On Thursday, March 6th, 2014, Kris Ramsay, Director of the Orleans Conservation Trust (OCT), led a group of hikers on a mile- long walk through the Baker’s Pond Conservation Area off Baker’s Pond Road in Orleans.
During the introduction, Kris informed the dozen hikers that the Baker’s Pond Conservation Area and adjacent property in Brewster, with 18.89 acres in Brewster and 15.6 acres in Orleans, together comprise 34 acres that were once under the ownership of James Corrigan. At the Orleans May 10, 1988 Annual Town Meeting, a motion passed by a 2/3rd majority vote, authorizing the Board of Selectmen to acquire the land by purchase, eminent domain or otherwise for conservation, open space and/or recreation purposes. The land was formally purchased on September 27, 1988 for $1,456,165. That same year the Town applied for a Self-Help grant from the State Division of Conservation Services and in 1990, received $839,500 to assist in the purchase of this property. The net cost to purchase the land to the Town of Orleans was $616,665, or just under $40,000 per acre.
During the walk, Kris noted that this conservation area falls within a State recognized Zone II drinking water protection area. A Zone II is a wellhead protection area that has been determined by hydro-geologic modeling and approved by the MA Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Drinking Water Program (DWP). Orleans’ Zone of Contribution to its major well field has among the highest percentage of protected open space of any on Cape Cod. In addition to the 500-acre Town watershed, the 1800-acre Nickerson State Park in Brewster protects groundwater serving the Orleans wells. According to the Town’s Conservation, Recreation, and Open Space Plan, “The Town has continued to acquire land in the Zone of Contribution, and this effort should continue in the future.”
This land also lies within the Town’s Groundwater Protection District. The Town’s 2006 Comprehensive Plan states that the purpose of the Groundwater Protection Districts is to “Promote the health, safety and welfare of Orleans residents by providing a legal framework for the protection of the Town’s groundwater resources which will ensure an adequate future supply of high quality Town drinking water.” By preserving this land, the Town is further protecting the Town’s groundwater resources for generations to come.
While standing along the far western shoreline of Baker’s Pond, Kris told the hikers that the pond itself encompasses a total of 32 acres (28 acres in Orleans and 4 acres in Brewster) with a depth of up to 60’. The State designates ponds over 10 acres as Great Ponds. The shore of the pond on the Orleans side is divided into a number of small single-family lots except for the conservation land to the northeast where the Baker’s Pond Conservation Area has 1,250’ of shoreline on the Pond.
Kris also explained that the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program of Massachusetts has issued a classification of Natural Communities of Massachusetts, which describes sand plain ponds as highly acidic groundwater ponds in glacial outwash usually without an inlet or outlet. Bakers Pond is a classic sand plain pond with an exceptionally wide sandy shoreline, which is inundated seasonally when the water table is high. This wide beach supports a substantial community including the Walter grass (Agrostis hyemalis var. hyemalis), the rare spatulate leaved sun-dew (Drosera intermedia), the rare Plymouth gentian (Sabatia kennedyana) and plants commonly associated with the gentian such as golden pert (Gratiola aurea), slender leafed goldenrod (Euthamia tenuifolia), pink tickseed (Coreopsis rosea), beaksedge (Rhynchospora spp.) spike rush (Eleocharis spp.) and lance-leaf violet (Viola lanceolata). Along the shoreline grows wetland species such as red maple (Acer rubrum) and tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) with a fringe of grass, blue-joint (Calamagrostis canadensis).
Wildlife generally associated with these ponds include over 45 species of dragonflies and damselflies. Two of the four species of turtles listed under sand plain ponds are found on this site, painted and snapping turtles. Baker’s Pond is also often used by migrating and wintering waterfowl including mergansers, golden eye and bufflehead, some of which were observed as the walk was wrapping up.
If you missed the walk and want the chance to see some of our local wildlife, join us for our next walk at the Town’s Putnam Farm Conservation Area on Saturday, April 5th, 2014 from 9:00 – 10:00am.
Directions: From Orleans center, head south on Rt. 28 towards Eastham (0.4 miles). Merge onto Rt.6A south and follow to the rotary. Take the second exit onto Smith Lane and take a quick left onto Rock Harbor Road. Follow for .2 miles and take a right into the Court House. Follow parking area signs to the back of the Court House and enter conservation area via a dirt road.