Trees For Restoration Project To Go To Transfer Station Site 

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Conservation

Harwich Conservation Trust and Harwich Fire Association  officials at the former Bank Street fire station. FILE PHOTO

HARWICH – As the town and the Harwich Conservation Trust begin planning for the ecological restoration of 44 acres in the Robert F. Smith Cold Brook Reserve next to the former fire station on Bank Street, the trust is looking for a staging area for felled trees that will be used for wildlife habitat as part of project.

HCT Executive Director Michael Lach was before selectmen on Jan. 4 seeking permission to use a section of the rear parking lot at the former fire station located at 203 Bank St. as a staging area for the trees. But with the town trying to sell the former fire station property, selectmen asked that the transfer station be used instead.

The eco-restoration project is expected to get underway in the next 12 to 18 months, Lach said. The project is a joint effort between the trust and the town to restore 44 acres of former cranberry bogs, making adjustments along a mile of Cold Brook, which runs through the preserve, including creating a pond and pools to increase natural nitrogen attenuation.

The project is part of the town’s comprehensive wastewater management plan and is expected to reduce nitrogen buildup in the Saquatucket Harbor Watershed, cutting back the need for construction of municipal sewers and saving the costs of infrastructure. The town has appropriated $2 million for the Cold Brook project, part of which calls for the use of trees throughout the area to create wildlife habitat.

Lach said the paved parking lot to the rear of the former fire station was a good location to store trees. The trees stored there would be 20-foot tree sections with 10- to 12-inch diameter and some root wads with a diameter of about three feet. 

Selectman Larry Ballantine said the board received a few letters from neighbors concerned about wildlife hanging out at the vacant station and causing problems. The presence of rats, mice, beetles and ticks were among the concerns of neighbors.

Nick Nelson, a fluvial geomorphologist with Inter-Fluve, Inc., the company that will oversee the restoration, said the trees would be either fresh cut or recently felled in storms. He projected the trees would be there for no more than eight to 10 months, since the project is due to begin next fall.

Selectman Donald Howell asked how this is different from creating a stump dump, which requires state permitting.

“It’s a temporary staging site,” responded Nelson, who also said the project will require conservation commission, state and federal approval to move forward.

Nelson, who grew up in Harwich, said his firm did a restoration project in Falmouth, directly across the road from a neighborhood, where trees were stored for a year to 18 months, and there were no problems or concerns raised by neighbors.

Selectman Mary Anderson suggested the group meet with the neighbors. Lach said he appreciated the neighbors speaking up, adding he saw the Jan. 4 meeting as an information session. If selectmen don't want to use the former station, an alternative location will be found.

Selectmen Chairman Michael MacAskill said he did not support the location for storage. The board has just voted to sell the former fire station property and he suggested the transfer station would be a better location. The town has plenty of equipment to move the trees when they are needed at the restoration location, he added.

“This is Harwich Conservation Trust doing something for the town, why wouldn’t we support it?” MacAskill said.

Lach said he was open to using the transfer station.

The selectmen agreed to have Town Administrator Joseph Powers talk with DPW Director Lincoln Hooper about locating the trees at the transfer station with the understanding they would be relocated to the Robert F. Smith Cold Brook Preserve when necessary.