The Kent’s Conservation Area consists of 28 acres located at the end of Frost Fish Lane, about a mile from Monument Road in Orleans. The land is owned by the Town of Orleans and co-managed by the Conservation Commission and Parks Department. This land was acquired in 1988, contains more than a mile of undeveloped shoreline, and fronts on Lonnie’s Pond, Little Pleasant Bay and Frost Fish Creek. There is a designated parking area that contains enough room for 10 cars and the trail stretching west to east, running down the center of the property, is wide enough for cars to use the path, which leads to a handicapped-accessible boardwalk overlooking The River and the northern portion of Pleasant Bay.
The OCT-sponsored walk began at 10am on Tuesday, September 3rdLeading the walk was Kris Ramsay, the OCT Administrator, who began with a brief history of the property. Kris informed the group that the Town acquired the property on October 24, 1988 for $1,800,000 for conservation, recreation and open space purposes. That same year the Town applied for and was awarded a Self-Help grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs in the amount of $500,000 to help fund this purchase, lowering the final cost to Town residents.
The original farmhouse on Kent’s Point was on the southwestern side of the property, but was moved in 1902 to the northeastern headland. After Ms. Kent’s passing, the house was removed, allowing for the area where the house was located to revert back to a natural meadow
At the first stop, not far from the northeastern trail head, Kris pointed out a small, easy-to-miss certified vernal pool. Kris noted that in order for vernal pools to become certified, someone must specifically identify one of the threatened or endangered wetland species, such a wood frog or yellow-backed salamander, documenting their identification with photography or by tape-recording the “songs” of the species identified. Documenting these species can often be very difficult because these species typically breed at night during one of spring’s first hard rains.
Moving ahead, the hiking group walked east along the northern portion of the property, which overlooked Frost Fish Cove. As the trees thinned, Kris pointed out one of the local residents swimming in the water. While this “neighbor” has a head the size of a quarter, hikers narrowed their focus onto two diamond-backed terrapins enjoying the warm rays of the sun in the shallow water. Kris informed the group that these terrapins will spend their entire life within this same area and in fact, less than 500 yards away, 24 terrapin hatchlings were born over Labor Day weekend. These terrapins, which are listed as a “Threatened” species by the state, will be released back into The River, with the hope that in seven to nine years they will grow up and reproduce more offspring.
The group then stopped at a meadow clearing, very different from the pine/oak woodlands making up the first portion of the walk. This clearing was the former house site of the Kent family. In the meadow Kris identified a number of non-native species, such as the black locust, bush honeysuckle, and yucca plants – as well as several leftover lilacs. Some of these species very likely found their way onto this portion of the property when the house was being removed and the ground soil was disturbed and exposed, though the lilacs and yuccas were likely planted by the family. Kris also identified a number of native species, including white pine and Norway spruce, which Kris suspected were planted by the Kent family, They are considered “native species”, but aren’t actually native to the Cape.
As the group walked from the northern tip of the point to the southern tip, erosion from this past winter’s storms became ever more evident. While the northern side of Kent’s Point is protected from the strong southern winds and surging tides, the southern portion takes a direct hit from the waves. Kris explained that while coastal erosion appears to be more prevalent than in years past, it is a very natural process: eroded sand and soil coming off the coastal bluff flows back into the ocean “system” and is deposited in another location soon after. As Kris noted, this is a natural process that has occurred for millions of years.
While walking the coastline, Kris identified a black oak that showed signs of being affected by the gall wasp. Gall wasps, also called gallflies, are small wasps that commonly infest oak tree species. In general, most leaf galls on Cape do not affect the health of the host tree. A few can cause leaves to drop prematurely, or distort them so that photosynthesis (the plant’s food-making process) is interrupted. Galls generally are aesthetically objectionable to homeowners who find them unattractive and fear that galls will cause damage to the health of their oak trees. Chemical control is seldom suggested for management of leaf galls on oaks. Once a gall begins to develop, it is almost impossible to stop or reverse its development. Unless registered insecticides can be applied when gall wasps are flying, they offer little or no effective measure of control.
Lastly, as the group made its way towards the southwestern portion of the property, Kris informed the group that the small river they were looking at was in fact Lonnie’s River, a winding, narrow tidal stream connecting Lonnie’s Pond to Pleasant Bay. This river supports the Town’s most important anadromous fish run for alewives and blueback herring spawning in Pilgrim Lake. The herring arrive in April and early May, when our brooks and ponds are the right temperature (around 57 degrees). The schools of herring navigate into the fresh pond to lay their eggs. The adults that survive predators, then return to the sea soon after laying their eggs. Unlike West Coast salmon, all adult herring do not die during the migratory process. Many will return to the ocean while others will fall prey to gulls, man or the elements.
If you missed this walk and would like to see the Kent’s Point Conservation Area for yourself, directions and a trail map can be found and downloaded on the “trails” section of the OCT website.
Join us for our next walk on Saturday, September 14th, from 10:00-11:30am, at the Baker’s Pond Conservation Area.
Directions: From the Orleans Shopping Center follow Rt. 6A west towards Brewster for 1.1 miles. Take a left at the traffic light onto Baker’s Pond Road and follow for 0.6 miles. Town parking will be on your right.