The Buzzards Bay Coalition (BBC) held a public presentation on April 25 to share its plans for restoring old cranberry bogs on Acushnet Road to a natural wetlands paradise. BBC Vice President Brendan Annett and Restoration Ecologist Sara Quintal spoke for about an hour explaining the current condition of the property and future plans.
When the BBC acquired the 200-acre site from Decas Cranberry Corporation in 2011, there was an agreement in place with the United States Department of Agriculture that would allow the bogs and surrounding area to return to more natural conditions. However, if left completely alone, invasive vegetation and their predomination of the white pine forests would diminish the environment’s ability to support diverse wildlife populations. Simply put, something needed to be done to remove manmade structures such as dikes and ditches once used in cranberry agriculture.
“We are evaluating concepts on how to bring back the wetlands,” said Quintal –water that had for centuries been controlled for agriculture. She said there were 57 acres that had been active bogs. “We plan to restore the 57 acres to what would have been there prior to farming.”
Quintal explained further that, presently, water “doesn’t flow naturally through the site”.
“We want the water to move more naturally, and so we are studying key natural processes and stressors,” she explained, adding that the stressors were the manmade culverts, flumes that controlled water, and an introduction of sand used on the bogs for vine production. “These are not natural.”
And while the BBC can’t say with certainty what the land would have become if mankind had never disturbed it, computer modeling and similar sites have aided in their study. The BBC has also had outside expertise to assist in coming up with a viable plan – GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc., whose multi-disciplinary approach to environmental construction management is expected to yield the correct solution for The Bogs.
Quintal said, currently, the artificial water flow requires manual manipulation, and the high banks of the dike system aren’t conductive to wildlife migration.
“Imagine being a little turtle with short legs trying to crawl up those banks,” said Quintal.
In attendance were several abutters. Their primary concerns and questions centered on what water flow changes would mean to their properties. Would their private lands be flooded once the water flow is no longer controlled?
Annett and Quintal assured residents that any plans would take into consideration the stormwater run-off into existing streams, and that once the bogs are allowed to “soak up” water instead of hold water, as they currently do, expectations are that flooding would not be an issue.
Quintal said layers of sand would be removed from the bogs, allowing peat layers to be exposed. She also said that Tripp Mill Brook would continue to function and that a long pipe diverting water in that direction would stay in place.
The bogs themselves will have the dike contours smoothed and leveled, invasive plant-life removed and controlled, and a trail system established so that public use would not only be preserved, but also enhanced.
Mattapoisett Highway Superintendent Barry Denham asked on behalf of the community if the BBC would consider including a skating area for public recreating. Annett said they would include that in the design features.
All costs associated with The Bogs restoration plan will be covered by USDA grants in the sum of $1.6 million, and another $88,000 from the Recreational Trails Program. The project will be monitored by the Mattapoisett Conservation Commission, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, and the Massachusetts Wildlife’s Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program.
The time and place of a future public meeting will be announced within the next eight weeks. To learn more about The Bogs restoration plan, visit www.savebuzzardsbay.org.
By Marilou Newell