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.
Wellfleet Conservation Trust (WCT) announces that it is organizing volunteer efforts to conduct the annual COASTSWEEP program for the Wellfleet Harbor coastline. As before, this year’s program will coordinate with co-sponsors including the Wellfleet Recycling Committee, the Wellfleet Conservation Commission, the Open Space Committee, and the Friends of Herring River.
Last year’s Wellfleet sweep included 30 volunteers in 11 teams, covered more than 8 miles of beaches, and recovered 400 pounds of plastics and other debris. The clean-up took approximately two hours.
Since 1987, volunteers throughout Massachusetts have turned out for the annual COASTSWEEP cleanup organized by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM). Each September and October, thousands of volunteers collect literally tons of trash from beaches, marshes, river banks and the seafloor. COASTSWEEP participants join hundreds of thousands of other volunteers in the world’s largest volunteer effort for the ocean—Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup—collecting trash, fishing line and other marine debris and recording data on what they find. This data is used to find solutions for keeping trash out of the ocean.
As part of the annual COASTSWEEP, the local cleanup is organizing at the Wellfleet Mayo Beach parking area on Kendrick Avenue at 9 AM, Saturday September 29. The rain date for this event will be the next day, September 30. No advanced sign-up is needed, so volunteers are asked to come to Mayo Beach to be assigned to a small team and a section of beaches for the Sweep. All supplies are being provided, but if you want your own gloves and reusable water bottles, it is suggested that you bring them. No water crossings are expected, so regular footwear should suffice.
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.
Wellfleet conservation lands serve many purposes, one of which is to provide opportunities for recreation. Most are full public access, meaning that people may linger to enjoy the views, observe the fauna and flora, or have pleasant times with family and friends. There are many short trails, often leading to benches for contemplation and open areas with beautiful vistas.
Although most visitors come in the summer and many walkers prefer warmer weather, the trails offer a special beauty in winter, with opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, winter birding, and even picnics.
The Wellfleet Conservation Trust has worked with the Wellfleet Conservation Commission and the Town Open Space Committee to create several contiguous properties for walking, photography, birdwatching, exercise, and other activities. These properties include longer, marked trails, some of which connect with National Seashore or other lands, thereby providing additional possibilities for exploring and even longer trails.
The Trust builds and maintains these trails, with the help of Americorps members and others in the community. The trail building includes making a safe path, cutting branches and vines, pulling up trip roots, adding rustic stairs on steep sections, marking with blazes, placing benches, clearing parking spaces, and adding signs.
Trail guides and maps
At the Wellfleet Public Library you can find a free packet of brochures with trail guides and maps. There is an activity guide for children. This material is also available on the website.
The location of Wellfleet Conservation Trust lands are shown on the map in the sidebar. Click on the map to see a high definition pdf version. The pdf is zoomable and can be saved for later use. Also, at each trailhead there is a sign with a QR code, which you can use with your smartphone to find a trail guide with map for the specific trail.
The brisk wind coming off the Bay was enough to blow off hats and knock down the unwary walker. But 37 adults and 3 children braved that wind and the chilly temperature to clean up Wellfleet beaches.
They had been invited by the Wellfleet Conservation Trust to meet at the Wellfleet Mayo Beach parking area on Kendrick Avenue at 10 AM on Columbus Day. The volunteers mostly hailed from Wellfleet and other towns on Cape Cod, but some were from western Massachusetts, Washington DC, California, and other places.
They broke up into 11 teams, each assigned to a different area of beach around Wellfleet Bay. After a couple of hours of cleanup, they had collectively traversed 7 miles of beach and accumulated 25 bags of debris weighing 197 pounds.
Some items were too large for the bags, such as a rusting iron hanger for plants. The volunteers also identified, but did not retrieve, 3 dead gulls, 3 dead eiders, and shellfishing gear that was too heavy to carry.
The cleanup was held during Wellfleet Ocean Week, with events at the Library, at Oysterfest, and other venues. Co-sponsors of the events included the Wellfleet Recycling Committee, Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, the Wellfleet Conservation Commission, the Open Space Committee, and the Friends of the Herring River.
Ocean Week introduced the founders of the 5 Gyres Institute, who helped bring the world’s attention to the problem of ocean pollution, especially microbeads. These are tiny beads of plastic that are put into toothpastes, facial scrubs, and other products at a rate of 8 billion per day. Beginning in 2010, 5 Gyres began research in all five subtropical gyres, as well as the great lakes and Antarctica. Their study on plastic microbeads pollution in the Great Lakes led to the federal ban on microbeads, signed into law by President Obama in 2015.
A report on the Wellfleet Bay cleanup was sent to the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM), which coordinates Coast Sweep, the Massachusetts cleanup. That effort in turn is part of the annual Fall, International Coastal Cleanup of the Ocean Conservancy, which collects debris from beaches, marshes, river banks and the seafloor.
More than 18 million pounds of trash were collected by nearly 800,000 volunteers last year. The debris includes cigarette butts, plastic beverage bottles, food wrappers, bottle caps, straws, and such, but also more exotic items such as toilets, refrigerators, boat anchors, and mattresses. This is about 0.1% of what’s added each year to the oceans. Data on the marine debris can be used to seek solutions for keeping trash out of the ocean.
