Monday, September 7, 2020

SCT E-newsletter, August 2020

 Dear Members and Friends,

Greetings to you once again from the SCT trustees, and we hope that you are staying safe and well.  At least we’ve got the summer weather to enjoy, though drought conditions exist as I write this.  We can, however, be comfortably outdoors, active, a little safer, and as we pointed out in our last newsletter, we can visit our many and varied conservation lands.

In this issue I continue the theme of looking at conservation land through history, as much as available maps, photographs and information allow.  I’m thinking of it as a recurring column, and I’ve chosen what I think is an appropriate name:  Land Through Time.  This approach hopefully makes the lands more interesting and meaningful.  

We last looked at the Goodell Preserve in East Sandwich, 16 acres of marsh that lie along a straight, fast-moving stretch of Route 6A; a preserve that has no trail system but offers visual refreshment, valuable habitat, and which was donated in honor of a beloved parent.  In this issue we will examine another SCT preserve that shares all of these qualities, but is very different in character – the Cross Preserve.

Before we begin, I want to thank the members who responded to our recent dues reminder letter during this difficult time.  We had a good response – a needed boost!  I will also take this opportunity to thank the SCT Board of Trustees – a devoted and hard working group of volunteers.

Sincerely,

                                                                                                John N. Cullity
                                                                                                President, SCT




Land Through Time

By John Nye Cullity

The Cross Preserve by the Two Ponds




Route 6A is a wonderful old road, with interesting scenery and a good share of the attractive antiquity that we associate with Cape Cod.  It has been through some changes (read: straightening) that are bound to come with population and tourism growth, but it still more or less follows the route of the County Road laid out in 1684 by the colonists.  This early “highway”, as it was sometimes referred to in town records, was itself based on the very ancient Native American pathway that led down the Cape. This path had very little straightness to it, for it had to follow what the untouched topography dictated: around hills, swamps large and small, and salt marsh inlets.  As civilization progressed, with animal power and iron tools the way became straighter: a cut into a banking here and there, a simple wooden bridge, earthen causeways across swamps and salt marshes.  More on this later.

The Cross Preserve is located on the north side of Route 6A just west of the busy intersection with Quaker Meetinghouse Road, and adjacent to the water feature commonly called “the Two Ponds”.  It is bounded on the north by the railroad. The preserve is 2.56 acres, much of it wetland, and provides 518 feet of forest edge along this straight stretch.  My guess is that in the interest of safety few drivers turn their heads to look at these woods, or study the green SCT sign tucked into the edge.  Even so, it’s a nice bit of undeveloped woods and it will stay that way.

We are thankful to Peter N. Cross of Boxford, MA, who donated this parcel to the SCT in 2006 in honor of his parents Dr. Shirley G. Cross and Dr. Chester Cross, both remarkable citizens of Sandwich. They moved to Sandwich in 1941, with an interest in cranberries.  Their home was at 10 Spring Hill Road, in the ¾ Cape built by Joseph Nye in 1837.  They also purchased three cranberry bogs near Hoxie Pond in East Sandwich, which they farmed into the mid-1980s.

  

The Crosses had many talents, were hard workers, charmingly old-fashioned, and active in town committees.  Shirley specialized in botany, and began the wildflower garden named after her at the Green Briar Nature Center.  For some years she served as president of the Thornton W. Burgess Society.  Chet worked for, and in time was head of, the Cranberry Experimental Station in Wareham. 

He served on the Sandwich Planning Board for many years.  Shirley joined the Conservation Commission in the 1960s.  They were both passionate about preserving land and worked together on some important acquisitions.  At the first town meeting I attended in 1972, I was impressed with their effort to convince the meeting to purchase 27 acres of Sandy Neck lying in Sandwich.  They also fought hard (and there was resistance!) for the Briarpatch, the Ryder property and other important parcels.  They were my inspiration to become involved with land preservation.  I drive by the Cross Preserve nearly every day, and I often glance at the woods and the sign and think of Chet and Shirley and how much they loved this town.


Shirley Cross 1916-2008

This preserve was once part of a wetland referred to as “the Canoe Swamp” in 17th century town records.  Unsuitable for farming, it may have served as a woodlot connected to the farm at the corner of 6A and Quaker Meetinghouse Road.  It was acquired by the Overseers of the Sandwich Monthly Meeting of Friends (Quakers) at some point, and it is from that group that Peter Cross acquired this piece in 1976.

