The Harwich Conservation Trust (HCT) held its 27th Annual Meeting & Awards Ceremony on August 10th, hosted by the Wequassett Resort overlooking Pleasant Bay. More than 200 HCT members attended and heard the surprise news that HCT’s recent past President Robert F. Smith received the HCT’s 2015 Conservationist of the Year Award posthumously. The East Harwich Community Association (EHCA) received HCT’s 2015 Volunteer Group of the Year Award. Naturalist and author Peter Trull then delivered an educational and thought-provoking presentation about his new book The Gray Curtain that chronicles the dynamic interaction among gray seals, great white sharks, and commercial fishermen off Cape Cod and in the Northeast.
HCT also recognized former Trustee Bill Baldwin who had also passed away since the nonprofit’s Annual Meeting last summer. Bill Baldwin served as a Trustee for 15 years, creating & leading HCT’s Annual Golf Tournament fundraiser and chairing HCT’s Sign Committee. He also served on the Town of Harwich Planning Board and Community Preservation Committee. “He had a wonderfully gentle, yet resolute manner and we’ll be honoring him with an engraved memorial plaque at one of his favorite sanctuaries, the Lee Baldwin Memorial Woodlands,” said Michael Lach, HCT’s Executive Director.
Lach went on to say how the HCT Trustees and staff also miss Robert Smith, often known as Bob. Lach reflected that “Bob as a Founding Trustee and President for 27 years helped to create the ‘little land trust that could’ evolving to become a leader among land trusts that has preserved more than 550 acres across town, including the $3.6 million 49-acre Pleasant Bay Project just last year. And he most certainly would be confident in his successor, HCT’s new President Tom Evans.”
HCT’s new President Tom Evans then described how Mr. Smith was a natural fit for HCT’s Conservationist of the Year Award bestowed annually on those who have actively helped protect the woods, waters, and wildlife of Harwich.
“What better way to honor Bob who has helped all of us by envisioning and guiding a land trust that has preserved hundreds of acres, protecting precious waters like Pleasant Bay, our ponds and harbors, protecting wildlife habitat, walking trails and scenic vistas for all to enjoy, for all time. Tributes of this kind are usually accompanied by something very tangible – a plaque, perhaps, or framed certificate or formal acknowledgement in some form. We’re doing something a bit different. We can think of it as a plaque on a very large scale, that will be enjoyed and appreciated by a lot of people every single day.”
“We’re pleased to announce that we will be renaming HCT’s largest Preserve in Bob’s honor. The 66-acre Bank St. Bogs Nature Preserve in the heart of Harwich Port will be renamed the Robert F. Smith Cold Brook Preserve. Bob was instrumental in quietly guiding HCT to acquire this large landscape with a diversity of habitats including Cold Brook that flows through the site on its way to Saquatucket Harbor on Nantucket Sound. Cranberry harvesting had ceased before HCT acquired the land and now HCT and our partners are actively planning a large-scale ecological restoration project for the series of long since retired bogs. The acquisition and restoration have spanned – and will span – years, and constitute a project dear to Bob and Patti (Bob’s wife of 46 years). We quietly checked with Patti and are pleased with her assent, knowing as we do that her work and support behind the scenes encouraged and empowered Bob in all the work he did for HCT, as well as other trusts on the Cape. In the near future, you’ll hear more about this ongoing endeavor at what is now the Robert F. Smith Cold Brook Preserve,” said Evans.
Michael Lach presented a slide show of land preservation projects underway as well as lands currently on the market for sale that if preserved could help protect important natural resources.
Lach then presented HCT’s 2015 Volunteer Group of the Year Award to the East Harwich Community Association (EHCA). “EHCA was formed by citizen volunteers in response to a 32-lot subdivision proposed for 40 acres in 2004 that threatened Pleasant Bay, drinking water and community character. EHCA’S dedication and resolve eventually resulted in withdrawal of subdivision plans and enabled HCT to save the 49-acre Pleasant Bay Woodlands. EHCA also initiated a multi-year collaborative with the Town, the Cape Cod Commission, and the Association to Preserve Cape Cod to address future commercial growth, affordable housing, and resource protection in East Harwich. EHCA continues to monitor rezoning proposals for East Harwich with the goal of balancing growth with natural resource protection,” said Lach. EHCA President John Matthew received the award on behalf of EHCA and echoed Lach’s remarks.Peter Trull delivered a dynamic presentation about the interaction among seals, sharks and fishermen in the Northeast. Mr. Trull has been involved in Research and Education for about 35 years. In the 70s and 80s he coordinated Massachusetts Audubon Society’s coastal seabird monitoring program, assessing the breeding success and its limiting factors on 4 species of terns as well as piping plovers. He conducted field research in Guyana and Surinam, studying the market trapping of Common Terns and Roseate Terns, working with local bird trappers in several coastal villages. As Education Director at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, he developed programs and began studying Eastern Coyotes in 1989. Through the 90’s, as a researcher and Education Director at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, he developed and taught classes related to whales and marine birds and has completed over 2500 whale watching trips related to education and research. He presently teaches 7th grade Science at the Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School in Harwich MA, and holds a Master’s Degree in Education. He has written six books about Cape Cod natural history. His newest book The Gray Curtain was released this past June.
To learn more about the upcoming Wildlands Music & Art Stroll at the Robert F. Smith Cold Brook Preserve on Sept. 19th, click here!