Friday, October 9, 2009

Why a "Friends" group is needed

Nowadays, nearly every park across the country has a "Friends of XX Park. In these days of tight budgets and understaffed agencies, it helps for citizens to form groups. It gives legitimacy to your voice, and officials know who to consult and where to find volunteers." Myles Standish State Forest near Plymouth has a large and active Friends group which is currently working to combat off-road vehicles (

People living around Hawksnest love that it’s undeveloped and hope to keep it that way. So, why is a Friends group needed, if everything is OK now? Well, actually, everything isn’t OK. ATVs are ripping up the trails. Dumping occurs. Parties with alcohol are littering the Round Cove Parking lot. And serious erosion is threatening the water quality of the pond itself.

Many neighbors are already working for Hawksnest. Quite a few people pick up the litter. One person has been raking away the pine needles above the beach. But these efforts are uncoordinated, and sometimes work at cross-purposes (pine needles prevent erosion). How much more we could accomplish, if we worked together!

A while back, some neighbors signed a letter asking the Park to limit vehicle access by a chain across Round Cove Rd, at the four corners. Nothing came of this effort. That’s understandable, when you look at it from a park manager’s point of view. It’s a public park—and you can imagine the protests they’d get if access were limited. But a Friends group can counter the pressure for access by having a stronger, more focused voice--backed by evidence.

A Friends group is also needed because it can take a longer view. For example, the pond is most threatened when water levels fall, exposing the beach. Then, ATVs can rip around the beach, destroying the threatened Plymouth gentian, and eroding the trails down to the lake. We need to have plans in place before low water returns—by then, it will be too late.

If current erosion is allowed to continue, the lake will become cloudy. Sand will be washed onto the beach, creating a much larger beach. That will attract more visitors, causing more erosion, more litter, and so on. If enough visitors are attracted, that will create demand for a paved road and parking lot. A Friends group can help to prevent this disaster.

There are only two enforcement rangers for the whole of Cape Cod. Abuse of places like Hawksnest occurs when people sense that no one cares. One young man driving off-road to park by the beach told me: “I can do anything I want here!” But a Friends group will create an atmosphere that people do care about the place, and that there are limits to abusive behavior. That atmosphere will do more to save Hawsknest than a whole platoon of rangers.

There's no formal structure to FHSP right now. You can "join" by sending me your name, e-mail, phone, and address; and by following this blog. Let others know about the blog. And keep me informed of any news about Hawksnest (

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