What About the Box Turtles?

Hundreds of baby diamondback terrapins have been saved by residents of The Cove just along Jenney Lane, but the Marion Conservation Commission wanted to know on December 13, what about the Eastern box turtles?

The commission reviewed The Cove in Marion Trust’s Request for an Extension Permit for three years to continue to operate the turtle habitat nesting area located on town-owned property on Jenney Lane. The request included an informal report on the “turtle garden” efforts, including that 120 terrapins were rescued and released into the cove in 2015, 110 in 2016, and 315 in 2017.

The request included a proposal to mow a wider area around the sandy turtle nest habitat that had been so successful so far, saying it would help the residents involved in the effort to locate and identify more terrapin nests, since some that were undiscovered over the past few years led to destruction by predators like foxes and raccoons.

Commission member Jeffrey Doubrava wondered if the commission was allowed to amend an Order of Conditions when the applicant simply requested a permit extension.

Commission member Shaun Walsh determined the answer was ‘no.’ A request for amendment would have to be duly advertised and a public hearing held.

Another issue with The Cove and the turtle garden, which also appeared on the agenda that night, was the violation of the mowing parameters that the commission observed during a recent site visit.

“There’s quite extensive mowing, way past where … they’re not supposed to be mowing,” said Chairman Cynthia Callow, “so we’re very concerned about the area in general.”

In addition to mowing past the boundary, the commission noted that several shrubs and brush were also removed.

“You could see evidence of cutting,” said Walsh, who noted up to five areas that were disturbed.

Doubrava said he believed the field mowing was for the benefit of the Eastern box turtles allegedly present in the area, “And I haven’t heard anything about box turtles.”

Walsh said he would prefer some information from a wildlife biologist on the matter.

The mowing area appeared to be “pretty generous” to commission member Joel Hartley.

“And I’ve yet to hear a report that there were five box turtles that would’ve been eaten by a fox,” said Doubrava.

Doubrava speculated that the overzealous mowing was likely innocent and performed by a hired landscaper. Having said that, though, providing the Order of Conditions to any contractors hired to perform the work was one of the conditions, and certain demarcations of the mowing boundary that should be present are, in fact, absent.

The commission chose to continue the hearing so a representative from The Cove could appear before the ConCom.

“My inclination right now is,” said Doubrava, “I’m not really in support of continuing to mow the field.”

“…Absent any evidence that it enhances the Eastern box turtle,” added Walsh.

The commission continued the hearing until December 27.

In other matters, the board issued a Positive Determination for the Request for Determination of Applicability for Great Hill, LLC, represented by Catherine Stone.

This will require a Notice of Intent filing for work to be permitted.

The work proposed includes the repair or replacement of nine drain pipes beneath North Great Hill Road that run from the wetlands to the shore. Cameras revealed several of the 100-year-old pipes disintegrating and cracking – three need to be replaced, while the rest can be repaired. Stone said the pipes are essential for the water flow to and from the wetlands, and with unobstructed pipes, Stone said hopefully the drainage would assist in keeping phragmites from thriving after they are treated for eradication. Riprap will also be installed to prevent erosion.

Walsh stated that it was “quite a bit of work” within the resource area, pointing out that Requests for Determination of Applicability seek to determine only if the area is a wetlands area subject to jurisdiction, and if the work is within the jurisdictional area. Walsh questioned whether the commission should permit the work through a Negative Determination of the RDA or a Positive Determination requiring a Notice of Intent.

Doubrava stated that, as a rule of thumb, the commission grants approval under a RDA only for work that is minor, or if the work is in a flood zone, but not a bona fide wetland.

“Most of this work … is permit-able,” said Walsh, “but I don’t know how we would possibly allow all of this work to happen with a Negative [RDA].”

Also during the meeting, the commission approved the three-year extension for the Town of Marion/Herring Inspector to allow the continued clearing of obstructions in the Sippican River in order to allow for the unobstructed passage of herring swimming upstream to spawn.

Stanley S. Russo of 19 Pine Hill Lane received a Negative Determination for his RDA to raze a house that Callow referred to as a “throwback from The Brady Bunch” at 4 Crapo Street. Russo will eventually re-build a three-bedroom cape style house for a new residence, but will re-submit another application for the project at a later date.

The next meeting of the Marion Conservation Commission is scheduled for December 27 at 7:00 pm at the Marion Town House.

Marion Conservation Commission

By Jean Perry


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