Muddy Creek Headwaters Project:
Town Meeting Voters Authorize $500,000

Muddy-Creek-looking-downstream-by-David-Colantuono-The-Cape-Codder

Photo by David Colantuono, The Cape Codder

At the May 2, 2016 Harwich Town Meeting, voters unanimously passed Article 38 authorizing $500,000 in Town Community Preservation Act funds toward the Muddy Creek Headwaters Land Preservation Project. The goal of the project is to preserve 17 acres (~14 acres in E. Harwich & ~3 acres in Chatham) with approx. 1,400 feet of shoreline on Muddy Creek that flows into Pleasant Bay at Jackknife Cove. Harwich Conservation Trust (HCT) is very grateful for such strong voter support of the project and continues to work toward a purchase agreement with the Marini family that owns the land. After an agreement is reached, then HCT will endeavor to raise the balance between the Town contribution and the purchase price to:
  • Protect the water quality of Muddy Creek and Pleasant Bay
  • Protect wildlife habitat
  • Create a future walking trail
  • Preserve the history of the land

The 17-acre site is upstream of the new Route 28 Muddy Creek Bridge & Salt Marsh Restoration Project. The bridge/salt marsh restoration project goal is to enable full tidal flow back and forth between Pleasant Bay and Muddy Creek by replacing two undersized culverts beneath Rt. 28 with a bridge. Why is this bridge project important to the potential 17-acre purchase? When the bridge is in place by summer 2016, people can kayak and canoe at the right tide from Jackknife Cove upstream into Muddy Creek to enjoy scenic views of the landscape from the water.  A foot trail will also be available from Church Street.

HCT-Marini_overview-map_29March2016_optSummary of Article 38:

Owned by the Marini family through the Marini Nominee Trust, the 17-acre property on Church Street is listed for sale at $1.65 million. The Harwich Conservation Trust (HCT) remains in discussion with the Marini family about a potential purchase price.  Again, once a purchase agreement is secured, HCT has committed to raising the balance between the purchase price and the town’s maximum contribution of $500,000 in Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds. Use of CPA funds does not compete with other important town needs like the schools, police/fire, road repairs, and other services paid for by general revenue.

As part of Article 38, HCT pledged to raise and transfer an additional $300,000 to the Town for a total warrant article figure of $800,000.  This warrant article amount of $800,000 puts the Town in a positive position to apply for a $400,000 state grant to offset the final purchase price.

Conservation Restriction and Land Ownership:

Because HCT will be responsible for raising the bulk of funds, HCT will own the land, but subject to the Town holding a conservation restriction over the land. Essentially, the restriction is a protective overlay measure. Typically, when the Town purchases a property for conservation with a majority of Town funds, then HCT holds the conservation restriction. In this case with Article 38, HCT is raising the majority of funds for the land purchase, so the Town will hold the conservation restriction.

What’s at stake?: If not preserved, then we lose the wildlife habitat, history, and walking trails in this valley of woodland, meadow, and wetland .  .  . forever:

Many ecologically valuable areas have been haphazardly developed over the past decades. The result is that the Cape has been deprived of traditional water views, wildlife habitat, and recreation resources.  The real estate market is rebounding since the 2008 recession.  Cape Cod communities are again faced with some of the most intense development pressure in the Northeast.  If we can’t purchase and preserve this property, then it could be subdivided and developed into 12 houses. This development could negatively impact water quality, wildlife habitat, generate more traffic, and increase the demand for expensive municipal services and infrastructure. A subdivision plan has already been engineered and received approval by permitting agencies.

May 2nd voter approval of Article 38 was an important step forward in the negotiating process to signal town support of this partnership project with HCT.

Stay tuned as HCT continues to seek a purchase agreement for the 17-acre property.