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"I Was Here..."

By Jean Perry

Once in a while you're out in nature approaching a bend in a hiking path, reaching the top of a mountain, or, in this case, meandering along the beach, and you come across something that draws your eye in. Someone has taken stones and carefully stacked them one on top of each other, perfectly balanced and oftentimes appearing to defy gravity itself.

The rocks, although perfectly natural and at home in the setting, are far from natural in their formation.

Just when you thought you were the only one out there, with the rest of the world forgotten about for the time being, feeling alone and at one with your aloneness, someone has left behind a sign of having passed that way before, of having existed momentarily in the place at which you find yourself, and is in a way saying to you, "Hi. I was here."

For centuries, humans have been stacking rocks all over the world as ways to mark a significant place, a gravesite, the location of a battle in history, or as trail blazes to guide others along as they hike. This human-made stacking of rocks is commonly known as a cairn, from the Scottish Gaelic word carn.

I come across a few of these now and again as one who spends a lot of time exploring the outdoors and traveling about to hike new hills and discover forest trails I've never been down before. Every now and then, they start cropping up along a stretch of beach at the Nasketucket Bay State Reservation as they have been over the past few days. Some have gotten a bit creative, too, incorporating driftwood and seashells along with the usual rock tower formations.

One late afternoon last week, I was walking along quietly deep in thought when from afar I spotted a group of them and it yanked me out from my flow of inner consciousness back to the beach where I stood.

I walked up and pondered the cairns, appreciating the transience of this temporary art installation and wondered about the people and the reasons why they would build them.

Some people wish upon the rocks as they balance them up, wishes that are likely the same or similar to the wishes we all secretly have. Wishes that may or may not come true before or after the sea swallows them up and the rocks tumble down.

The cairns could be a way of connecting with others on a spiritual level, leaving behind a sculpture of peace and tranquility, which seems to me the silent language of the cairn and how I usually feel when I look at it.

Not all people feel that way when coming across a cairn, however. Actually, there are a lot of people, including conservationists, telling people to please just stop it already with the cairn building. The old hiker's adage of "leave no trace" echoes out from cairn to cairn, and some areas in the world, notably Iceland, have essentially been invaded by cairns created and left by tourists oblivious to the effects of leaving behind stacks of stones everywhere. In some areas, cairns are cropping up uncontrollably and are even threatening the very ecosystem and habitat of local wildlife.

At the Nasketucket Bay State Reservation beach, though, they seem right at home. I imagine some young people stopping to stack rocks together for a while, testing their balancing abilities and starting over again with the occasional mishap when that final rock on top doesn't quite make it so they exchange it for another that might do the trick.

I think about my life and the symbolic cairns that mark the different paths I've taken, and I think about the metaphorical cairns I may have built along the way that perhaps have guided others who came after me. And I ponder the mystery of it all and the messages left by the people who balanced the rocks on the mountains, the deep forest trails, and the beaches for me to see that seem to say, "I was here before you, I passed this way too, and you are not alone."

Roadside Edible Plants

Sippican Lands Trust

By Marilou Newell

It might be surprising to learn that Queen Anne's lace is a member of the carrot family and takes two years to mature before the lovely airy flower heads bloom. It may even be more surprising to learn that wild plants that taste like wasabi or lettuce are available, if not in your backyard, then very close by. But more surprising still might be the fact that any of the varieties of maple trees - not just the sugar maple - may be tapped for sap to make maple syrup.

Imparting all these facts on July 18 was educator, writer, and well-known expert in the study of wild edible plants Russ Cohen during the Edible Foraging Ramble sponsored by the Sippican Lands Trust in partnership with the Marion Garden Group.

Cohen has been teaching students and interested others about wild edible plants for four decades, doing as many as 40 programs a year. Cohen, a highly respected expert on the subject of wild edible plants, is retired from the Massachusetts Division of Fish & Game and has written several books on the subject of edible plants. He also writes a column for the Essex County Greenbelt Association.

