The Mattapoisett Land Trust (MLT) scored when they applied for and received a Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness grant. The $960,000 grant is one of the largest distributed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
The department’s website notes that, “The Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness grant program (MVP) provides support for cities and towns in Massachusetts to begin the process of planning for climate change resiliency and implementing priority projects. The state awards communities with funding to complete vulnerability assessments and develop action-oriented resiliency plans. Communities who complete the MVP program become certified as an MVP community and are eligible for MVP Action grant funding and other opportunities.”
Locally, no one was happier than the president of the MLT, Mike Huguenin. Huguenin has been banging the gong on the importance of preserving the 120 acre site for nearly two years. Along with MLT members Gary Johnson, Alice McGarth, Joanna Dresser, and Peter Davies, Huguenin worked long and hard to make the townspeople appreciate the importance of protecting these tender resource lands while negotiating with the landowners.
When town administrator Mike Gagne became aware of the MLT’s plans to try and purchase the acreage for permanent conservation, he was all in. Gagne is well-known for his work in assisting organizations with environmental issues from preserving lands for passive recreation, to preserving fresh water sources, to engaging the necessary legal assets to ensure conservation commission conditions are upheld. He was recognized this past May by the Buzzards Bay Coalition when they awarded him with a Guardian Award for his work on behalf of land conservation, wetlands protection, and regional environmental cooperation. Given his experience, Gagne rolled up his sleeves and jumped into the Pine Island Watershed project noting the importance of protecting the acreage from development due to its potential as a way for residents of the coastal neighborhood to evacuate the area in the event of a major storm and in recognition of raising sea levels that will one day eliminate existing roadways to homes in that area.
Gagne, along with the MLT, also believed in the importance of giving the public better access to Pine Island Pond, an area for shellfish harvesting and non-motorized watercraft recreating. With this acquisition there would be a nearly unbroken natural corridor from Route 6 to the shore.
But its not quite time for celebrating as Huguenin is well aware. When The Wanderercaught up with him, he was still breathless from the good news, but cognizant of the work ahead. “It’s really great news … and the project is just so great …” but there is still another $150,000 that needs to be secured, he quickly added. To try and accomplish this, Huguenin will be attending the annual meetings of beach communities that will be positively impacted by having an alternate evacuation route through uplands along the watershed parcels. “The challenge now is to raise private funds,” he shared. He said that even small donations add up, and he believes those small contributions give the MLT a morale boost because “it shows the community is behind this.”
Gagne told The Wanderer, “I’m delighted, this is a tremendous achievement; just fantastic!” He said that by granting such a large amount to the MLT for this acquisition, it demonstrated the Commonwealth’s understanding of the importance of the acreage. “They saw how vulnerable the area is especially given sea level rise,” he said.
The MLT Facebook page also contained this notification:“The town and state have given the Pine Island Watershed project a tremendous vote of confidence, and provided over $1.2 million of the $1.5 million needed to complete the acquisition. Now private citizens need to finish the job, and I’m happy to report that Mattapoisett Land Trust already has raised approximately half of the final $300,000 needed. We will continue our outreach to everyone who loves the Pine Island area, and hope to complete final fundraising this summer.”
By Marilou Newell