Tuesday, December 8, 2009
In a bizarre turn of events, a hiker spotted his flattened body in the middle of the possum crossing, and took a cell phone photo, running off to summon the Harwich animal body detail. But when they arrived, the remains had disappeared, leaving only a furry grease spot on the road. After several days of deliberation, the Cartoon Coroner pronounced him “out of print.” The SPCA is conducting an investigation.
Possum began work in the cartoon industry in 1943, soon growing into the rounder, baby-faced contours of Disney characters. He was famous for introducing political and social satire into comics. But satire led to his phone being tapped by the FBI, and some officials wondered whether the whimsical banter of Pogo and his friends was a code produced by Russian spies. More
His increasing popularity led to an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 1952. His campaign slogan, “I go Pogo,” became an expression of protest. Perhaps the most famous quotation attributed to Mr. Possum is: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
In his later years, controversy swirled around his name, while partisans all but forgot the old marsupial himself. Legally, it’s Possum, but the National Association of Taxonomists long championed Opossum, while the Society of English Teachers campaigned for ‘Possum ( the apostrophe to signify the missing “O”). Meanwhile, the Irish claimed it was O’Possum. Next, proponents of Intelligent Design argued that, since opossums hadn’t changed in 60 million years, that meant evolution was dead.
Park neighbor Liz McBride said, “Posthumously, he‘s still the Protest Possum. People are going to rally to protest neglect of the park by the State." The funeral date is to be announced. Thousands are expected.
All drawings except Bucky copyright by Walt Kelly, used here under "fair use" provision of law. Photos copyright by David Thompson
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Hawksnest is so pure you can see right to the bottom from a canoe. When I was a kid living on its shore, I could drink the water as I swam. And yet it was warm enough for comfortable swimming. You'd come back from a swim cleaner than you went in (now a radical idea in Wisconsin). The bottom is sandy, not mucky--there are no weeds to tangle your legs.
That's why I'm a crusader for water quality. I've experienced pure water, and I can't forget what it's like.
And what does Lake Mendota have to teach Hawksnest?
Sadly, it's a warning. People who visit Hawksnest are oblivious to its rare value, take it for granted, and are hell-bent on abusing till it becomes just like Lake Mendota.
If Hawksnest could give some sisterly advice to Mendota, she would say: "Look at my shore. Everywhere it's clothed in vegetation. Not a drop of rainwater gets into my body--unless if falls on my face, or flows through the ground, or flows through my "skin" of shoreland plants. I need my shoreland zone. Puncture that, and I'll start to die."
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
"On average, the commission reports, more than 100 children are killed each year in A.T.V. accidents, and 40,000 more are sent to the emergency room."
“'A.T.V.’s have been killing and maiming for years,' said Sue Rabe, who helped found Concerned Families for ATV Safety, after her 10-year-old son was killed when the A.T.V. he was driving rolled over and fell on him." See the whole article at the New York Times, 11/23/09.
Off road vehicles are illegal at Hawksnest State Park and have caused serious damage. Report any off-road use by dirt bikes, ATVs, or regular vehicles to ParkWatch: 866-759-2824.
At Myles Standish State Forest, the ATVs have been showing up in groups of 30 or 40. To prevent that from happening at Hawksnest, we have to show that there's ZERO tolerance for ATVs here.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
See the full story here about how the natural values of the "Hel, Arl, Jo & Ray Zimmer Tract" of forest were destroyed by the Massachusetts DCR. When the forest was given to the state by the Zimnmer family, they never intended that the trees would be cut.
This story will air on TV again next Monday between 5:30 and 6:00 pm. on WCBV, Channel 5, Boston.
I'll elaborate on this story in the next few days.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Cape Cod has very sandy soil, thanks to the glaciers. Standing water quickly sinks into the porous sand... right? So the puddles should disappear shortly after a rain. But that's not the case at Hawksnest, where puddles in the road, along with Godzilla Puddle, persist for weeks. Why doesn't the water sink in? It's a mystery!
Solving this mystery could reveal some fascinating things about the lives of ponds.
In the spring and early summer, pines of the Cape release vast quantities of pollen. It settles on the ponds, and is blown by the wind, where it collects on the beach. Sometimes you can find up to an inch of beautiful golden pollen on the shore. As a child digging in the sand, sometimes I would find a layer of golden pollen burried an inch or two deep under the sand.