On this day, a group of about 30 people gathered at Brainard Marsh off Delano Road in Marion, a 6-acre parcel now owned and managed by the Sippican Lands Trust. Yet, the wild plants that Cohen spent much of the two-hour event discussing were right there, along the roadside.

As the group snaked along Delano Road, Cohen pointed out and taught the group about the vegetation. Ambling along to the first stop, Cohen demurred, "Old friends come to greet you as you walk along."

Cohen said the local area has about 75 edible plants, including the non-poisonous sumac. He said that it's fairly rare to find a poisonous sumac in the same neighborhood as its tame cousin, but right there next to his knee grew the dangerous variety. His warning when asked about the vicious sumac, "It's much worse than poison ivy." The most striking difference between the two plants was the shiny leaves sported by the gentle edible greenery. The bad one has dull leaves, but otherwise is hard to distinguish.

As he moved along pointing out invasive and native plants that can be eaten, Cohen said that in nearly every environment you would find something to eat if you knew what to look for. He stressed that native plants are critical to the natural environment supporting both people and animals. He also highlighted the importance of not over-foraging on native plants that may be endangered. Cohen steered the group towards "guilt-free" foraging.

The old wives' tale that whatever an animal may eat a human may also doesn't hold true, Cohen warned. "There's not one hundred percent overlap in what animals and humans can eat," he said. The group chuckled when he said that just because a deer may eat a plant doesn't mean it didn't wander off and die. He was asked how risky it was to put something wild in your mouth. Cohen responded that most poisonous plants "taste horrible."

Of safe wild edible items located along Delano Road, Cohen found wine berries, roses, daylilies, grapes, wild lettuce, pokeweed, tupelo trees, dewberries, jewelweed, elderberries, bayberry, and along the beach at the preserve, rockweed, pickle weed, and orach, a kissing cousin to spinach.

Of the well known Queen Anne's lace, that relative of the carrot, Cohen said, "You can eat the root, but it's never as good as store bought."

Cohen's book Wild Plants I Have Known...and Eaten is available by contacting Essex County Greenbelt Association at 978-768-7241. All proceeds benefit Essex County Land Trust.

If you want to learn more about upcoming events planned by the Sippican Lands Trust, visit www.sippicanlandstrust.org. You may also request to be placed on their email blasts by emailing info@sippicanlandstrust.org.

Buzzards Bay Musicfest Returns to Marion

By Ashley Perry

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Buzzards Bay Musicfest returned to Tabor Academy in Marion this past week, bringing with it sensational musical selections from Mozart to jazz standards. The five-day-long festival spanned from July 13-17 and featured two orchestra concerts, two chamber music performances, and a jazz concert.

This year Antony Walker, music director of the Pittsburgh Opera, returned as guest conductor, as well as Grammy-nominated jazz artist Orrin Evans.

Musicians selected by Artistic Director and Concertmaster Charles Stegeman travel from all over the world to participate in the festival and stay with their host families located in Marion.

"They come to us from teaching institutions, professional orchestras, and a variety of other musical venues across the globe, and we are grateful for the excitement and enrichment they provide for our community," stated Chair Trudy Kingery with President Sally Conkright in the festival's program booklet. And what an incredible sight it is to see all these musicians with diverse backgrounds come together on one stage to create these musical works of art.

The Musicfest itself actually has its roots in Kansas City. According to Kingery, one of the founding members, the festival started twenty years ago with a man named Russell Patterson, the music director of the Kansas City Lyric Opera who was retiring to the Cape. He and other founding member Margot Foster contacted Kingery about bringing a festival to the Buzzards Bay area.

"I was president of the arts center," said Kingery. "And so [Margot Foster] came to me and said, 'Can you do something with this?' and I said, 'Okay.'" Since then, the festival has expanded and evolved and is "an event which had grown each year in regional repose and national reputation," according the Stegeman.

