Protecting A Hidden Gem: Six Ponds Resource Management Initiative

Aunt Edies Pond (shown at left) is on the western side of the Six Ponds DCPC. Aerial by Steve Furlong

Harwich holds many beautiful and well-known spots, and also what has long been a hidden gem. The Six Ponds Special District is the largest and most ecologically significant assemblage of undeveloped land and pond shore remaining on Cape Cod. To protect this area, Harwich Conservation Trust (HCT) is launching a community-based planning effort to deepen our understanding of what we can do to safeguard this fragile stretch of land and water resources for future generations.

The initiative builds on HCT’s existing Priority Ponds Project as well as prior work by the Town of Harwich and others. More than two decades ago, Town Meeting voters requested that Barnstable County designate 1,200 acres surrounding the ponds, bounded by Routes 6, 124, 137 and Queen Anne Road, as the Six Ponds District of Critical Planning Concern (DCPC) now known as the Six Ponds Special District. The designation recognized the area’s abundance of natural, cultural, archaeological, historic, economic and recreational resources of regional, state-wide or natural significance. The key features include:

Boundary of the Six Ponds DCPC. Rt. 6 borders on the north, Rt. 137 on the east, Queen Anne Rd. on the south and Rt. 124 on the west.

  • 114 acres of pond surface in six ponds: Aunt Edies, Black, Cornelius, Hawksnest, Olivers, and Walkers. All but Black Pond are Commonwealth Great Ponds.
  • 5 miles of pond shore, almost all of which is considered globally rare Coastal Plain Pond Shore habitat.
  • 400 acres of conservation land protected by HCT, State and Town with extensive walking trails.
  • Extensive area that contributes to the public water supply, with underground and surface flow to one of three nitrogen-sensitive coastal embayments in Harwich.
  • Extensive priority habitat and documented presence of rare wildlife.
  • Extensive wetlands, including seven certified vernal pools.

HCT’s recent $3 million purchase of the Six Ponds Great Woods property will protect 85 highly developable acres within the DCPC. This creates an opportunity to expand comprehensive resource management planning in the area, including stewardship measures that reinforce the purposes of the DCPC and enhance the benefits of resource, habitat and wildlife protection.

The new Six Ponds Management Initiative will be undertaken in phases.

Phase 1, already underway, involves a comprehensive assessment of existing data, studies and management measures, and outreach to neighbors and stakeholders.

Phase 2 will identify technical assessments needed to support a science-based assessment of conditions, trends and management options.

Phase 3 will involve grant applications and fundraising to support technical assessments and resource management planning.

Phase 4 will involve preparation of a Six Ponds Resource Management Plan.

Phase 5 will involve implementing the plan, assessing results and adapting the plan as needed.

Ridley & Associates has been selected to coordinate the Six Ponds Resource Management Initiative for HCT.  The Initiative will function in consultation with the Town of Harwich, Commonwealth Division of Conservation Services, Cape Cod Commission, regional environmental organizations, Six Ponds neighbors and other community stakeholders. Ridley & Associates has extensive experience and expertise leading community resource management plans and projects, including the Pleasant Bay Alliance, Muddy Creek Restoration, Herring River Restoration (Wellfleet), Hoosic River Flood Chute Modernization, and numerous other natural resource plans and projects on and off-Cape.

If you would like to stay up to date on this initiative, volunteer, or donate please contact ponds@harwichconservationtrust.org

To preview a presentation on the Six Ponds DCPC from December 12th, 2022, please click here.