HCT, Town and the State Partner to Save Land in the Herring River Watershed

As part of the Save Land-Save Water Initiative, Harwich Conservation Trust (HCT) is focusing on preserving priority watershed properties that can help protect water resources like the Herring River, harbors, ponds, and drinking water supply.

HCT in collaboration with the Town of Harwich and State’s Conservation Partnership Grant Program recently completed the preservation of five acres with approximately 782 feet (or the length of 2-1/2 football fields) of forested road frontage on scenic Bell’s Neck Road. The land located in the Herring River watershed also has 1,180 feet of salt marsh shoreline. Bell’s Neck Road is the main route through the Town-owned Bell’s Neck Conservation Area and the project partners saw this 5-acre acquisition as part of a “scenic gateway” for travelers heading north from Rt. 28 into the popular Bell’s Neck conservation destination that has trails around the West Reservoir.

The Herring River is identified in the Town Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan as having impaired water quality, primarily due to nitrogen emanating from septic systems. The Herring River is the most significant alewife migration/spawning area on Cape Cod and perhaps even in New England with seven miles of river flowing from four upstream spawning ponds to Nantucket Sound. Preserving the land will help extinguish septic system nutrient loading into the Herring River and therefore help protect the health of its namesake fish.

Protecting the land also improves coastal resilience. The property has been identified by the State as BioMap2 Critical Natural Landscape for coastal adaptation. The coastal adaptation analysis for this location finds it to have high potential to support inland migration of salt marsh and other coastal habitats in the face of climate change over the coming century.

The 5-acre property is adjacent to existing Town conservation land that includes a cemetery from the 1800s.

At Harwich Town Meeting, voters unanimously approved contributing $125,000 in Community Preservation Act (CPA) open space funds to jumpstart HCT’s $325,000 land-saving effort. HCT was approved for a State grant of $155,000 toward the land purchase. HCT donors raised the rest of the land-saving funds to seal the deal.

“We’re grateful for Town Meeting voter support and state funding for this partnership project to preserve priority watershed lands that truly enhance our shared quality of life by protecting water, wildlife and scenic views. It’s important to recognize the Town boards, committees, and staff that worked on this project including the Real Estate & Open Space Committee, Community Preservation Committee, Select Board, Conservation Commission, Town Administrator Joe Powers, and Town Conservation Administrator Amy Usowski. There are many facets to these increasingly complex land preservation projects and our Town partners were right there contributing expertise and feedback every step of the way,” said Michael Lach, HCT executive director.