I, myself an oboist and a music major at Boston University, was able to attend the Friday night chamber music concert, as well as the closing orchestra concert on Sunday afternoon. Chamber music concerts, such as the Thursday and Friday concerts of the festival, feature one instrumentalist per part, and the groups range in number from a solo individual to an octet.

Friday's concert featured a Beethoven Piano Quintet, a string sextet performing Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence, and Maurice Ravel's Introduction and Allegro for Harp, Flute, Clarinet and String Quartet - a standout of the evening.

Harp soloist Rita Costanzi swept the audience away with her brilliant technique and eloquent and celestial interpretation. With her performance, combined with the excellent blend from the woodwinds and the virtuosity of the strings, the piece was mesmerizing and truly lovely.

Sunday's orchestra concert was equally impressive and engaging. The performance opened with Rossini's vibrant Overture to "La Scala di Seta," showcasing the technical prowess of the upper winds. The program also featured soloists Charles Stegeman on violin and Michael Strauss on viola in Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat Major, K.364 as well as a refined and thoughtful rendition of Bach's Air on the G String. The five-day festival concluded with Haydn's rousing Symphony No. 103 in E-flat Major, "Drum Roll," bringing the full house to their feet.

The Buzzards Bay Musicfest and its board are dedicated to bringing high quality classical performances to the South Coast free of charge.

"We work behind the scenes together all winter long to put this together in conjunction with our artistic director Charlie [Stegeman]," said Conkright. About 97 percent of the festival's funding comes from individual donors who generously support bringing the arts into the community.

As stated on their website, "every contribution counts, and each monetary gift helps to provide a rich musical experience for so many." The Buzzards Bay Musicfest is certainly one of the best festivals of its kind in the area, bringing to the community delightful and memorable performances for the past twenty years.

Water Damages Books Slated for Fundraiser Sale

By Jean Perry

It wasn't looking good for the Elizabeth Taber Library Annual Book Sale coming up next week when, on Friday, July 15, staff discovered water pouring down from the ceiling of the basement room where donated books were being stored for the annual fundraiser.

The library staff at first thought it was a burst pipe raining water down onto a section of books donated from the community to the library but, come to find out, it was a clog in the sewer line that had water backed up and spilling out all over the books, as well as toilets overflowing.

The library closed early on Friday, and it remained closed on Saturday as well as on Monday so that town facilities workers could dig up the front lawn of the library to fix the clog.

"Thankfully, it wasn't as bad as we originally thought," said Library Director Libby O'Neill. "We acted quickly and brought the books outside. Some of them we were able to dry off. Somewhere between one hundred and two hundred books were lost."

Luckily, said O'Neill, the library receives book donations throughout the entire year, so a good number of books are still available to be sold at the Annual Book Sale, the library's largest fundraiser of the year, going on at the Marion Music Hall on July 29.

O'Neill wasted no time getting the word out that the library needed more book donations to make up for the loss, and the community responded by replacing the lost books twofold.

"The community has done a great job hearing our message," said O'Neill. "We have so many book donations coming in from the community, and we are so grateful for that."

Marion Facilities Manager Shaun Cormier said the library, much like the other historic buildings in town, still has the old clay pipes and sewer lines underground. When the Sewer Department on Monday began snaking the backed-up pipe from the street, they found the clog was located right between the two locust trees on the property. The root system damaged the pipe and one of the two trees had to be cut down.

The old sewer line was replaced with an updated PVC pipe.

As for the book donations, O'Neill said that this year, thanks to the generosity of the community, the book sale might have more books available for sale than the previous year, despite this "little set-back," as O'Neill put it.

Wellspring Farm Loses Appeal

Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals

By Marilou Newell

After two previous hearings on the matter of whether or not Jim and Holly Vogel's educational/therapeutic horseback riding operation was in violation of zoning bylaws, on July 15 the Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals members were in agreement - not permitted.

Leading up to the vote on this night, Chairman Richard Cutler once again said that public comments should be focused on zoning issues only. He noted that although the type of services provided at Wellspring had "value," the issue at hand was zoning compliance.

