$3 Million Open Space Deal Announced

By: William F. Galvin

Harwich Conservation Trust and the town are teaming up to save an additional 85 acres of open space in the Six Ponds Special District, an environmentally sensitive section of the community. A $3 million fundraising campaign is underway to protect water quality, rare plant and wildlife habitat, and extend walking trails. PHOTO BY STEVE FURLONG

HCT, Town Seek Funding For Major Six Ponds Purchase 

HARWICH – The town and the Harwich Conservation Trust are preparing to team up for a major open space purchase in the Six Ponds Special District.

The trust has begun a $3 million fund-raising campaign for the purchase of 85 acres known as the Six Pond Great Woods Project. The land is located adjacent to Aunt Edies, Cornelius, Walkers, Black, Olivers and Hawksnest ponds in the Six Pond Special District. The Community Preservation Committee is recommending $950,000 in Community Preservation Act funds be used for the town to procure a conservation restriction on the land.

The Six Ponds District was designated an environmentally sensitive area two decades ago by the town and Barnstable County to protect the water quality, natural resources, including rare plant and wildlife habitat, wetlands and coastal plain pond shores, according to HCT Executive Director Michael Lach.   

The pine oak forest is bordered on the north by Route 6 and is the largest undeveloped tract remaining to be developed on the Lower Cape,” said Mark Robinson, executive director of The Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts, Inc. “If not preserved, the land will be converted into an 18-lot subdivision.” 

The property, owned by Peter Copelas, Heather Copelas and her husband, Wayne Darragh, is located along the west end of Spruce Road, which borders Route 6. Lach said HCT’s agreement with the Copelas family is for the 75-acre contiguous tract for $2.75 million, and the remainder of the funds would be for the purchase of a 10-acre parcel adjacent to and north of Aunt Edies Pond. The total fundraising goal is $3 million for all 85 acres, he said.

The purchase would create a contiguous connection to several additional open space parcels, including 56 acres of town conservation land, which links to 240 acres of state land, including Hawksnest State Park. Together with HCT parcels, the acquisition will bring about 400 acres of conservation land together surrounding the ponds, said Lach.

This is a big challenge, but one we cannot pass up,” said HCT President Tom Evans. “It’s the largest acreage that HCT has ever tried to save. There is so much here from woodlands and water quality to habitat and footpaths. We can reach the $3 million goal with town-HCT teamwork and everyone pitching in.”

The land offers an opportunity to create east-west walking trails, Lach said, noting that the southerly portion of the land is within the recharge area of public drinking supply wells.

Saving this land will help protect ponds, wildlife habitat, and create a new walking trail experience,” he said. “We hope voters in the May town meeting will turn out strongly in favor of a town contribution.”

After coming out of executive session Thursday evening, the community preservation committee disclosed the request for $950,000 to assist with the acquisition. The real estate and open space committee made the request on behalf of the town.

CPC member Kathy Green said a purchase and sales agreement has been signed for the land. If town meeting approves the use of the funds, the town would receive a conservation restriction on the land and the trust would be the owner of the property. She said the property would be designated for water quality protection, conservation and recreation purposes.

I’m 100 percent for this project, it is so important to preserve this open space and network of trails forever,” Selectman Chairman Michael MacAskill said in a press release issued by the trust.

The town, working with the trust, will seek a LAND (Local Acquisition for Natural Diversity) Grant from the Division of Conservation Services which can provide up to $400,000 in reimbursement to the town. If approved, the money would be returned to the community preservation committee, Green said.

The CPC voted unanimously to recommend the funds be used to assist the trust with the purchase of the property. The committee also voted to allow the use of up to $12,500 from its administrative account to cover the cost of an appraisal for the property and grant writing expenses.

The trust hopes to be able to reach its fundraising goal by the end of December, Lach said.