Collecting and recording debris; photo by Kim Novino
Wrack line; photo by Susan Quigley
Metal plant hanger; photo by Kim Novino
Plastic netting; photo by Kim Novino
Plastic straps; photo by Kim Novino
Setting out on Lt. Island; photo by Kim Novino
photo by Susan Quigley
Cleanup instructions; photo by Susan Quigley
Plastic balloon strings; photo by Kim Novino
Coast Sweep doesn’t pretend to mitigate the pollution of the world’s oceans and other waterways, although it does help to make specific beaches on lakes, rivers, and oceans safer and more pleasant. That was certainly the case for the Columbus Day work around Wellfleet Bay. Our hope is that the cleanup heightens awareness of what we collectively do to the environment we love.
“I stayed just for the walk.” For frequent summer visitor Deb Firtha, this was her fifth Wellfleet Conservation Trust (WCT) annual walk, so she knew that it would be worth it to delay her return to Ohio, and stay for another.
She was not disappointed. Along with 101 others, she enjoyed one of the best walks yet. The weather was perfect: sunny skies, low 70’s, and gentle sea breezes.Walk leader Bill Iacuessa pointed out that there were few ticks in this habitat, the mosquitoes were diminished by the drought, the green heads were past, and there was little poison ivy to worry about.
The walk (open to the public and free as always) began at 9 a.m. at the Lieutenant’s Island causeway in South Wellfleet. It continued a tradition dating to 2007 for the public to experience the beauty of Wellfleet’s open space and conservation lands.
Along the way, we paused at key locations to hear from naturalists and other local experts who could share their knowledge of the history, geology, and ecology of the area. For example, Fire Chief Rick Pauley related several anecdotes about the challenge of providing emergency services to an island, whose road is often impassable at high tide.
Zigzag, double fence for erosion control
Bill Huss and Bill Iacuessa
Fire Chief Rick Pauley
Pam Tice, who writes the South Wellfleet history blog, explained why the island’s name is spelled two different ways. She also told us about early settlers, how Lt. Island was once an area for raising horses, and how it later developed as a residential area.
Bob Prescott from Mass Audubon spoke about that organization’s role in preserving habitat in the area, and especially about the terrapin gardens. Bill Huss spoke for the Lt. Island Association, sharing what it’s like to live there. Ginie Page talked about the problem of erosion and the revetments used to counter that. She also talked about how the shoreline had changed over the years. Dwight Estey filled in more of the history, especially about shellfishing and blackfish. Bill Iacuessa helped to connect many ideas throughout and to keep the balance between walking, exploring, and discussing.
Other topics included the causeway and bridge, whale try works, salt haying, and aquaculture. We also talked about specific conservation lands, and how town and private organizations coordinate both to preserve these beautiful habitats and to make them accessible to the public. We discussed potential acquisitions on Lt. Island, which would further connect conservation lands and expand opportunities for enjoying nature. Several of the participants were Lt. Island residents, who were learning new things about their own neighborhood.
The walk was about 2.7 miles, with some soft sand and a few stairs. Walkers were offered the opportunity to leave the walk earlier if necessary. Much of the route was exposed to the wind, especially on the shore of Blackfish Creek, but the mild weather kept the walking pleasant.
Deb Firtha wasn’t the only repeat walker to experience the unique combination of outdoor fitness with learning about nature, history, and the community. But for many of the walkers, this was their first WCT guided walk. They were already asking where next year’s walk would be.
Wellfleet has so much natural beauty that we’ve been able to conduct ten of these walks so far, each to a different area. Wellfleet is full of hidden gems and breathtaking vistas. We hope it always stays that way. That’s what we’re working for.
[Thanks to Susie Quigley and Dwight Estey for many of the photos, to Mark Gabriele, Mary Rogers, and Susan Bruce for suggestions on the text.]
Mr. Peter Trull, Cape Cod Naturalist, author and educator, delivered the keynote address, based on his recent book entitled The Gray Curtain – The Impact of Seals, Sharks and Commercial Fishing along the Northeast Coast, at the Wellfleet Conservation Trust (WCT) Annual Meeting and Review at the Wellfleet Council on Aging.
Mr. Trull showed, through discussion and vivid photographs, the relationship between commercial fishing, expanding gray seal populations and great white sharks along the beaches and in the waters of Cape Cod. This “Gray Curtain” has come about after geologic and environmental changes, as well as animal migrations and population increases. Each has had an effect on the location and, though daily and seasonal changes are accepted as normal, there are great transformations taking place that may go unnoticed, some, unexplained.
“Mr. Trull’s presentation is of current interest, in light of the public’s adoration of seals, the recreational and commercial fishers’ frustrations with the seals and the growing public awareness of increases in great white shark sightings in Wellfleet and other parts of the Cape,” says WCT President Dennis O’Connell.
The WCT Annual Meeting began at 10:00 AM at the Wellfleet Council on Aging, 715 Old King’s Hwy in Wellfleet. Annual Meetings are open to the public; no reservation needed. Light refreshments are provided. Prior to Mr. Trull’s presentation, the Trust held its short annual business meeting and presented a historical overview of the group’s actions and achievements.
The Wellfleet Conservation Trust completed its acquisition of the Drummer Cove ‘Link Lot’ in South Wellfleet with funds secured from a successful fundraising campaign marked by overwhelming community support and initiative. The lot, located on the northwest shoreline of Drummer’s Cove, restores an historic trail system to the public and supplements other walking trails in the Blackfish Creek – Fox Island Marsh Conservation Area.