What does pollen have to do with puddles? Pollen falls on Round Cove Road. Long stretches of road collect pollen and concentrate it in puddles. Pollen is microscopic--it clogs the pores between the grains of sand. So the pollen (and other organic debris) acts like clay, lining the puddles, and making the bottom watertight. That's why Hawksnest puddles last forever.
OK, hold on, I'm getting to the pond connection.
There's a curious thing about Hawksnest Pond. Hawksnest is deep, and unlike the mucky ponds on either side, has few pond lilies or other aquatic plants. The bottom is sandy, not mucky. But one spot on Hawksnest has a mucky bottom with lots of aquatic vegetation--that's the cove--the beak of the hawk that gave Hawksnest its name.
This part of Hawksnest has lots of decayed organic matter. But how did that muck get to the cove, and only to the cove? There are no streams to wash organic stuff into the pond.
"Elementary, my dear Watson"
My guess is that the muck in the cove came from pollen and leaves and anything else that could be blown there. The cove is on the NE side of the pond, just the place where the prevailing SW winds would blow floating organic matter.
Getting back to Godzilla Puddle
There's a lot of pollen and other muck in that puddle. If it finally breaks through to the lake, all that muck is is headed for the pond. Goodbye water quality. Pollen is natural, but it does contribute to the eutrophication (fertilizing) of the pond, as we see in the cove. When Godzilla Puddle breaks through, Hawksnest Pond will receive a lot more pollen and other debris, every time it rains.
This little mystery illustrates how Hawksnest State Park, with its three different ponds, could be an ideal laboratory for children from surrounding schools. Children love puddles... and ponds.
Off-highway vehicles (OHV) are also banned from Hawksnest Road (if they are unlicensed) because it is a county road. Driving on the beach is illegal and especially damaging because it destroys rare plants and the vegetation essential to maintaining water quality.
- The time, date and approximate location of the sighting as precisely as you can describe it;
- The number and type of OHV’s along with any descriptions of machines and operators;
- Direction of travel of the machines when sighted;
- Any other information or ideas you have which may be useful in determining where the OHV’s came from or went to;
- The identities of the operators, if known. Take photos!
Thank you for your help.
Friends of Hawksnest State Park
Trails exist along the north sides of both Hawksnest and Oliver Ponds. One can easily circumnavigate Hawksnest Pond if you use the trail, plus Hawksnest Road and Round Cove Road. But there's one problem with this route--it requires a trespass on private property when you cross the isthmus between Black and Hawksnest Ponds. And this isthmus, home of the Plymouth gentian, is very sensitive ecologically. Perhaps that's why instead a trail was proposed along the south side of Oliver Pond--so you could walk all around at least one of the ponds.
But the question remains and will come up again--is there any need for new trails? Perhaps the question should be rephrased: "Are new trails a priority now?"
Given the serious problems at Hawksnest that I've listed elsewhere, I don't think trail construction is a priority now. We need to get the existing system of trails marked and under control, which means:
- Eliminating ORVs
- Designating which are for horses and which are foot travel only
- Limiting beach access (maybe closing some trails) when water levels are low, to protect the shoreline
For example, the long trail that now leads from Round Cove Road to the beach, starting about midway between the four corners and the parking lot, should probably be closed. There are several reasons:
- This trail heads straight downhill--overuse will surely lead to a gully forming that will channel runoff into the pond.
- More use of this area will also lead to out-of-control parking. People who use the beach there will park there.
- When water levels are low, having several trails to the beach invites horses and ORVs to go along the beach from this trail to the other--a route that damages the shoreline.
And, what about promoting Hawksnest trails in a regional trail guide? That's like offering a drink to an alcoholic. First get the existing trails and visitation under control. Then you can promote them.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Due to a toxic algae bloom
Monday, October 26, 2009
The officials viewed serious erosion at the Round Cove Road parking area, where most people enter the park. A large gully has formed, channeling runoff from the road and parking lot into the pond. Ashes from illegal campfires, and waste from humans, dogs, and horses threatens to pollute the pristine pond, known for its clear waters. Hoof prints were observed on the beach, close to where the rare Plymouth gentian sometimes blooms.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
While Hawksnest is mostly forest and ponds, there are many signs of former human activity Here's an initial attempt to list some of the area's historical assets.
