time in 2015 and have since volunteered at the Wellfleet Library and the 246 Plus Mustard Seed Kitchens. They also started a family scholarship for Wellfleet residents graduating from Nauset High.

Barry can be frequently found riding around town on his old Triumph or golfing at Chequessett. He and Dawn are also often in Wellfleet Harbor on their boat with family and friends.

“I am very excited to now be a part of the Wellfleet Conservation Trust. The amount of unbuilt space outside of the National Seashore that currently exists in Wellfleet is dramatically less than when I was growing up here. Setting aside land for conservation and recreation is of great importance to the people of the town and key to the town’s overall sustainability. Of course, this must be balanced against the need of land for affordable housing and the requirement for shore lands useable for water recreation and shellfishing,” Barry said.

He continued, “Moving forward I hope to help the WCT with further land acquisition and assisting in fund raising needed to best carry out our mission. Maintaining existing trails in WCT properties is always needed and I look forward to doing that as well.”

The Trust welcomes you, Barry!

Wellfleet Conservation Trust preserves four new parcels in Fall, 2020

By Denny O’Connell

Following the landmark Herring River Overlook acquisition in late summer, the Wellfleet Conservation Trust (WCT) has acquired four additional new properties this Fall. These properties are at various locations around town, adding an additional 12 acres of land in conservation. Founded in 1984, WCT now conserves a total of over 417 acres of land.

 

Jack Hennessey donated a 1.08 acre buildable lot in the northern part of Wellfleet at 121 Meadow View. It is the entirety of a kettle hole formed in glacial times when a stagnant ice bock finally melted leaving a depression in the sand and gravel landscape. It hosts white and black oak and red maple and provides a mix of upland and swamp habitat; the steep banks offer good burrows for fox and coyotes to den. The ridge on its north side leads over to the Herring River valley.

Mr. Hennessey, a retired professor, lives next door. “It is good to see this lot permanently protected,” said Mr. Hennessey, “I bought it for privacy protection and now I can rest easy knowing WCT will continue to take care of it.” WCT plans to keep this property in its natural state, thus protecting the habitat and ground water resources.

Janis Swain sold WCT a small buildable lot at 11 Paine Avenue off Old Wharf Road at a discount. This is the first of a two-part purchase in which the Swain family has agreed to sell both lots to us at a bargain. The second purchase will be consummated in 2023, when the family can benefit from the Massachusetts Conservation Land Tax Credit program.

These lots are at the edge of the late-1800s Miles-Merrill subdivision around Old Wharf Point and its approach. The plan predated zoning in Wellfleet and the lots are as small as 5000 square feet! Many were combined and built on, resulting in a maze of cottages on sand roads.

The Swain lots border an abandoned swamp garden where the early residents diked off upper reaches of salt marsh and dried them out to create planting fields. The dikes have broken down over time and some of the tallest invasive Phragmites reeds in town grow in the swamp now.

In 1992, Janis and her late husband, Douglas Swain, benefitted WCT when they donated a one acre parcel on Mill Hill Island. Since then, the WCT and Town, in the care and custody of the Conservation Commission, have acquired all of the 6-acre island in Loagy Bay, so the Island is permanently conserved.

Most recently, WCT purchased two lots from the Richard B. Butterfield estate. The first lot is a buildable, sloping 0.63 acre marsh-front lot located at 130 Bayberry Lane. The second parcel is ten-acres of salt marsh wrapping around the Bayberry Lane neighborhood and up Silver Springs.

The marsh parcel connects to a ¾-acre parcel purchased by WCT in 1994, which in turn connects with other WCT parcels at the intersection of Lt. Island Road and Bayberry Lane. On the east side, the lot connects to the WCT-Town Bayberry Hill Conservation Area.

Salt marshes have been recognized to have very high conservation values for coastal resilience and for being productive breeding grounds for fin and shell fisheries. These parcels will be retained in their natural state.

New open space map

Thanks to the hard work of Mary Doucette, Year 22 Member of AmeriCorps Cape Cod, we now have a new open space map for Wellfleet.

The map is in portable document format (pdf), meaning that it should be easily viewable on most computers, tablets, and phones. At 900 dots per inch, the detail is amazing, showing roads, buildings, ponds, beaches, and more.

It displays lands managed by the Cape Cod National Seashore, Wellfleet Conservation Trust (both Trust lands and conservation restrictions), the Town Conservation Commission, Mass Audubon, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

It’s worth noting , as you can see on the map, that many of the lands abut others, making possible extended walking trails and unrestricted views.