It’s now time to consider an important question about the “Two Ponds”: When were they created by putting the main road through and where did it run previously?  



The Cross Preserve is outlined on this map taken from the Town of Sandwich website.  Note how
Quaker Road (now partially discontinued) makes a large bow north of the Two Ponds.  At the top of the map is the 1810 Quaker Meetinghouse and associated buildings. This was the original path of the
County Road – all traffic – pedestrians, horse and oxen drawn vehicles, even herds of cattle with their market-bound drovers used this route by the Friends meetinghouse, to avoid the Canoe Swamp.



This portion of the U.S. Coastal Survey of 1861 shows the Two Ponds area when it was 
meadow and swamp. According to the late Sandwich Archivist Barbara Gill, the earthen 
causeway supporting the road was built in 1832 to make travel easier. A related question 
would be, where did the large amount of fill come from?



The Two Ponds were likely created in the 1880s or 90s when cranberry bogs were constructed in the wetlands leading from Spring Hill Road out towards the beach. The upper part of the Two Pond area had many springs. At some point a reservoir for flooding the bogs below was created by raising the water level at the culvert that runs under the railroad. The constant flow of the springs made this operation possible. This portion of a 1951 aerial photo shows what was then still an agricultural landscape. Sandwich Archives photo.




In 2007 the cranberry bog owner drained the Two Ponds, probably to flood the bogs below for water-picking. This shows one of the springs, which in colonial times undoubtedly served the William Allen house, which was built a short distance uphill in 1672. It was taken down in the 1880s. The land south of the Two Ponds is the 46 acre“Sullivan Piece”, purchased by the town for conservation in 1986.



This 2013 view looking towards the Cross Preserve shows the ponds drained again (left). 

The same view in 2020, with the pond in place but quite full of water lilies (right).





This view is from a pre-1910 postcard looking towards East Sandwich. 

The end of the Cross Preserve can be seen. Note the early telephone poles.



In July I visited the Cross Preserve and took a few pictures in the thick growth. I was impressed by the
variety and size of trees growing on the higher land at the west end. I found white and black oak, red
maple, pitch pine, white pine, a black willow, a big multi-trunked holly and one tall, straight aspen. As
stated earlier, there is no trail system, no parking, just a nice piece of woods and wetland, with some
scenic water-frontage.

Once again, our thanks go to Peter Cross for his gift, and to his worthy parents who did so much for the
Town of Sandwich.



In the moist shade, this Indian Pipe or Ghost Plant (Monotropa uniflora) was found 
at the Cross Preserve. Instead of utilizing sunlight and chlorophyll to grow,  
it is a parasite, obtaining nutrients from tree roots via a particular fungus host.


Except as noted, images were taken by or owned by the author.



If you wish to learn more about the SCT, visit our website, where you can also download a membership form. We also gratefully accept donations to our Land Maintenance Fund. Thank you!



OFFICERS AND TRUSTEES 2020

President

John N. Cullity

jncullity@gmail.com

(508) 888-7629


Vice President, Membership

Joseph A. Queenan, Jr.


Treasurer

Brian Kelly


Clerk

Deborah A. Gannett


Trustees

Cliff Irving

Peter Thomas

Nancy McHugh

Jack Vaccaro

Robert O’Connor

Steven C. Touloumtzis


Newsletter

John N. Cullity


Webmaster, Facebook

Nancy McHugh




You can download the PDF version of the SCT E-Newsletter here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Y3lGpB79K2tOCDaFQBieg5nEvP4_l5DS/view?usp=sharing

Monday, August 3, 2020

Dues Reminder

Dear Member:

I would like to remind you that somehow you overlooked renewing your annual membership in the Sandwich Conservation Trust.  

We sent out our annual Newsletter at the end of February.  I hope you found it interesting and informative.  I am asking that you renew your membership with the enclosed envelope.  Perhaps you misplaced the one included in the newsletter.

As you know, the work of the Trust is carried out by the unpaid trustees and other volunteers.  To say the least, we are a very frugal operation.  However, we still do have some sizable expenses which include technical work by the Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts, insurance, printing, postage and the ever-increasing land maintenance.  

Our only source of income is derived from our membership fees and sometimes a memorial donation.  I would like to encourage you to help us by renewing your membership today.  This year, 2020, marks our 35th year of existence and our ability to continue is largely based on membership support.

Thank you for your continued interest and support for the Sandwich Conservation Trust.


