by William Galvin,
The Cape Cod Chronicle
The Friends of Pleasant Bay made a major contribution to the Harwich Conservation Trust’s initiative to raise $3.6 million to preserve 49 acres of land poised for development just west of the bay.
To buy the land, HCT has an August 2014 deadline to raise $1.8 million, which will be matched by several groups. The parcel has been eyed for the development of 40 homes, and is the largest remaining unprotected parcel in the Pleasant Bay Watershed. It sits just west of Route 28 between Round Cove and Bay Road Beach.
In an effort to raise the funds, the Friends of Pleasant Bay, Wequassett Inn and Golf Resort, the John T. Ryan, Jr. Memorial Foundation and three anonymous families have committed to match $1.8 million raised through the Pleasant Bay Woodlands Project Challenge.
Friends of Pleasant Bay last summer made a $100,000 multi-year pledge to the initiative, and on Dec. 11 presented a $50,000 check to HCT as the initial challenge installment. In November, the Chatham Conservation Foundation agreed in November to make a $25,000 pledge to the purchase.
The 49 acres have been considered for development for a decade, with Harwich One LLC proposing to build 32 houses on 31.5 acres while another 8.5 acres would remain protected under an agricultural easement. The Summer Woods development project was met with several lawsuits and never came to fruition. But there remained another 9.7-acre abutting parcel that could have been used for another eight houses. The HCT proposal is to preserve the entire 49 acres.
HCT Executive Director Michael Lach said on Tuesday the Friends of Pleasant Bay donation is important because this match and the others committed to the purchase inspire people to make necessary contributions. Lach said HCT has to raise an additional $865,000 by the end of August 2014 to meet the conditions of the purchase.
HCT has a $200,000 annual donation for the next three years coming from the Green Family Charitable Foundation, which is being matched by the $1.8 million match commitment, he said. The Orleans Conservation Trust has also made a $2,500 donation and the Brewster Conservation Trust is considering a donation, he added.
“We’re very fortunate to have wide spread support from the general public for this project,” Lach said.
HCT is also pursuing a grant for up to $85,000 from the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Lach said. A decision on that application should be forthcoming by the end of this month. HCT is also in the planning process for a series of walks, talks and other events for 2014, which will help to raise funds for the purchase.
“If we receive enough additional donations to raise the remaining $865,000 we can purchase the 49-acres and protect the largest unprotected parcel in the Pleasant Bay Watershed,” Lach said. “This is important because of proximity to the bay and to public drinking water wells in Harwich. It will also provide a great location for new walking trails.”