You can see a thumbnail version of the map on the home page of the Wellfleet Conservation Trust site. If you click on that small map, you should be able to see the much more detailed pdf version. That one can be viewed online, zooming in or out, or downloaded for more detailed offline study or printing.

AmeriCorps Worker Mary Doucette – In Her Own Words

This year the Trust welcomes new AmeriCorps worker Mary Doucette, a native of Brewster.    We interviewed Mary for an article in the newsletter, but the full text printed here in her own words captures much more of Mary’s exuberance and willingness to serve WCT and Wellfleet. 

Growing up on Cape Cod

I was always outside! My mom took me and my siblings to Crosby Beach all the time in the summer, and I spent many weekends hiking through Nickerson State Park. I spent pretty much all my time during my adolescence either at school, in nature, or flipping pancakes at the Brewster Coffee Shop.

Nauset Regional High School Experience

I feel very fortunate to have gone to NRHS, it prepared me so well for college, especially with my writing abilities and techniques (I was a writing tutor at Eckerd College and I think the preparation NRHS gave me was the biggest reason I was able to get that position). I was very heavily involved with the music department, specifically choir, during my time there; I was in concert choir for two years and treble choir for my last two.

Inspirational Teachers

Mrs. Beavan and Mr. Faris were my choir conductors throughout my time at school, and they were very supportive and inspirational individuals. Because of their guidance and support I continued pursuing music in college as an extracurricular activity. I became the president of my college’s a cappella group and during my presidency we were accepted to Carnegie Hall to perform in an international concert (which was sadly postponed due to COVID-19). I was also inspired by Katie Ilkovich, who was my field hockey coach. She is such a memorable part of my high school years, and I always had a great time with her! I think my biggest inspiration however, is my college mentor, Doctor Lisa Miller, who really guided me through my academic journey and has helped me grow as a student and figure out what I want to do with my life.

First awareness of AmeriCorps opportunities

I first really became aware of AmeriCorps while volunteering with the Dennis Conservation Land Trust in the summer of 2018; I worked a few times alongside their ACC placement that year, and then started looking into it myself. In the summer of 2019, I was the intern at the Brewster Conservation Trust and I spent a lot of time with their placement that year, CJ, and got to know more about ACC.

Decision to Join AmeriCorps

I loved working with ACC year 20 and I really enjoyed what I learned about the program itself from seeing it firsthand. I knew I wanted to take a year off between undergrad and grad school, so it really seemed like the best option for me!

Interest in the Environment

Growing up on the Cape definitely influenced my interest in the environment! I am extremely grateful that I was able to grow up in an area where I could go out my front door and be able to walk to the bike path, Nickerson State Park, beaches, and a multitude of trails. I have always been an environmentalist because of this, and my passion continued to grow when I left the Cape for college and was able to experience a wider variety of ecosystems and learn more about the natural world in a higher education setting.

College

I attended Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida and just graduated this past May. I double majored in sociology and environmental studies, with a minor in biology. I love academics and spent a lot of time in the library studying! I am really proud of all that I accomplished in my undergrad career: I was accepted into the Southern Sociological Society’s 2020 annual meeting in a paper session for environmental sociology research I conducted and asked to be the presider for the session; I was part of the American Sociological Association Honors Program at their national conference for a paper on how race and gender influence income in top earners; I was a teaching assistant for Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and for a sociology course; I was a writing tutor; and I was chosen as a research assistant for Doctor Lisa Miller’s work on aging LGBTQ+ individuals. Even with all my academics I still made time for extracurricular activities like a cappella, camping in the Everglades, visiting springs, and adventuring around the St. Petersburg area.

Special Area of ecology

I am really interested in the social aspects of the environment, such as the relationship between human society and the natural world! Aside from that though, I truly enjoy learning about all other facets of ecology. I think it’s crazy how every species has evolved over thousands of years to be just as it is now, and there’s a reason for why it evolved that way! It is just mind boggling.

Accomplishments with the Brewster Trust

Over the past two summers as their intern, I have done a lot with the BCT! I’ve made over 50 maps for them, an environmental education video series, installed a kiosk and a bridge, and have learned to use all the power tools in their shed. I think my top accomplishment though, is the mere fact that over the course of two summers I never got poison ivy, and only had one run in with a tick.

Changes Last March

In March, my college closed the campus, and my two friends and I packed up a Penske truck and drove straight home. I then finished up my last semester of college online, which had its challenges, but I made it through and graduated in my kitchen surrounded by my family!

