CHATHAM – A $10,000 state grant will help improve trails at the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.
Improving accessibility, removing ruts and roots, updating informational displays and upgrading connections with adjacent trails are some of the uses for the grant, which was awarded to the Friends of the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.
The Friends and Monomoy staff will also contribute more than $5,000 in labor, material and matching funds to the project.
The refuge has applied for the DCR grants every year since 2016, said Refuge Management Matthew Hillman.
“Federal budgets are tighter now than they have been in the recent past,” he said. “Any sort of extra funding sources we can come across are a huge help.” The grant award shows that the state recognizes the importance of the refuge, he added.
Refuge trails can see up to 1,000 visitors a day at this time of year, Hillman said. The trails at the Morris Island refuge headquarters connect to paths on nearby property owned by the Chatham Conservation Foundation, a partner in the project along with the Chatham Council On Aging. Improving wheelchair and overall accessibility to the trails is a major aspect of the project, and both organizations will be involved to ensure that the work benefits as many people as possible.
A major aspect of the work will be improving a trail on the northeast side of the refuge headquarters property that leads to a viewing platform overlooking the southway and South Beach Island. At one time the path was paved and was a primary access to the beach, Hillman said. The pavement is now broken up and missing in spots and will all be removed and a “much more friendly” surface, probably of crushed stone, will replace it. The new surface will be safer, and neater, he said.
Deteriorated portions of the viewing platform the path leads to will also be replaced with more resilient composite material, which will cut maintenance costs, Hillman said. He hopes to get that trail improvement completed in time for next summer.
Paths to overlooks will be widened and roots removed to make the surface safer and easier to navigate. Erosion this past winter at one of the overlooks led to it being pulled back about three feet from the top of the bluff. Plans originally called for extending the boardwalk out to that overlook and building a deck.
“Given what we saw this past winter, I think we'll probably go with less of a permanent footing,” Hillman said.
If there is enough money, trails through a nearby marsh will be upgraded and an information kiosk and viewing platform possibly added, he said.
“This is all preliminary, but the goal is to make sure that at a minimum the trails are in really good shape for next summer,” he said.
“We're grateful to the state and the DCR for considering us,” Hillman added. “Every little bit goes a long way here.”
The grant was one of four totaling $249,745 announced by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and DCR Commissioner Leo Roy in Brewster on July 19. Dennis, Brewster and Sandwich also received grants for park, trail and Cape Cod Rail Trail improvements. The grants are funded through the federal Recreational Trails Program and state capital funds from the Environmental Bond Bill.