New Trail Open at Muddy Creek Headwaters Preserve

The walking trail is now open at HCT’s 17-acre Muddy Creek Headwaters Preserve!

The new conservation destination on Church Street in East Harwich offers scenic vistas of a wildflower meadow in full bloom nestled within a forested valley that borders 1,400 feet of shoreline along Muddy Creek flowing into Pleasant Bay.  The trail length is about one-third of a mile and travels gentle slopes.

The map shows the 17-acre landscape (shown in red) in the context of Muddy Creek and Pleasant Bay. 

The Marini family had owned the land since the 1950s. In 2003, HCT and the Marini family started exploring conservation options. Positive change can take time to evolve. Ultimately in 2016, they reached an agreement for HCT to raise the funds and purchase the land.

Aerial view of the 17-acre Muddy Creek Headwaters Preserve by Gerry Beetham

The fundraising goal for the Muddy Creek Headwaters Project was $1.65 million. Town Meeting voters unanimously approved $500,000, the State awarded a $400,000 grant, and Chatham Conservation Foundation donated $50,000.

To raise the rest, hundreds of HCT members truly stepped up as they contributed donations ranging from $25 to six figures. In the home stretch, leadership gifts from the Wequassett Resort and anonymous donors as well as a 2 to 1 challenge gift from Neil and Anna Rasmussen and matching donations completed the ambitious land-saving campaign. 

Cape Cod communities are faced with some of the most intense development pressure in the Northeast. If HCT supporters and project partners hadn’t responded so generously to the 17-acre land-saving campaign, then the land could have been subdivided and developed into 12 houses. A subdivision in that area would have negatively influenced water quality and wildlife habitat as well as generate more traffic and increase the demand for expensive municipal services and infrastructure. Extinguishing the subdivision septic systems in that part of the Pleasant Bay Watershed saves taxpayers money long-term by reducing the need for sewer connections. 

The trailhead takes shape by Gerry Beetham

Just like the power of partnership that made the land purchase possible, collaboration with several groups was key to completing the stewardship steps needed to restore a meadow, establish the trailhead, and create a walking trail. Many individuals and groups contributed time and expertise to put the ecological restoration and public access puzzle together, including the following:

  • Blue Flax Design prepared and seeded the site for native grasses and wildflowers.
  • Intelligent Irrigation made sure the meadow had sufficient water from 2017-2019 and by fall 2019 the meadow was fully independent of artificial irrigation as the grasses and wildflowers adapted to the ebb and flow of natural precipitation.  
  • HCT Boundary Quest volunteers found, mapped, and marked property boundaries.
  • HCT volunteers removed several truck loads of leftover debris.
  • Eagle Scout Carl Furner, his fellow scouts, and their parents built three benches.
  • AmeriCorps put in the trail.
  • Moran Engineering designed the parking area.
  • Colin Leonard Enterprises delivered mulch and stone (Colin is a HCT Trustee).
  • Coreopsis up close by Gerry Beetham

    RJV Construction completed the teardrop island designed to guide in cars.

  • John Martin donated large stones to border the teardrop island.
  • Robert. B. Our Company donated the curb stops.
  • T.W. Nickerson provided the small stones lining the entry way.
  • Town Highway Department delivered loam, mulch, and a sign for the handicapped parking space.
  • The Woodworkers Club of the Chatham-Harwich Newcomers built the trailhead kiosk.
  • Next steps: HCT will work with the Town Conservation Commission on vista pruning to create additional scenic views.

Muddy Creek Headwaters meadow by Michael Lach

Together, you and your fellow HCT members transformed this longstanding land preservation dream into reality. Butterflies, songbirds, and dragonflies bounce about the wildflower meadow. Green herons quietly explore the wetland edges while kingfishers chatter over Muddy Creek. During the day, red-tailed hawks and ospreys soar above while owls keep watch (& hoot) at night. And now you can visit from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year, free to enjoy the fresh air, natural beauty, and satisfaction of saving this special place for all to experience, for all time.