Monday, October 26, 2009

Group to protect Hawksnest State Park meets with state officials

For Immediate Release

On October 13, a representative from the newly formed “Friends of Hawksnest State Park” met with State officials to inspect damage to the park. The park includes three undeveloped ponds, and is located in East Harwich. Hawksnest is administered by personnel at Nickerson State Park, but other than a few signs and infrequent pickup of illegal dumpings, the park has been neglected.

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.

Neighbors to Hawksnest frequently complain about illegal ORV use in the park, and alcohol parties on the beach, leaving litter strewn about. Thompson said, “This time, litter was the worst I’ve ever seen it. Visitors were even dumping old car parts.”

Friends of Hawksnest State Park (FOH) was started in September by David Thompson. He became involved, because his parents were founders of the park. Since the 1950s, the family had a summer cottage at Hawksnest. In the 1970s, they sold their land to the state, and persuaded the Bell family to add their lands to the new park as well.

According to Thompson, “Ever since the park was formed, I’ve been returning. It’s been sad to see the park go downhill, without any attention from the state. When I saw the gully from the parking area to the beach, I knew someone had to take action, before the pond was polluted. With “Friends of Hawksnest,” we can work together to stop the abuse and get some attention from the state.”

People can join the friends group by contacting Thompson at, to add their names to the group, or to volunteer. The group as a website:

State officials present at the meeting with Thompson were: Brian Shanahan, SE Regional Director of Parks; Don Matinzi, SE District Manager; and Jon Peterson, Supervisor of Nickerson State Park. Ryan Mann of the Harwich Conservation Trust was also present.

Brian Shanahan was concerned about the erosion, and pledged to fix it soon. He said they would work to find a contractor who could restore and re vegetate the eroded areas between the parking area and the beach. They would add stairs so people can get to the beach without further damage to vegetation.

Thompson told the group about his vision for the park: “Pristine ponds like this one are a rare treasure. In southern Wisconsin where I live, all the lakes have been seriously polluted by runoff from farms and towns. That could happen here, unless we protect the vegetation around the shore, and stop the erosion.”

“If we can save this pond, someday it could be a place for school children to learn about the groundwater that all Cape Codders depend on. Here at Hawksnest, there are three ponds side by side, each showing a different stage in the life cycle of ponds. It could be an ideal laboratory for school kids. It’s centrally located, and close to Route 6.” From 1990-1995, Thompson was in charge of school programs at the International Crane Foundation.

The first priority at Hawksnest, according to Thompson, is to protect the ring of vegetation around the pond. “Not a drop gets into this pond, unless it flows through the sandy ground or ring of plants around the shore. That’s why it’s so pure. We also have to keep nutrients from getting into the pond. Nitrogen and phosphorus from ashes or animal waste can stimulate the growth of algae, leading to algae blooms, like those at nearby Long Pond. Every pound of animal waste stimulates about 20 pounds of stinking algae. Once in, the fertilizer never leaves the pond, so we have to be very careful.”

 The Friends of Hawksnest group has a list of priority concerns:
  • Control of parking, which is causing the erosion.
  • Repair and re vegetation of eroded areas.
  • Tasteful signs to indicate which trails are approved for horses, delimit parking areas, and indicate closed areas.
  • The shore line between the two parking areas should be closed, because the shore is used by horses, ORVs, and hikers to link two trails. This route threatens the rare Plymouth gentian, and causes trespassing on private land.
  • Control of ORV use, which is illegal everywhere at Hawksnest.
  • Enforcement of closing hours (8 pm in summer) and illegal alcohol use.
Visitors can call 1-866-PK-WATCH to report abuse 24/7.

For more information, contact:
David Thompson, Acting Coordinator
536 Gately Terrace, Madison, WI 53711
608-233-9589; cell: 608-692-5467;

Photos are available--you can view them on flickr:
Problems w/ low water:
Walks along various loops:

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