The Bells were an old couple from Boston. In the 1950s, Hawksnest was very secluded. The Bells had a vegetable garden near their cabin, and Mr. Bell, a tall, slightly stooped old man with white hair and a bushy white mustache, used to do his gardening in his underwear--or less. So you had to loudly announce your presence if you went calling on the Bells.
After the Thompson and Bell lands were sold to the State, their two beautiful cabins were allowed to fall down, whereupon the State removed the remains. When the Bell cabin remains were carried away, staff found a curious home-made insulation within the walls--sea weed stuffed into "pillows" of brown paper. It was probably made locally, and I presume used the seaweed with the little air bubbles.
A famous folk-artist
A.E.Crowell is the most famous carver of decoys and decorative bird statues in America. Two of his carvings sold for over a million dollars. Mr. Crowell's workshop was on Orleans Rd. in East Harwich, and in 2008 was slated for a move to Sandwich, where it was going to be restored for $4 million. Apparently there was little interest in the old workshop in Harwich.
Crowell began making decoys for duck hunters, then managed a hunting camp--but as his talent began to shine, he made a living of carving and carved more works of pure art. His bird carvings are so life-like you could mistake them for a live bird, and are found in many top museums. More on Crowell.
The Walker Farm is located on the north side of Walker Road, looking down across an old field onto Walker Pond. When I was a boy in the 1950s, the building was still standing though in shambles, and the field was still open.
At the NE corner of SR 39-137, there was a small farm operated by Mr. Nickerson in the 1950s. He grew vegetables and corn. The fields came nearly to the south side of Round Cove Rd.
When the park began, except for Round Cove Road (and it's former extension to the isthmus cabin), Seth Whitfield Road, and Walker Road, there were no roads or trails in the park. I believe that the several trails that now ring the ponds or go down to the ponds, were cut by equestrians after the park was established. (Excepting, of course, for the two short trails that led from the two parking lots to the beach.)
The Head of the Bay Cemetery is just across Walker Rd. from the NW end of the park--indicating there were probably farms in the area. See the list of names on gravestones here.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
- ORVs started the gully at the Round Cove Rd. parking lot
- Lack of limits to the parking area allow 4x4 vehicles to drive nearly to the beach, worsening the erosion.
- ORVs have enlarged and damaged some of the trails
- When the pond level drops, ORVs ride around the pond on the beach, threatening the Plymouth gentian flowers. Water levels are now nearly low enough to allow this.
- Concerns about conflict with equestrians led to posting of "no motorized vehicle" signs on horse trails
ORVs are not allowed at Hawksnest State Park. And especially, they ae not allowed on the beach. Click here for regulations. Call 1-866-PK-WATCH (866-759-2824). DCR Rangers answer the hotline 24/7. The dispatcher will contact the appropriate agency AND keep a record of every call, which will help in enforcement planning. Next, call Harwich Police, to increase their awareness.
Watch for a pattern that might assist the police. Where are they coming from? Do they appear at the same time of day?
The "Friends Network" has a campaign against ORVs. Click here to f ind out more.
Support the bill regulating ORVs
On Jan. 14, 2009, Representative Smizik submitted a bill, House No. 3330, that increases fines and enforcement of regulations. This bill is based on the recommendations of a DCR study group, and we believe it has the best chance of passing.
"Massachusetts Forest and Park Friends Network is an independent grassroots organization of volunteer "friends groups" working together to better protect and enhance Massachusetts’ state forests and urban parks. The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) oversees 259 properties in Massachusetts. Currently only about 34 friends groups serve particular forests and parks. Our goal is to see a strong friends group in every forest and park in the Commonwealth. "
"If you do not belong to a friends group, consider joining one or starting one. We are here to help! If you do belong to a friends group, please join us. We need your expertise to help guide new friends groups. If you are a friend to a non DCR property, you can still join as a "Friend of the Friends Network".
Click here for more information about the Friends Network or a membership form.
Monday, October 19, 2009
- Litter was the worst I have ever seen it, including two mufflers from cars.
