Over the past several months, I’ve introduced several of our friends to an extraordinary property recently acquired by the Wellfleet Conservation Trust. I don’t usually talk about “official” conservation areas on this program, because I don’t want to imply that “nature” is only to be found in formally protected areas. But this one is special. The property in question is called the Herring River Overlook.
The Friends of Herring River (with special thanks to Patti Elliott) have organized the first annual Virtual Herring River 5K race for May 1 – 31, 2021. It’s to celebrate the planned restoration of the river.
The race is run virtually, with times to be reported on the honor system.
The race can be done in stages. At 5k (3.1 miles) you could race each of the 31 days of May for 0.1 miles (about 200 steps). Walking is one option.
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.
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.”
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.
On Sunday, September 16, 2007, seventy five individuals participated in the first annual “Walks in Wellfleet” sponsored by the Trust in cooperation with the Cape Cod National Seashore, Herring River Restoration Project and the Town Open Space Committee. There were four walk options available ranging from one mile to three and three quarter miles along different paths throughout Griffin Island, Wellfleet.
But this was more than just walks over the dunes and through the woods. Following a brief orientation by Denny O’Connell, Trust President, three highly professional and knowledgeable National Seashore ecologists, John Portnoy, Stephen Smith and Evan Gwilliam each led walkers through different areas of Griffin Island and gave presentations along the way on the Herring River Restoration Project, cultural landscape restoration, upland plant and marsh ecology, and the historical development of the land.
The walks were acclaimed by the participants to be highly informative and enjoyable because of this unique educational feature and the opportunity to see and learn about a portion of Wellfleet that many, even a few long-time Wellfleet residents had not visited.
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