Conservation And Preservation Partnerships Lauded

By: William F. Galvin

Local land trust officials came together at the Robert F. Smith Cold Brook Preserve on Bank Street on Friday to celebrate partnerships. William F. Galvin Photo

HARWICH – The partnership between government and land trusts is essential for the protection of sensitive natural resources. The Harwich Conservation Trust and the Barnstable Land Trust came together May 19 to celebrate that relationship.

Representatives from conservation trusts on the Mid and Lower Cape gathered at the Robert F. Smith Cold Brook Preserve along Bank Street to recognize the importance of their bond. Several representatives of the Cape's legislative delegation were recognized for their efforts to assist with projects to preserve Cape Cod.

"Together we can save the most sensitive lands to protect water resources, the economy, and our shared quality of life," said Harwich Conservation Trust Executive Director Michael Lach.

"This is a way that land trusts can thank the delegations for those relationships," added HCT President Tom Evans.

Among legislators recognized for their contributions were State Senator Julian Cyr, D-Truro, State Representative Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, State Representative Chris Flanagan, D-Dennis, and State Representative Kip Diggs, D-Barnstable.

With the HCT's 66-acre Cold Brook preserve as a backdrop, Evans said the original plan for the land was to restore fallow cranberry bogs to wetland habitat. But thanks to federal, state and town participation, a more comprehensive ecological restoration of Cold Brook, bordering wetlands and the preserve will be done.

"The project will enhance nearly a mile of stream and over 44 acres of adjacent wetland habitat, resulting in improved fish passage, habitat diversity, wetland function, water quality and ecological resiliency amidst climate change," according to an HCT summary of the planned work.
The trust's partnership with the town of Harwich, the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the legislative delegations provided funding for the project, Evans said.

During the gathering another partnership took center stage. The trust and the Harwich Fire Association (HFA) will be sharing the 2.06-acre parcel to the north side of the preserve. The trust will be using a portion of the lot for parking at the preserve's trailhead. An updated trail system with a wheelchair-friendly loop is planned.

The HFA will restore the fire station for multiple uses, including a museum that will showcase the first fire truck purchased by the town, a 1928 Maxim. Other plans call for event space and a commercial kitchen on the first floor and two 600-square-foot apartments on the second floor to address workforce housing needs, a shared laundry, and HFA office space.

"We hope to create a space where people can come together to meet, to learn, or celebrate. The building will serve as a monument to the rich tradition and history of the Harwich Fire Department," said HFA President Bruce Young.

The trust and the fire association joined together in the $300,000 acquisition of the former fire station and parking area from the town. The fire association also secured $350,000 in Community Preservation Act funds for restoration of the nearly 100-year-old fire station.

The trust is working closely with the town on the nitrogen attenuation component to the project. Lach said the trust's attorney is working with town counsel to finalize the use of up to $2 million approved by town meeting to address nitrogen reduction. The permitting process is nearly complete and work could begin this fall, he said.

BSC group has developed a Cold Brook gateway parking and trailhead design for the parking facilities, which incorporates the fire association's plans for the area surrounding the town's first fire station, Lach said.

While nitrogen attenuation through the development of ponds and wetlands is a major component of the project, Evans also focused on the half-mile wheelchair-friendly loop that provides access to the entire community.

The late Robert F. Smith, a founder of the Harwich Conservation Trust and longtime president of the trust, used a wheelchair.

"Bob couldn't access the trails he was working to create," Evans said of the miles of trails now available throughout HCT conservation Lands. "The whole purpose of this is to make it work for handicapped access."

Young said the finishing touches on the permitting for the fire station restoration should happen in the June 21 meeting with the historic district and historical commission. Local contractor John Domos is lined up to begin work on the exterior of the building right after July 4. Young said there is a separate contractor to install the period overhead doors at the front of the building.

"We're hoping by fall the whole building will be tight to the weather," Young said.

"This is a unique nonprofit partnership," Lach said of the HCT and HFA coming together. "It will lift up and preserve a shared quality of life