- Erosion in the Round Cove Rd. parking area is worse compared to July. Especially, erosion along the trail down to the beach (caused by vehicles) is worse.
- A new residential development is underway on the park border at the south end of Seth Whitfield Rd. The road has been substantially widened.
- The level of Hawksnest Pond has dropped substantially, and the beach is beginning to emerge. Horse footprints are visible on the beach in the area where Plymouth gentian has grown. If the drop continues a bit more, then ATVs and horses will be able to ride around the pond.
Friday, October 16, 2009
"The intersection of Route 39 and Route 137 in East Harwich is a high accident location showing 24 crashes in the years 1998 through 2000. The town took steps in 2000 to improve safety at this intersection including intersection widening, turning lanes,and signal improvements which are now complete." Reference
The State Conservation Rangers clearly have jurisdiction, but there are only two for the whole Cape. State Police...?? Nickerson State Park is understaffed, at some distance, and their unarmed rangers don't have arrest powers. That leaves Harwich Police. They'd have plenty of moral authority at Hawksnest. For my dollar, Harwich police are responsible for policing parties at Hawksnest.
If Harwich is concerned about safety at the intersection, why aren't they policing Hawksnest, where alcohol consumption is illegal, and the park closes at 8:00 pm in the summer? At present, the Round Cove Rd parking area is a lawless zone.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Recently, a 15-acre development in Sandwich was blocked until a plan could be worked out to safeguard the turtle. By reserving 70% of the development's area as turtle habitat, plus planning for extreme protections for the turtles during construction, the development was able to secure a permit to go ahead. More. Still more
Hawksnest State Park and surrounding undeveloped lands seem like ideal habitat for the turtle--although it is not officially designated at turtle habitat. Except for Route 6, there are few highways nearby. However, habitat fragmentation and danger from vehicles remain major threats to the species.
The new development on Hawksnest (Seth Whitfield) Road threatens the turtle from construction activities, from habitat fragmentation, and from the increased road traffic that will result.
Hawksnest is an incomplete state park. Not only has it been sadly neglected in maintenance, but it needs more land added to become a viable conservation unit. There are two portions of the shoreline of Hawksnest Pond that are still not within park boundaries.
Hawksnest and the lands surrounding it are valued by the community--it was identified as a "Heritage Landscape" in a community meeting, and was designated a District of Critical Planning Concern (The Six Ponds District). The undeveloped, private lands around Hawksnest serve as a sort of buffer zone, and they also represent the last opportunity to add new land to the park. That's why it's sad that the new development on Hawksnest road is underway--its a sign that opportunities to complete Hawksnest Park are closing.
The new development also points out the danger from Seth Whitfield Road. The north half of Hawksnest State Park is habitat for several endangered species. Although the road bisects the north portion of the park, the road is outside the control of park management. At any time, the county could decide to pave the road for the convenience of a few local residents. Then the road would fragment Hawksnest habitat, and become a "killing zone" for box turtles and other wildlife.
So, let's add more lands to Hawksnest while there's still time, and work to remove the northern portion of Seth Whitfield Rd. from the county system.
Local legal tools that may apply here
- District of Critical Planning Concern
- Wetland Protection By-law
- Area of Critical Environmental Concern
- Corridor Protection Overlay
This reference (p.5) indicates that Harwich needs to set aside more scenic roadways.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
You can work with the ParkWatch program. "Park Watch is enlisting the eyes and ears of park visitors to report illegal or suspicious activity, vandalism, hazardous conditions, illegal dumping, maintenance needs, or violations of park rules and regulations. ParkWatch encourages law enforcement agencies to work together, participate in ParkWatch events, share information, and support volunteer's efforts." So it's clear that your volunteer help will have official support.
In working with ParkWatch, we have three tools:
- Digital camera: If you get a photo of someone abusing the park, I’ll post it on this blog. See the Gallery of Abusers in the right sidebar.And, if there's a visible license plate, ParkWatch may send them a letter.
- A cell phone can be used to alert Park Watch (866-PK-WATCH or 911 if emergency), and to help the "ranger" feel safe.
- GPS and Google Maps: If there's a hazard, dump site, erosion, or a rare plant--something that needs an exact location, you can place it precisely on a Google Map and forward that to Park Watch or another concerned state agency. I'll have more on this later.