Sincerely,

Joseph A. Queenan Jr.
SCT Membership 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

SCT E-Newsletter, June 2020

E-Newsletter                                                                     June 2020



Dear Members and Friends,

First, on behalf of SCT trustees and I, may you, your family and friends stay well and see your way through this remarkably difficult time. Like all non-profit organizations, we are trying to figure out how to stay active and meaningful to our members and the public in general. Some days ago as I was thinking of how to call attention to the restorative value of conservation land, the following message came from Mark Robinson, Executive Director of the Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts. It eloquently states everything I was thinking of, and much more:


Welcome to Cape Cod open space!


It’s been waiting for you, just sitting there quietly minding its own business of filtering water, growing trees and plants and sheltering wildlife. Waiting for a time in your life when you needed it most. When you could not visit friends and family at their homes. When your only choices were to remain inside 24/7, take a break and stroll around the neighborhood, or head out into the woods or beaches, some of you for the first time, solo or with others.


Like much of America right now, Cape Cod is seeing a surge in the use of our many nature preserves and hiking trails. Others have commented on proper hiking protocol (six feet, dogs on leash, etc.) or on the occasional abuses (overcrowding, dumping).


But I want to celebrate the simple fact that by this awakening many more Cape Codders are finally acknowledging the immense value provided for physical and mental health by our vast portfolio of protected open spaces. Everything from our 30,000-acre National Seashore to our state parks to our town beaches and conservation areas and even the small diverse areas near you preserved by your local non-profit land trust. These set-aside natural lands add up to more than one-third of the land mass of Cape Cod. They did not magically appear. They are the result of the collective effort of all of us, hard-won victories meant to stave off the complete suburbanization of our Cape.



Between 1984 and 2019, the past 35 years, Cape Cod citizens spent almost $400 million to preserve more than 10,000 acres. Most of that was paid for through the Land Bank Act and now the Community Preservation Act, the three percent surcharge we pay on our property tax bills, supplemented by state funds. All 15 Cape towns voted for these programs and now we witness the results of our investments.


It sounds like a lot of money and it is. But it pales in comparison to the tens of billions spent on developing real estate on the Cape during that period. Some of us recall the height of the boom in 1986 when the town of Barnstable alone approved more than 900 housing units. Picture three new concrete foundations being poured every day for a year. We almost lost our Cape, which one developer claimed he hoped to make into the “next suburb of Boston.”


The small town of Brewster has itself spent tens of millions of dollars to preserve land. But that wise leverage in keeping the town rural just may also keep it from having to spend hundreds of millions on the municipal wastewater systems that its neighboring communities are facing now. And Brewster has terrific walking trails. Find out what a Punkhorn is and go walk it!


Towns and land trusts have created many new hiking paths and published maps highlighting how to find these trail systems for your enjoyment. A quick internet search for Cape Cod Pathways will get you started. Go, be safe, respect others and explore your legacy!


(Mark H. Robinson of Cotuit has helped Cape Cod preserve open space since 1984. He is director of The Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts, Inc., a network of 30 land trusts and watershed associations.)


Thank you, Mark, for this timely and uplifting message!

I would also like to thank SCT members who responded to our last newsletter by sending along dues and donations. We especially appreciate the support at this time of “belt-tightening”!

As a feature for this letter, I thought it might be of interest to show how we can draw on resources normally associated with “local history” – in other words, old photos, maps and anecdotes, to help us understand preserved land more completely. I thought I would start with the Goodell Preserve in East Sandwich, as an example. You may recall this preserve as one of the locations where we will be working to control the invasive phragmites reed. At first glance it might seem like “just a piece of salt marsh”, but it becomes more interesting as we dig into its history.

I hope you enjoy this photo essay. Future e-newsletters will have similar features on SCT preserves as a way to keep in touch and inform. Thanks again for your interest and support. May you stay safe and enjoy the outdoors!

Sincerely,

John N. Cullity President


A Closer look at the Goodell Preserve
By John N. Cullity
   




Every parcel of conservation land has its preservation story. Town properties are usually purchased. Conservation trusts also purchase but are often the recipients of gifts of land. There are various reasons for an individual or family to donate land. Sometimes a parcel is given in memory of a loved one who had a special connection to the land. The Goodell Preserve is an inspiring example of this.


