ORLEANS — For decades, the Peck family has been stewards of the hillside that runs down to Arey’s Pond and the Namequoit River, said to be the site of the town’s last Indian meetinghouse. In 2006, they sold the town 8.2 acres that became the Marion Hadley and Samuel Watson Peck Conservation Area.
Last week, three members of the town’s open space committee tramped through the lightly-wooded north two acres of the Pecks’ remaining property, a section for sale at $895,000. On Monday, they met to consider recommending its purchase while giving serious thought to acquiring another patch of Peck land that borders the conservation area. All actions would require town meeting approval.
Chairman Robert Cunningham and member Stephanie Gaskill liked the possibilities of the northern parcel.
“When we submit an application to the CPC (community preservation committee), my understanding is that the more buttons we can push, the more values we can express in the purchase we want to make, the better off we’re going to be,” Cunningham said. “Preserving the land has an intrinsic value. Preserving land on a waterfront has even greater value. Then there’s recreation. I put a high value on conservation objectives that embody a recreational aspect… You would be able to walk that parcel at the very least and go down to the overlook there. Maybe the town could put in a nice bench to view Arey’s Pond.” Gaskill liked the parcel’s “quicker access” directly from Arey’s Lane and said there might be access to an area for a kayak rack that “would make it easier for people to get to Arey’s Pond.”
Member Hardie Truesdale had a different take.
“I find it very difficult to conceive of the possibility of putting a kayak rack on that property,” he said. “I think access would be difficult, parking would be difficult, and going across that ditch is a question mark. What I’m more enthralled with is that other lot (the southern 2.5 acres abutting conservation land). It connects with existing town property. It has waterfront, and it provides access to making a larger trail system for recreation. What you lose is the ability for kayak access; it’s too far to carry a kayak.”
Gaskill said she’d learned that the Davis family, which owns Arey’s Pond Boat Yard, has what one might call a second right of first refusal (following the town’s) for buying the northern lot. She said she’d been told “the Davises do not want any more building on Arey’s Pond. If they became the purchasers of the property, that lot would not be built on. There wouldn’t be public access, but it wouldn’t be built on.”
In a conversation that morning with realtor Peg LoPresto, Cunningham said, he’d learned that the conservation-minded Peck family would consider selling the southern instead of the northern parcel, or both. The former “would be an easier sell to the town,” Truesdale said. “It seems more logical.” Gaskill countered that the northern land might go over better if it included access to the pond. “When you listened at town meeting to people’s concerns,” she said, “they want access.”
Members agreed to gather more information and try to settle on a recommendation at their next meeting, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 12. Time is short, as applications for community preservation funding are due to that committee by Nov. 27.
The open space committee also heard from Orleans Conservation Trust trustee Charlie Carlson, who spoke of OCT’s effort to buy three parcels at 66 Portanimicut Rd. in South Orleans. “We will be closing come hell or high water on the purchase of these three lots at the end of the year and beginning of next year,” he said. “We have no right to back out if we do not raise the necessary funds, a risk the Trust decided to take because of the importance of the property.” The land is the central link in a potential network of conservation lands that could stretch to Pah Wah Pond and out to Pleasant Bay.
OCT needs $825,000 to buy the three lots, which includes the purchase price of $775,000 and $50,000 to demolish a dilapidated vacant house and to build a trail head parking area. The organization has put in $100,000 of its own money and raised “slightly in excess of” $400,000 from individuals and a state grant. With just a couple of months left, “we must reserve the potential of selling one of the lots,” Carlson said, “probably the northernmost one for housing.” Discussions have been held with he town’s affordable housing trust as one option.
“We are working on developing a CPC application that includes a housing and open space request,” he said. “It’s likely we’ll file an alternative application purely for open space. That would reflect greater fundraising success.”
Cunningham said he was “wholly in support” of the acquisition as a “continuation of the green necklace...We should write a very strong supporting letter” to the CPC for approval at the Nov. 12 meeting.