I don’t have any illusions that police are going to rush out and arrest anyone at the Round Cove parking lot for cussing. But people who party at Hawksnest leave intoxicated, and they can and will be arrested on the highway if we alert the police. Maybe it won’t happen right away, but it is a point of leverage for improving the park.
I’ve heard that off-road vehicle abuse has dropped, due to involvement of citizens. Again, get their photo, and try to find out where they are coming from. Look for a transport vehicle with a license plate. Call Park Watch. With your involvement, we CAN stop this abuse. Vehicles cause serious erosion and are a real danger to hikers and equestrians.
The next step, beyond participating in ParkWatch, is to be a "volunteer ranger." Right now, there's no official program--just go to it! And use common sense.
In the old days, small towns were largely free from crime because everyone knew each other, and because people noticed what you did. At Hawksnest, the simple presence of “rangers” will go a long way toward stopping abuse.
It may sound corny, but rangers should wear a uniform. Just a khaki or green shirt, and a baseball hat (maybe one of the Harwich Conservation Trust ones). Coordinate with neighbors so there’s someone there almost every afternoon.
Know the rules of the park (see below on this blog), and always be polite. Most people simply don’t know they are harming the park, or that anyone cares. “Did you know parking isn’t allowed close to the beach? That’s because it cause erosion, and that pollutes the water. I’m with the volunteer group that looks after the park.”
My tactful friend Liz says it's important not to back people into a corner--for example, accusing them of doing something, or asking that they stop doing something. When you do, they get defensive--they try to defend what they are doing, and that leads to an argument. Instead, just inform them of the issues or rules, and trust them to choose the right thing. If they don't, you can always take their photo a bit later from a discrete distance.
The ranger's role is more to inform and educate than to command or to embarrass anyone. The fact that you are there and being helpful will do 95% of the job.
Want to stop the alcohol parties?
Alcohol is illegal at Hawksnest, and the park closes at 8 pm. With some enforcement, these two rules would go a long ways toward stopping parties. If parties haven't stopped, neighbors simply haven't complained often enough or loudly enough!
No one cares about someone quietly drinking a beer after work, then carrying out the can. But parties cause much litter and damage in the park, not to mention endangering other drivers outside the park. Controlling parties should be our top priority, along with erosion control. We'll consult with ParkWatch about the best way to control them. In the meantime, quietly call ParkWatch 866-PK-WATCH when you see one.
It's urgent that we find someone living nearby who can serve as a lead volunteer ranger. This person can receive additional training from the ParkWatch program. If you want to volunteer, or know someone who might, please let me know!!
Sunday, October 11, 2009
We're faced with the same issue at Hawksnest. The thin veil of vegetation around the lake, and the sand below, is our filter. Normally, no water gets into the lake without flowing through the vegetation and sand.
The lakeshore is especially important. Whereever the shore is undisturbed by man, thick vegetation grows right to the water, holding back and filtering any runoff from a heavy storm. This is why Hawksnest is so incredibly clear--a pond where you could see right to the bottom, 30 feet down. Coastal plain ponds like Hawksnest are actually quite rare--despite the fact that we take them for granted on Cape Cod.
When people, horses, or vehicles trample the bank, the filter is broken, and soon our pond will be ruined, just like the java.
Protecting this fragile filter all around the lake is probably the most important management goal for the entire park. It's essential if the unique quality of the pond is to be preserved. Yet the shoreline vegetation has been neglected, until erosion has finally reached the point where serious, lasting damage is about to occur. Protecting the shore at Hawksnest is all the more important, because the shores of most other ponds have been severely damaged.
The shore of a pond like Hawksnest is the only place where the Plymouth gentian grows, a plant of special interest, which property owners (the State included!) are required by law to manage for. Common sense management requires keeping people, horses and vehicles off the beach where the gentian grows.
No, I'm not saying "no swimming." For the gentian, just post signs limiting access to certain areas.
Where serious erosion of the "fragile membrane" is occurring at the Round Cove parking lot, control of erosion and restoration are urgently required. In the long run, the only way to prevent further damage to the pond's shore is to build a boardwalk where many people tread down to the beach .
