Mass Audubon Pledges $3.5 Million To Preserve Sea Camps Land; Brewster Conservation Trust To Give $1 Million

by Rich Eldred
Brewster residents gathered for the dedication of a town beach at the Sea Camps property. FILE PHOTO Brewster residents gathered for the dedication of a town beach at the Sea Camps property. FILE PHOTO

BREWSTER – Massachusetts Audubon has pledged $3.5 million to Brewster to help protect and develop the two Cape Cod Sea Camps properties the town purchased from the Delahanty family for $26 million in 2021.

“We’re thrilled to work with the town of Brewster,” said David O’Neill, president of Mass Audubon. “It’s a wonderful partnership with the ability to add a level of expertise and to do things we wouldn't do independent of each other. This is unique.”

The properties consist of 55 acres on Cape Cod Bay and Route 6A and 66 acres on Route 137 and Long Pond.

The board of directors of Mass Audubon have approved $2 million for the Bay property, which has over 90 buildings and cabins, an outdoor pool the town has been using and extensive beach frontage on the bay.

Mass Audubon will hold a 10-acre conservation restriction on the 10 acres surrounding a small pond at the north end of the property, adjoining Brewster’s Spruce Hill woods. That land also covers coastal dunes and woods. Trails will be constructed through the woods and around the pond. Under the plans for the property the town will present at a forum Feb. 15, Audubon will construct a nature center with office space on the Bay property, as well as a smaller one on the pond property, and have the ability to house some staff seasonally in three leased cabins on the bay property.

“On the bay property we’re taking the lead with the community on a conservation restriction on the most natural portion. I love to see it permanently protected,” O’Neill said. “There are seasonal housing opportunities on the site and the town is interested in a nature center that would be used in inclement weather on the pond property. It will be open occasionally to the general public and we can run small programs there.”

Audubon would utilize trails around the small pond and ideally connect them with the trail at Spruce Hill.

“We don’t want to build much infrastructure on the Long Pond parcel,” O’Neill noted. “We are involved principally as collaborators to protect a significant portion of the Long Pond parcel and hope to have the ability to provide programs on the Long Pond site for young people and adults alike.”

Mass Audubon pledged $1.5 million to the Long Pond property and the Brewster Conservation Trust will give at least $1 million to obtain a conservation restriction on 56 acres, leaving 10 acres along Route 137 for affordable housing and possibly a local wastewater treatment plant. Audubon staff and equipment will be based at the bay property’s nature center, which would serve as a staging area for programs at Long Pond..

“I’m excited to report to the board that we’re endorsing the plan proposed by the Pond planning committee for the Sea Camps,” BCT President Tino Kamark told the Brewster select board Monday night. “I’m excited about the BCT and town and Mass Audubon partnership going forward and I’m excited 56 acres will be preserved. This is a very exciting moment. This is the biggest (land preservation) since the Punkhorn and I’m grateful for the work of the Pond planning committee. I’m confident we will be able to provide $1 million to the town for their services.”

That leaves 85 percent of that property retained for conservation and passive recreation through the pond and walking trails. That still requires town meeting approval. Mass Audubon will run outdoor education programming at the pond such as bird watching, kayaking, pond and wetland exploration. A summer camp is also a possibility.

While Mass Audubon almost always owns its own properties and nature centers, the organization has two somewhat similar arrangements. One is at Great Blue Hill in Milton, where it maintains the Trailside Museum and runs programs on the state-owned reservation. The other is in Mattapan at the Boston Nature Center.

O’Neill said Audubon would like to do similar partnerships in other towns.