HCT Has Match Challenge For Cornelius Pond Purchase

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Conservation

Cornelius Pond.  GUS ROMANO PHOTO

HARWICH — Over its 30-year existence, Harwich Conservation Trust has preserved and protected more than 550 acres of diverse natural resources in this town, and the non-profit group is facing a financial deadline for procurement of another vulnerable 15-acre parcel.

HCT Executive Director Michael Lach said the trust has little more than a month to raise $112,000 to secure the purchase of the parcel adjacent to Cornelius Pond, also called Eldredge Pond, just north of Queen Anne Road, and west of Eldredge Pond Road.

In honor of the Trust’s 30th anniversary, Thanksgiving and the spirit of giving season, Lach said a couple of donors have stepped forward to offer a match challenge of up to $50,000 to help HCT make this acquisition. He said the Green Family Foundation and HCT trustee Patti Smith will match every gift dollar-for-dollar until they reach $50,000. Smith is the wife of the late Robert F. Smith, a founding member of the Trust.

“The challenge essentially doubles anyone's gift to HCT, and that's very generous. The funds will help HCT continue to cultivate and complete complex land preservation projects, initiate innovative land stewardship endeavors, and provide engaging environmental education programs as well as meaningful volunteerism for the Cape Cod community,” Lach said.

Lach pointed out Cornelius Pond is a “coastal plain pond,” which represents some of the most vulnerable natural areas of the Northeast. The pond was created by a receding glacier that left a massive melting ice block in the coastal plain 18,000 years ago. The pond has since filled with groundwater and now supports a variety of species, including rare plants and animals.

“Together we have an opportunity to preserve 15 acres perched atop Cornelius Pond to help protect the historical feel, scenic splendor, water quality, and wildlife habitat diversity along more than 1,000 feet of pond shoreline,” Lach said.

The HCT executive director said Harwich voters have already expressed their support for preserving the parcel, in the form of a $200,000 Community Preservation Act appropriation last May. The town will receive the conservation restriction for this property for its contribution.

“That underscores the ongoing, productive partnership with the town to preserve watershed land,” Lach said.

The trust has had an interest in acquiring this property for several years. Lach said the parcel was listed for sale in May of 2015 for $1.15 million by the Ovaska family, which owned the land since the 1930s. They also sought to have the land preserved, and agreed to sell it to the Trust for $800,000.

Lach said the trust is seeking to raise $850,000, allowing for a $50,000 budget to survey the property, engineering site design for a parking area and creating walking loops there. There was a building on the property in need of demolition and Lach said the Robert B. Our Company donated its services to remove the structure.

To help HCT meet a deadline for the land purchase, the Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts agreed last summer to buy and hold the land, giving the Trust time to raise the necessary funds. That window is closing, Lach said, citing the need to raise an additional $112,000 by the Dec. 31, 2018 deadline to meet the $850,000 goal. The match challenge will go a long way in helping to meet that goal, Lach said, encouraging people to assist in preserving these natural resources.

“This is an opportunity to preserve 15 acres and 1,000 feet of shoreline, and to have a chance to preserve that much acreage and shoreline is very rare across the Cape,” Lach said.

Lach added there is more information on the trust's website, www.HarwichConservationTrust.org, contributions can be sent to P.O. Box 101, South Harwich, MA 02661.