The words "therapy," "educational," and "agricultural" were dissected and given enhanced definitions by the attorneys representing the Vogels and the aggrieved abutters, as the issue of the Vogels' right to use their property as a farm providing educational services was debated.

Attorney George Boerger, representing the Vogels, addressed abutters' complaints of increased traffic, saying that 16 letters had been received from neighbors who said traffic was either not a problem or not attributable to the Vogels' operation.

Boerger also said that many of the children receive services at the farm that are part of their individualized education plans thereby making the therapies received a type of learning experience. And he again reminded the board that the word "education" has a broad definition in the eyes of the court. The Vogels confirmed that 80% of their clients came to Wellspring with IEPs.

Attorney John Markey, representing some of the abutters, stated that Wellspring's revenue stream was primarily, if not solely, derived from the Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership versus school districts, making the issue of whether or not the farm was providing educational services versus therapy a valid point. He said that $540,000 came from the MBHP/MassHealth.

Once again, parents of children who have benefited from the farm animals and surrounding wooded acreage spoke of the transformation their children experienced by therapy received in the Wellspring setting - services they said could not be found anywhere else.

Residents opposing the operation were invited to speak, but none came forward this time. The public comment segment was closed.

Zoning board member Kirby Gilmore said, "The building commissioner did not err..."

"Abutters have a right of quiet use of their property," board member Davis Sullivan said.

Zoning board member David Arancio said, "I'm a little disappointed that this is before us. There could have been a compromise ... the business has changed; it has to be looked at."

Cutler said, "The business has grown ... the mission might have changed ... the educational element is ancillary to the therapeutic programs.... We need to take a fresh look at the appeal and add some limits, not make it go away.... I'm inclined to uphold the building commissioner's decision." He also said that the business should be reclassified from agriculture to health care.

The building commissioner's decision to deny the permit was upheld. Now the Vogels must proceed through a hearing for a Special Permit to allow commercial use of their property. That hearing is scheduled for August 11.

Before the room cleared, it was evident that emotions ran high as two attendees argued, one claiming to have been pushed and the other shouting, "You called it a circus!"

Gilmore told them to stop, saying, "We'll call the cops!" Cutler tried to regain control saying, "Gentlemen, gentlemen!" As quickly as it erupted, it was over with Cutler responding to a request for police presence at the next hearing with a firm, "I'm not going to have the police at the meeting."

In a post hearing follow up, Vogel said, "Clearly, the Town of Rochester is not interested in furthering the advancement of children with special needs. Again, the theory holds 'not in my backyard,' but Holly and I intend to carry this business that we are so passionate about to the 'nth' degree. We call upon the public to assist us."

The next meeting of the Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled for August 11 at 7:00 pm at a location to be announced.

Board Holds Special Meeting for 'Simple' Project

Rochester Planning Board

By Jean Perry

The Rochester Planning Board on July 19 made good on its word to hold a special meeting to help Special Permit applicant Kristina Bacchiocchi of 428 Walnut Plain Road hold to her construction timeline to install a new parking area before she can construct the new addition to her house to open her daycare business.

During the previous meeting on July 12, Bacchiocchi got emotional when she learned that she could not begin construction on the addition until she had approval for the parking area from the Planning Board, which was expected to take a number of meetings before that would happen.

During this meeting, however, with all the requested information and engineering the board had asked for the week prior, Planning Board Chairman Arnold Johnson told Bacchiocchi that Town Planner Mary Crain would have a draft decision drawn up for the board to review and likely approve next Tuesday during the regularly scheduled Planning Board meeting.

"I think that we have everything that we asked for," Johnson said. Board member Ben Bailey agreed. "Looks good," said Bailey.

Planning Board member Gary Florindo said he had only one concern, which was keeping all stormwater from running off the property and down to the street. Bacchiocchi said she had faith that her engineer would not allow that to happen.

The board does not usually review a draft decision and approve it on the same night, said Johnson, "But in rare cases where we have a simple project like this, we've done it in the past ... a couple times."

