HARWICH – It is a project more than 10 years and considerable effort in the making, and on June 25 the excitement among the small gathering of supporters and nature enthusiasts was palpable as the Harwich Conservation Trust’s Muddy Creek Headwaters Preserve was officially opened as a new and evolving trail.
Located at 33 Church St., the property originally belonged to the Marini family, as Don Marini explained during a short ceremony last Thursday morning.
“My father bought this land in 1950s,” Marini said, adding that on it was built the house that he and his siblings grew up in. “I think that the physical beauty of this space was never really lost on us as kids. We would go down to the creek constantly, catching turtles and frogs.”
It was somewhere around 2004 when Marini’s mother decided to move off Cape and the family began exploring options for the 17.43 acres of land abutting Muddy Creek. At first, the family considered developing the land, but conversations with Bob Smith, a founding trustee of the HCT, led them to consider conservation instead.
Marini said what he appreciated most during that time was the understanding manner of Smith and the HCT.
“At no point did anybody try to talk us out of exploring development as an option,” Marini said. “You, instead, emphasized the benefits of a conservation approach. It was a very positive interaction with the HCT. I couldn’t be happier that it turned out this way, so the physical beauty that I enjoyed as a kid can remain in place.”
Marini was joined by HCT President Tom Evans in not cutting but lopping the orange-red ribbon to officially open the trail, which now includes a restored wildflower meadow leading into a wooded area and toward Muddy Creek, where it borders 1,400 feet of shoreline. Right now, the view is blocked by invasive shrubbery, but according to HCT Land Stewardship and Outreach Coordinator Tyler Maikath, eventually the non-native species will be cleared and a view of the water established.
The land itself is rich in Cape Cod history, once belonging to the Monomoyick people. Now, thanks to the efforts of the HCT and countless volunteers, the land is vibrant and alive with birds and other wildlife, including box turtles that have come to nest.
“It takes a village to preserve beautiful gems like this,” said HCT Executive Director Mike Lach. “I think this gathering truly represents the power of partnerships for positive change. It all starts with a shared vision and that takes place between town, conservation trust, and willing landowners, people that want to see their idea for the land stay on through time.”
Following the opening, Maikath led a small group of folks along the new trail, explaining the work that had been done to clear out, restore and replant vegetation and what work is to come.
“I happened to see someone out walking here yesterday. She said to me it was a labor of love,” Maikath said. “That has manifested itself through stewardship.”
That stewardship included not only the reclaiming of the land, but also the addition of an information kiosk built by the Harwich-Chatham Newcomers and a trio of wooden benches that were installed as part of Carl Furner’s Eagle Scout project.
Along with the beauty of the new preserve, Evans praised the town and state for their part in meeting the funding goal, as well as the many HCT supporters who contributed the remainder of the more than $1 million needed to seal the deal.
“There’s one piece of partnership and cooperation I’d really like to highlight and that’s the participation of the town and town voters through the Community Preservation Act,” Evans said. “When you think about it, it’s a very rare and wonderful piece of funding. Those funds were there for specifically this kind of project, without competing with the town, fire, police, or schools. Where does our taxpayer dollar go? Well, here it is. It’s not here just for tomorrow or next month or next year. This is here in perpetuity, and that’s something that’s very special.”
Evans noted that in the surreal days of a pandemic that’s impacted people across the globe, trails such as the Muddy Creek Headwaters Preserve offer peace.
“In these weird times, Mother Nature is a great comfort,” he said. “Across our various properties and trails, we have never seen as much use of this peace and solace. We’re adding to that inventory and making it possible for folks to enjoy the out of doors.”