Shallow Pond Woodlands

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Location: Thomas Landers Road
Applicant: Conservation Commission and The 300 Committee Land trust
Grant: Net $250,000 ($650,000 with $400,000 to be reimbursed from Land Grant)
Year/Article: November 2016, A27

The 300 Committee (T3C) and the former Falmouth Land Bank Committee had since 1994 been monitoring a 69.7-acre parcel on Thomas Landers Road in the Hatchville area of Falmouth. Among all the properties evaluated by T3C’s Land Acquisition Committee, this land received top scores for natural resource values: water and wetland resources, importance for water supply and watershed protection, high wildlife value, important linkage to other conservation parcels, potential for attractive new and connecting trails and other types of passive recreation, and scenic beauty. To be called Shallow Pond Woodlands, the parcel connects two other major conservation areas: the 67.3 Breivogel Ponds Conservation Area to the south and the 46.4 Wald-Fender parcel to the north, creating an expanse of 183.4 contiguous protected areas. Between the Wald-Fender parcel and the Coonamessett River corridor there is only a short separation. The southern portion of the land adjoining Shallow Pond, as well as the adjacent Breivogel Ponds Conservation Area, fall within the Falmouth Wildlife Corridor, established to protect feeding, breeding, and normal home range movement of wildlife through the corroder.

Shallow Pond and its associated wetlands are part of a long chain of ponds and wetlands that begins with Crooked Pond at the north end and extends south to Jenkins Pond, Deer Pond, Mares Pond, and Long Pond. Groundwater flow is toward Long Pond, the Town’s surface drinking water source, and Great Pond. Great Pond, a coastal embayment on Vineyard Sound heavily affected by nitrogen and bacterial pollution, has been designated an Impaired Category 4A Water Body by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. Joining the three large protected parcels would eliminate them as a source of additional nitrogen loading and increase protection of groundwater quality.

After more than two years of negotiation, T3C reached an agreement with the trustees of Daddario Enterprises LLC to purchase the property for $1.4 million or just $20,000 per acre, with a closing date of March 31, 2017. At closing the Town purchased an $800,000 conservation restriction in perpetuity from T3C for a net cost of $250,000 thanks to the $250,000 appropriation from the CPFund in November 2016, the award to the Town of a $400,000 State LAND reimbursement grant, and an additional gift to the Town from T3C of $150,000. T3C began implementing plans for a trail system throughout the property with a small parking lot on Thomas Landers Road.

Wildlife, Rare Species Habitat, and Natural Communities

Because of its open water, wetlands, undisturbed forest cover and large size, Shallow Pond Woodlands provides excellent wildlife habitat and natural communities of plants and animals. The Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) defines natural communities on the basis of plants, topography, and hydrology that constitute a specific wildlife habitat. Except for a small area in the southeast corner, the land is located within an area mapped as Estimated Habitat of Rare Wetlands Wildlife. There are over 100 different types on Massachusetts, of which Shallow Pond Woodlands contains at least four: White Pine-oak Forest, Successional White Pine Forest, Shrub Swamp (bordering vegetated wetland) and Pond Shore, and Shrub Swamp/Kettle Hole Level Bog.

White Pine-oak Forest

Plant species including white pines, oak, red maple, and pitch pine make up the canopy, with estimates of sixty-five years for the age of the white pines. Trees this tall are not frequently found on Cape Cod. The sub-canopy includes trees and shrubs such as sassafras, white pine, red maple, American holly, black cherry, black gum, smooth arrowwood, and wild raisin. The low shrub layer is dominated by black huckleberry and sheep laurel. Also present are wild sarsaparilla, wintergreen, greenbrier, lowbush blueberry, clubmosses, spotted wintergreen, highbush blueberry, pink lady’s slipper, Canada mayflower, bracken fern, eastern hay-scented fern, and unidentified grasses. The presence of large patches of wintergreen indicate a long period with no soil disturbance.

Successional White Pine Forest

Found in the western portion of the property near the Breivogel Conservation Area, this forest is dominated by younger white pine, while the sub-canopy and shrub layers are similar but sparser in species composition to white pine-oak forest.

Shrub Swamp and Pond Shore

This is the bordering wetland along the south edge of Shallow Pond, dominated by red maple, highbush blueberry, sweet pepperbush, swamp loosestrife, and button bush. Also present are swamp azalea, sphagnum moss, beggar tick, Virginia marsh, St. John’s wort, and unidentified sages.

Shrub Swamp/Kettle Hole Level Bog

This is an isolated wetland southeast of Shallow Pond. Approaching the edge from upland, one encounters cinnamon fern, sweet pepperbush, gray birch, swamp azalea, and greenbrier. The border of the wetland is a “quaking” moat with sphagnum hummocks and downed logs covered with sphagnum moss, difficult to negotiate. The interior of the swamp/bog contains red maple growing on hummocks with sphagnum and highbush blueberry. It is an imperiled community in Massachusetts, vulnerable to extinction.

Wildlife

Surveys have discovered coyote, fox, raccoon, gray squirrel, muskrat, deer, wood duck, mourning dove, blue jay, chickadee, and woodpecker. There are many signs of cavity-nesting birds such as woodpeckers, screech owls; ground burrows suitable for homes for red foxes or woodchucks; and small rodents. There was a great horned owl nest in one of the mature white pines and surveyors have also observed redback salamander, Eastern box turtle and spotted turtle, and many bird species: wood thrush, red-tailed hawk, ovenbirds, brown creeper, hairy woodpecker, mockingbirds, osprey, eastern king birds, red-winged blackbirds, common grackles, American goldfinch, and white-crested nuthatch.

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