Monday, March 8, 2010

Will Hawksnest restoration be a success?

I haven't been able to reach Jim Straub to find out what the plans are for restoration at Hawksnest.  Unable to comment on the plans, I decided to post criteria that would help DCR and Friends of Hawksnest decide whether the plans and the work  are a success.

1. Does the work address the most serious issues of erosion, runoff into the lake, and uncontrolled parking at both parking areas?* 

2. Does the work provide the utmost protection for water quality, now and in the future?  To  protect water quality, runoff and erosion must be prevented, and the ring of vegetation around the shore must be kept completely intact.

3. Is the work consistent with the character of Hawksnest--enjoyment of quiet recreation, nature, and cultural history, in an undisturbed natural setting?  (This means avoiding construction with non-native materials, such as gravel or concrete.)

4. Does the work create an impression that people care about Hawksnest, and help to control abuse?

I'd like to explain why this last point--the "appearance of care"--is important.  Hawksnest has been unsupervised and abused since the park was established in the 1970s.  The only thing preventing destruction of this fragile resource has been the light visitation--around 50 a day in the summer--because few have known about it, and because Round Cove Road is so rough.  Another thing that has protected Hawksnest is the absence of a sandy beach during times of high water.  We appreciate that neighbors over the years have picked up the trash, while Nickerson personnel have picked up a few loads of rubbish that were dumped, and police have made occasional patrols.

Now, with plans of the Harwich Trails Committee to promote trails in the area, and possibly a new parking area off Spruce Road, visitation is likely to increase.  This could upset the fragile balance, and things could rapidly deteriorate.  In the worst case, I can imagine swimmers heading for the north shore of Hawksnest from the new parking area on that side, alowing people to bypass Round Cove Road.  Seeking access to the beach, they climb down the steep, sandly bluffs--in a single season turning them into big funnels of sand onto the beach.  This creates a larger beach, even during times of high water, so more visitors come.  At this point, the water quality has been ruined, and the ugly scars will be nearly impossible to restore, with people continuing to climb on the sand.

It seems unlikely there will ever be much enforcement or frequent maintenance at Hawksnest--so we have to rely on a careful balance of restricted access, pickup of litter by volunteers, public education (kiosks), and creating an "atmosphere of care."

Studies have shown that people are more likely to litter, if litter is already present.  Facilities create an atmospere that visitors respond to.  If the facilities are poorly designed or maintained, and if they are ugly, then people will assume that no one cares--that anything goes.  So signs, parking design, boardwalks, and kiosks need to be neat and aesthetic.

I know the State is strapped for funds.  I'm not talking about gold-plated handles on the port-a-potty.  But I do believe if they put a little more into careful design and aesthetics, then it will pay back in terms of less abuse, littler, and vandalism.   If the State needs to save funds, then save by not improving (or not maintaining) Round Cove Road, or by closing the Walker Road parking lot.

Some DCR personnel have expressed the view that they don't want to install a kiosk, because it would only be vandalized.  Well--make it sturdy, and replace it if necessary.  You can't enforce rules or appropriate trail use, if rules aren't posted.  You can't encourage wise use, if you don't provide guidance.  A kiosk is essential.
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* At Round Cove Rd. parking area, the most serious erosion is runoff from the parking area, the gully above the beach, and runoff from the road, which threatenes to break through into the pond from the "giant puddle."

I would appreciate hearing your comments.  Send me an email, or post comments below.

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