Work Schedule 

I serve with Wellfleet Conservation Trust on Tuesdays, and then on Wednesdays and Thursdays I am with the Brewster Conservation Trust. On Mondays and Fridays, I partake in group service with my team to help service partners, like the WCT, carry out projects.

Wellfleet Tasks

I will be updating their current Wellfleet Open Space map, and hopefully will be able to do more GIS work for the WCT. I will also be helping update and manage their property books, create new ones, etc. Outside of the office, I will be helping with land stewardship efforts, such as inspecting properties, engaging with volunteers, doing trail maintenance (and hopefully creating a trail).

AmeriCorps Arrangements this Year

This year, AmeriCorps Cape Cod has four houses as opposed to the usual three (now there is one in each section of the Cape). Three other members and I live in the newest addition, the Devine House in Chatham. We combine with the LeHac house in Wellfleet to make up the Outer Cape team! There are also less members, 16 instead of 24. This way we can be evenly spread out across the Cape, with four members in each house and supervisors in two of the houses.

Family

My family is from Brewster, so I am only a ten minute drive away, so I am able to stop by my parents’ house to visit my mom, dad, younger sister, and our two Bernese mountain dog puppies (Ellie, 10 months old; Tucker, 6 months old). I also have an older brother who lives in Boston, and an older sister who is doing a fellowship at the Newport Mansions this year! I am 100% a dog person, so I stop by my parents’ house often to see my dogs; the two pups get so unbelievably excited when I pull into the driveway and I will never get tired of it.

Favorite Activities

I love rollerblading, it’s one of my biggest passions! I try to get out on the bike path as often as I can and skate for miles. Skating is one thing that without fail, puts a smile on my face and puts me in a great mood. I have to admit that I do dance while I’m on my skates, there’s just nothing like popping in my headphones and skating to the rhythm. I also love making music, whether that be singing, playing the ukulele, practicing the drums (I am a beginner still), dabbling on the piano, or writing songs. I may not be the best at any of them, but it’s definitely a creative outlet and so I jam out whenever possible. My team hangs out a lot (safely and socially distanced), and so it has been a lot of fun showing my teammates around the Cape; they make doing tourist-y things fun.

Future plans

I am currently in the process of applying for sociology Ph.D. programs where I plan to study environmental sociology and become a researcher and professor. I particularly want to study environmental inequality and how climate change has and will continue to impact different minority groups (mainly race and gender).

Other facts about MaryI love volunteering! On the Cape, I have volunteered with Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, Eastham WildCare, Dennis Conservation Land Trust, and Sipson Island Trust. I also spent three weeks in Peru building a school in the outskirts of Lima as a service project with my college, which was a humbling and beautiful experience both while working on the school and because we were able to travel around the county, we saw the Nazca lines from a plane, and hiked Machu Picchu!

I have been vegan for almost five years now!

The more dirt and sweat I have on me by the end of the day, the more satisfied I am with my work! I love working in the field and getting into the thick of it, whether it’s crawling through brambles to pull garlic mustard, or trekking through a drainage ditch while dodging poison ivy to get coordinates for a map, I am game for anything.

So there you have it – our hard working, singing, dog-loving, rollerblading, vegan, down in the dirt, vibrant Mary Doucette.

COASTSWEEP 2020  Update

Image from last year's COASTSWEEP
Image from last year’s COASTSWEEP

In October, WCT and its cosponsors normally hold a coordinated “sweep” of debris and trash around Wellfleet Harbor beaches under the Statewide COASTSWEEP program. For the past five years we have done the SWEEP during mid-October and then reported our results to the State’s Coastal Zone Management (CZM).

Due to COVID-19 related issues, we cannot hold a regular program, so we encourage you to enjoy the beaches and safely remove debris and trash (hopefully not much, as we encountered last year).  We will evaluate the program in 2021, but for now, please enjoy our special place and stay healthy and safe.

Herring River Overlook

The Herring River Overlook Property on Chequessett Neck Road, Wellfleet

Jacqualyn Fouse of Wellfleet has donated the largest gift of upland ever to the Wellfleet Conservation Trust (WCT). Ms. Fouse gave WCT 18.5 acres of native pine forest overlooking the Herring River estuary above the Chequessett Neck Road dike. In announcing the gift, WCT President Dennis (Denny) O’Connell said, “The Trust is extremely grateful to Ms. Fouse for making this incredible conservation success happen. Jackie stepped up in a magnificent way. We honor Jackie for her commitment to conservation. It is exciting to think that this beautiful land has never been developed, and never will be.”

