To the Editor:
The controversy swirling around Sprague’s Cove pits scientific evidence and sound ecological practice against perception. Back in the late 1980s, the waters near Silvershell Beach were contaminated with fecal coliform bacteria owing to runoff from residential areas. The town opted to address the problem using the natural processes that occur in wetlands, based on advice and guidance from experts at the Mass Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Mass Fish and Wildlife, among others. The basin was constructed on a dredge fill site and planted with appropriate native vegetation to remediate the pollution and stabilize the earthworks structure.
Unfortunately since then, the site was not sufficiently maintained, and invasive plant species, particularly phragmites (tall marsh grass), took over. This vegetation deteriorates the earthwork structure and greatly reduces the site’s ability to remove harmful bacteria from runoff water when it enters the basins. Wildlife will move into all sorts of vegetation, but the diversity of species that lives in a phragmites-dominated wetland is substantially reduced from what one would find in a wetland filled with a variety of native plants.
So the choice is clear. Do we, the residents of Marion, prefer to allow invasive species to return to Sprague’s Cove, thereby reducing its ability to mitigate runoff pollution, or do we want to follow the scientific advice and return native species to the Cove where it can remove harmful bacteria from the runoff and stabilize the structure? The eradication and control of invasive plants won’t be pretty at first, but in the end, the replanting of native plants will attract a greater variety of wildlife, help mitigate pollution from our neighborhoods, and ultimately create a more attractive vista.
Jennifer Francis, Marion
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