HARWICH — Remote sections of the town often draw unwanted activities, and conservation lands seem to take the brunt of such spoils. That seems to be the case on land just north of Robbins Pond in North Harwich.
The conservation commission is calling for enhanced enforcement in the 16-plus-acre area, including a former cranberry bog and other parcels nearby. Trash has been dumped in the area, dirt bikes roam freely and groups sometimes gather at night lighting fires.
“It is a very remote area in town, and an attractive spot for those looking to partake in illegal activities,” Conservation Commission Chairman Brad Chase told Police Chief David Guillemette in a letter seeking more enforcement.
“Over the past couple of years, this has become a hot spot for off-road vehicle activity on the Cape. Numerous motorbikes, ATVs and large trucks are there on a daily basis, particularly along the old bog road and the little beach area. No off-road vehicles are permitted on this land,” wrote Chase.
The conservation department has installed concrete barriers in an attempt to keep out larger trucks, but other off-road vehicles can access from numerous social trails that have been created. Fires are common at night and there is a large risk of a fire getting out of control. Dumping and garbage is frequently found near the pond, according to Chase.
The commission used to lease the 16-acre cranberry bog site to Leo Cakounes, but the lease expired last year and Cakounes said the commission did not want to renew the 10-year agreement. Cakounes lives across the pond from the location, and said when he leased the land, there were fewer problems.
“I was out there all the time and when I told people it was my property they left,” Cakounes said. “But when I left, it opened up for people.”
Cakounes said the area was a very difficult place to manage. If access is blocked with boulders, people come in with chain saws and cut down trees to get around the boulders, he said.
When he had the lease, Cakounes said, he planted 3,800 pumpkins in the former bog and they were destroyed by dirtbikers. He also said he had planted different types of native trees. People come in with boats to access Robbins Pond and kids light fires; he said a couch was once lit on fire there and the flames shot 60 feet high.
There is a lot of open space in the area, Cakounes said, with nearby water department property and open space running to the Punkhorn and into Brewster. The area is adjacent to Headwaters, a large residential neighborhood to the east. A main access to the area is through the Headwaters subdivision.
Conservation Administrator Amy Usowski told selectmen Monday night she has spoken with the police chief and Deputy Chief Kevin Considine and they are going to be setting up a site visit.
Selectman Michael MacAskill pointed out there have been a lot of new paths created in the area. The DPW should be asked to place more boulders to block access and prevent dumping, he said.