The next meeting of the Rochester Planning Board is scheduled for July 26 at 7:00 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.

$1.5 Million Surety Proposed

Mattapoisett Planning Board

By Marilou Newell

The long awaited report from Field Engineering on the condition of the Brandt Point Village subdivision is in, and it isn't good.

Bob Field, principal and founder of Field Engineering, Mattapoisett, the Town's peer review partner, submitted his report to the Planning Board on July 18. Field's report listed a number of deficiencies, a familiar list of problems that have plagued residents living in Phase 1 of the massive development.

As Field presented his 16-page report to the board members - along with his bill for $6,890 - he said, "Once we got involved with the as-built plans, it was much bigger than anticipated.... There is an extreme amount of work ... there is an extensive amount of stuff, a substantial amount of work yet to be done."

One of the major deficiencies documented by Field was the stormwater management system. Field noted that the system was installed with undersized drains and insufficient layering of gravel that would ensure the integrity of the road above.

"Catch basins throughout the site don't meet standards," Field explained. He said they were too small and placed in a shallow position that over time would cause the asphalt surfaces to fail.

Field told the board it might elect to establish a modification to the state standards allowing some of the basins to remain in place while mandating that others be fixed. But Chairman Tom Tucker thought otherwise.

"I got no problem making them tear it up and make it right," he told Field. Field responded that there was "no getting around" five or six of the suspect drains that need to be replaced, but Tucker said, "The contractor took a shortcut."

Highway Superintendent Barry Denham confirmed suspicions he has verbalized over many months of discussions, that roadway construction and drainage issues at the site were not meeting requirements. But regarding the size of the catch basins reported to be four inches versus the standard eight inches, he said, "I didn't know." He said that although he made frequent visits to the construction site to keep an eye on things, over the years there was no way to witness this installation due to lack of notification by the contractors.

Tucker concluded, "Their engineer is going to have to come up with a solution. Everything they tell me.... They want to do what's right, let them put their money where there mouth is."

Other problems noted in Field's report are lack of testing of the sewer system and failure of the Phase 1 roadway.

Tucker asked the residents of the development if the newest team of owners had been in contact with them to discuss repairs. They confirmed not a single call had been placed. Denis Demos, one of the residents who has become a fixture at Planning Board meetings said, "Their contractor told me they were building houses in two weeks," referring to Phase 2 of the project.

Tucker, now clearly frustrated, said, "Four times I've asked for a cease and desist!"

However, outgoing Planning Board Secretary Tammy Ferreira said, "You never really followed through." Tucker responded that each time a cease and desist had been sought, new owners came forward with new plans to take care of all the problems.

Planning Board member Mary Crain was confused and asked, "Why isn't town counsel issuing action?" Tucker replied, "We are very limited. We have to ask the town administrator if we can talk to town counsel."

Planning Board member Karen Field made a motion to contact the town administrator requesting legal assistance to issue a cease and desist if necessary. The motion was passed.

Regarding the question of what dollar amount should be imposed on the owner/developer, Omega Financial Group of Rhode Island, Field recommended $1.5 million.

In other business, Tree Warden Roland Cote received approval to remove a diseased tree at the corner of Barstow and Church Streets. He also said that in the nine years he has headed up this department, he has planted 30 trees.

Bob Field, representing Mahoney and Sons for property located on the north side of Route 6 between Yard Boss and Shipyard Galley, received preliminary commercial development plan approval. Field said the owners were seeking a letter from the Planning Board in support of their conceptual plan in order to obtain permission to make curb cuts on the state highway. The board members voted to provide the needed document.

A letter of resignation was read into the minutes from veteran Planning Board member John Mathieu. Mathieu explained via the missive that after nine years, it was necessary for him to step aside immediately due to the demands of his profession and charitable activities.

Before closing the meeting, Tucker noted that Secretary Tammy Ferreira was also "leaving us." On July 19, the Board of Selectmen will formally accept her resignation.

The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Planning Board is scheduled for August 1 at 7:00 pm in the town hall conference room.

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