Because of the humid air and mild climate, the land will heal itself in only a few years, if given the opportunity.
If you know the answer to any of these questions, or want to work on the answer, please let me know.
- Are painted turtles declining? When I was a kid swimming at Hawksnest, at any one time you could see the little black heads of 4 or more painted turtles floating in the water around Hawksnest. On my last visit, I didn’t see any, though I swam around the entire pond. On my previous visit several years ago, I saw only one. Although they are primarily aquatic, the turtles do migrate from pond to pond across land, where they are often squashed by vehicles. Moreover, Route 6 to the north is a complete barrier to migration. Are the turtles really in decline?
- Does Plymouth gentian still grow near the isthmus? See the earlier article on this plant of special interest.
- Do any rare orchids or other threatened plants occur at Hawksnest?
- Which way does the groundwater flow at Hawksnest? Is the pond near the divide between N and S flow? If so, that might protect the pond from pollution of groundwater. If a large residential area with septic systems is upstream, that might threaten water quality at Hawksnest.
- Have Ospreys nested at Hawksnest in recent years? They are often seen on the NE bluff.
- Does flow of surface water between Black Pond and Hawksnest Pond present any problems? Boaters or pedestrians have established a shallow channel on the isthmus between the two ponds. When the wind blows, the water flows from Black Pond into Hawksnest. Is this harmful, or a benefit to Hawksnest water quality and wildlife? It might be harmful, since Black Pond has lower water quality (it’s “eutrophic”).
- Do box turtles occur in the woods at Hawksnest? Is Hawksnest and the undeveloped land to the east officially recognized as Eastern box turtle habitat? Have environmental impact studies been done to justify the new development there, and the widening of Seth Whitfield Road?
- How did Hawksnest get it's name? When you look at a map of the pond, it looks surprisingly like a hawk on a nest. The main part of the pond is the round nest, the cove is the head, and the little cove on the cove is the beak. But is there any historical suport for this conjecture?
- Duck hunting at Hawksnest. There’s a long tradition of duck hunting at Hawksnest, and we support it. What is the history? Who owned the old hunting camps? How and where is it practiced today? Ducking hunting figures in the career of the renowned East Harwich bird carver, A.E.Crowell.
- Protection for Seth Whitfield Rd. Also known as Hawksnest Rd, it runs along the western boundary of the park. Because it has county road status, it is beyond the jurisdiction of the park. Can the northern portion of the road be removed from county status? Or can it be designated as some kind of historic or rustic road, so it can be left narrow and rustic as it is now? Otherwise, it will be eventually paved and... turtles watch out!
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Harwich police say they don’t have jurisdiction at the park because it’s state land. It's true--Nickerson State Park has nominal responsibility for Hawksnest, but they are understaffed and “don’t have two nickels to rub together.” So don’t expect to see them anytime soon. State enforcement rangers (enforce fishing licenses, etc.) do have jurisdiction, but there are only two for the whole of Cape Cod. A lot a neighbors care about Hawksnest, but most are too busy to take the lead.
I care about Hawksnest because my parents helped found the park. We summered for many years in a house by the Round Cove Rd. parking lot. And it makes me sad to see the uncontrolled abuse, with erosion channeling muddy water and dog feces into the pond. Because I’ve seen it over many years, I know the pond we love is headed for trouble, unless someone takes responsibility.
What kind of trouble? Imagine a hundred people on the beach at Hawksnest...
Beach at Nickerson State Park
Imagine a big paved parking lot, filled with cars. Imagine the wooded banks everywhere trampled, vegetation gone, sandy banks caving onto the beach.
Trampled hillside, National Seashore at Provincetown
Imagine ugly weeds tangling your body as you swim through smelly water that looks like pea-soup.
Here we are, like Scrooge with the Ghost of Hawksnest Future. We can drift towards the big beach with the big parking lot, or we can create a better future for Hawksnest. It could become an example of pristine water quality for the whole country—in a time when most people have forgotten what clean water is.
In America, there are few things as powerful as a vocal, aroused neighbors. The State and the local police will listen, if we have a cause and a common voice. So let’s get started. Grab those cameras and cell phones. Let’s fill the vacuum with something better. Yes, we can!