Herring River Overlook Property looking downstream

Ms. Fouse had recently acquired the land from the Chequessett Club. The land was surplus to Chequessett’s current and planned golf course renovations. WCT will keep the area in its natural state, preserving the habitat and natural functions of the land. The Trust will create limited walking trails to scenic views across the Herring River valley. Access to the land and limited parking will be along Chequessett Neck Road only, not through the golf course.

See full press release here.

See short video about the donation and the property.

Herring River Overlook Property looking upstream

Finding solace in nature

In these locked-up times we miss large gatherings, concerts, dining out, and social visits. Many of us have lost jobs and contact with loved ones. It’s easy to assume that all our social interactions must be through Zoom, our meditations guided by YouTube, and our thinking trapped in endless narratives of the end-of-times.

However, the natural world remains to explore and enjoy. We can still watch the unceasing but ever-changing waves at the beach, walk through forests, listen to birds, check out the bees in the new bee house, and watch adorable rabbits eating our recently planted vegetables. With fewer cars and trucks travelling long distances the air is cleaner and living things are flourishing.

In his book, Confessions, Jean-Jacques Rousseau says, “I can only meditate when I am walking. When I stop, I cease to think; my mind works only with my legs.” Rousseau’s walking was in the woods, not on a treadmill or in a shopping mall. His journeys remind us that our life cannot be separated from the natural world.

Walking in nature can be a social activity as well (six feet apart, of course). Informal connection can be deeper and more attuned to the needs we all feel in these times. We may still feel lost, but we have a chance to find both others and ourselves when we remember our role in nature.

The Trust asked supporters, trustees, and other lovers of nature what particular consolation from nature they are finding during these Covid times. You can some of the responses in the June 2020 newsletter.

Trail maintenance

During Covid-19 times the Wellfleet Conservation Trust has had to postpone many customary activities involving in person meetings. However, nature has its own schedule, which we have to follow.

Mike Fisher assessing the tree's predicament
Mike Fisher assessing the tree’s predicament

One issue that nature imposes is trail maintenance, especially when it impacts public safety. An example of this came when we received a report of a fallen tree on the trail at the Ralph and Dorothy Clover Conservation Area.

Stephen Bruce and Denny O'Connell throwing a rope over the fallen tree
Stephen Bruce and Denny O’Connell throwing a rope over the fallen tree

The tree had been broken in a windstorm. It was still in one piece, but twisted and partially cracked through. Most of it was jammed in place between two other trees. There did not appear to be an immediate danger, but it was clear that it could dislodge at some point and fall onto the trail.

On May 22, a small group of us went to the site armed with a new chainsaw, ropes, a come-along, loppers, work gloves, ear and eye protectors, and of course face masks. It took us about an hour, but we eventually took down the tree, and turned it into a safe lining for the trail.

Denny O'Connell, Chip Bruce, and Gary Joseph using a rope and come-along an an attempt to dislodge the tree
Denny O’Connell, Chip Bruce, and Gary Joseph using a rope and come-along an an attempt to dislodge the tree

Gary Joseph, Chip Bruce, and Stephen Bruce adding their weight to the come-along's pull
Gary Joseph, Chip Bruce, and Stephen Bruce adding their weight to the come-along’s pull

Denny O'Connell applying the chainsaw
Denny O’Connell applying the chainsaw

[Photos by Susie Quigley]

Earth Day, 2020

“You only have two mothers; be kind to both of them” Writing in the sand at Fox Island Marsh trailhead

Land is #MyHappyPlace. On this #EarthDay, we need #Land4All more than ever. Land trusts save the special places we need and love.

Wellfleet Conservation Trust is an IRS approved non-profit organization established in 1984 to assist and promote the preservation of natural resources and rural character of the town of Wellfleet. Its mission is to conserve land in its natural state in perpetuity for enjoyment by current and future generations.

The Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts, Inc. (The Compact) was founded in 1986 as a nonprofit regional support organization for six local land trusts on Cape Cod. Today, The Compact provides 26 local and regional land trusts as well as watershed associations with technical expertise to preserve critical lands that protect the public water supply, protect scenic views, protect wildlife habitat, provide walking trails, and protect Cape Cod’s character, all of which draw countless visitors who drive our regional economy. There is no other nonprofit that offers similar services on Cape Cod. The national Land Trust Alliance has called The Compact a national model of a sustainable land trust coalition.