      
The 16.5 acre Goodell Prerserve has no trail system but is distinguished by offering wide-open marsh views to the passer-by on Rt. 6A or Jones Lane. Salt marsh views have typically become blocked by walls of phragmites reed. This early June view shows the first growth of
Spartina alterniflora, the marsh grass once considered valuable by farmers. It was cut by scythe in late August into September, with much of it cocked, or carefully stacked, on circular groups of posts. Barring storm damage, these stacks would be transported to the farm in early-mid winter.



The arrow points out the location in East Sandwich, not far from Sandy Neck, seen in the distance.



           
The Goodell Preserve, seen in this 1985 aerial, is north of the serpentine upper Scorton Creek. This marsh was once part of Meadow Spring Farm, which ran from this location nearly a mile over Scorton Neck to Cape Cod Bay. Scorton Neck is essentially an island, once heavily used by Native Americans and evidence suggests this to be the last area in town where wigwams were known to exist, during the 1760s. There are numerous springs of fresh water.



This aerial view was taken in 1951. Note the core of the farm, with buildings and fields, with the salt marsh framed by Rt. 6A to the north, Jones Lane to the west, and upper Scorton Creek to the south. Meadow Spring Drive was not constructed until the early 1970s. Sandwich Archives photo.



The same view as portrayed on the U.S. Coastal Survey of 1861, showing the treeless nature of the land. Buildings, orchards, fencing and other details are shown on this wonderful map.

    



Meadow Spring Farm about 1890, with Robert and Dorcas (Hoxie) Armstrong. Robert was born in Scotland in 1838 and arrived in this country in 1853. His widowed mother “dropped him off” at this farm, as the family story goes. He lived with Quakers Solomon and Charity Hoxie, and eventually married their daughter Dorcas.



A circa 1912 view of Meadow Spring Farm looking south towards the salt marsh, a bit of which can be seen. At that time the farm was run by David and Alice Armstrong.



The Goodell Preserve is so named in loving memory of Irene Elizabeth Armstrong Goodell (1912-1952), daughter of David and Alice. In the 1920 photo are L to R: Robert L. Armstrong, John D. White, Alice W. Armstrong, Rosanna White (Cullity), Dorcas Armstrong, Irene Armstrong.



            
June 30, 1996 – In a simple on-site ceremony the two daughters of Irene Armstrong Goodell present the marsh to the Sandwich Conservation Trust. L to R: Roberta M. Goodell, Judith G. Rock and SCT President John N. Cullity, who also happens to be a descendant of Robert and Dorcas Armstrong. In their Dedication the sisters wrote:


“Irene’s knowledge of, interest in, and affection for the natural world were demonstrated in her extensive flower gardens, and hiking, camping, and bird and flower identification walks with her family. Hers was the last generation of Armstrong-Hoxies to live on the farm, where her father, by putting special contraptions called bog shoes on the horses, used to harvest salt hay from the marsh. Her daughter Roberta thought it appropriate, then, when the estate was being settled, to take title to the marsh land and to convey it, on behalf of her children, to the Sandwich Conservation Trust in her name.”


The SCT remains very thankful to Roberta, who lives in So. Thomaston, Maine, and to Judith, also a Maine resident, who passed in 2013. They gave an enduring gift to us all.



         
The Sandwich Conservation Trust isn’t the only group keeping an eye on the Goodell Preserve marsh. This spring a pair of ospreys nested on a newly-built stand. As nursery ground for fish and other marine creatures, salt marshes are enormously productive habitats.


OFFICERS AND TRUSTEES 2020

President
John N. Cullity
(508) 888-7629

Vice President, Membership
Joseph A. Queenan, Jr.

Treasurer
Brian Kelly

Clerk
Deborah A. Gannett

Trustees 
Cliff Irving Peter Thomas Nancy McHugh Jack Vaccaro
Robert O’Connor Steven C. Touloumtzis

Newsletter
John N. Cullity

Webmaster, Facebook
Nancy McHugh



You can download the PDF version of the SCT E-Newsletter here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1KlFt3SdJepCuO39ztE1TDSQ5jp4l1ezS/view?usp=sharing


Sunday, March 8, 2020

SCT Annual Newsletter

The snail-mail version of the SCT Annual Newsletter should have arrived in your mail a few weeks ago if you are a member of the trust.  If you are not a member of our land trust, you may follow the link below to read about what we are up to.

We hope to see the membership envelopes with dues or gifts to the SCT in our mailbox soon!

As always, we appreciate your support.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1x7YQ_IWJ9aoid14fQEirIURIfQfghrcZ