On October 11th, Kris Ramsay, Administrator of Orleans Conservation Trust (OCT), led a 1.5 mile walk through the Thee Ponds Conservation Area in South Orleans as part of the Cape Cod Commissions fall pathways program. Kris led the group of 35 nature enthusiasts around Sarah’s Pond, Meadow Bog Pond, and finally through the Twinings Pond Conservation Area trail system. It was a perfect fall day with a slight breeze coming from the East, further encouraging the leaves to change color.
The walk began by traversing a path that stretched through a portion of the 58 acre Cochran Gift, which is purposefully left unmaintained to preserve the natural integrity of this pristine woodland. While this section of the walk was described by some hikers as “back-woods”, all involved were able to safely navigate through the woodland and greatly appreciated the unmanaged pathway. Kris informed the group that this land was donated to the Trust in 1974, just four years after the Trust’s founding. From that time, this gift remains the largest single upland gift the Trust has ever received.
While walking through the woodland an individual inquired what the land was once used for and how we might expect the property to change in the future. Kris informed the group that there are photo’s that still exist today showing the land stretching from Quanset Road east to Pleasant Bay as being cleared and used as pasture lands. Then around the 1920’s the land was allowed to reforest itself with red cedars and pitch pines. Today, as part of a natural cycle, the pitch pines are being outgrown by the oak trees. In the coming years Kris expects the oaks to become the dominate species, but we may expect to see other hardwood species start to appear, such as the black walnut. After about a half a mile, the group popped out onto an old dirt road.
This part of the walk was a nice change of pace, as the road was flat and strait, but still surrounded by the forested woodlands. After a short stroll the group arrived at the almost-hidden entrance to the second section of trail on the east side of Sarah’s Pond. This section, which is left relatively undisturbed from formal trail maintenance activities as well, is also part of the original Cochran land gift in 1974. Before jumping back onto the trail, Kris pointed out another lot across the cart path being maintained as an open field habitat, with which the Trust holds a Conservation Restriction (CR) over.
Kris explained that a CR is truly a creative way to preserve land, while still allowing the property owner to own the land privately. Each CR is different, allowing some flexibility as to how the land can be managed, while still protecting the ecological integrity of the land itself. CR’s today run in perpetuity so future owners of the property will also be bound by the terms of the original agreement.
Attendees jumped back onto the trail, which wound around the southern side of Sarah’s Pond. Along the way the group was able to take advantage of the unique topography, allowing for expansive views of the pond. On the southern tip of the pond Kris stopped at what most would describe as a natural swale leading south out of the pond. However, after reviewing deeds to the surrounding properties, the Trust discovered that this deep cut in the hillside was actually man made back in the late 1800’s early 1900’s. This cut was once used to transport the freshwater in Sarah’s Pond down to the Pleasant Bay Bog, which today has reverted back to a salt marsh because most of the dikes that once kept the salt water out have collapsed.
A short distance away we crossed onto the Brooks land acquisition, now referred to by OCT as the Meadow Bog Pond Conservation Area, which OCT purchased in December of 2005. This 6.6 acre property is made up of pine/oak woodland, with red cedars and black cherries mixed in. black locus dominates the northwestern boundary. The portion of the property that contains the black locus was once cleared for development, but OCT was able to purchase the parcel before development took place. Just before popping out onto Quanset Road, Kris gave special thanks to Rachia Heyelman, who attended the walk, for donating a parcel of land on the southeastern tip of Meadow Bog. If this gift were not made, OCT would not have access to the Brooks purchase from Quanset Road, and the Meadow Bog trail system would not exist.
The last section of trail the group hiked was the Twinings Pond Conservation Area. Walkers passed through land that was originally donated by Peter and Ruth Fleck in 1993-94 as well as land that OCT actively worked to acquire at 10, 18, and 22 Twinings Lane between 2009- 2012.
The final stop was made on the northeast corner of Twinings Pond, where a small opening provides panoramic views of Twinings Pond and the 27-acres of preserved land surrounding it. Kris explained that Twinings Pond is a true Kettle Pond, which means it contains no inlet or outlet. The water level within the pond is completely dependent upon water runoff from the surrounding hillsides or changes in the groundwater levels itself.
If you missed this walk, join us for our next walk at the Ice House/ Reuben’s Pond Conservation Area on Tuesday, November 5th, 2013 from 9:00am- 10:15am. Trail head parking can be found at 245 Tonset Road, Orleans.
Directions: From the intersection of Rt. 28 and Main Street in Orleans, drive east on Main Street (.4 mi) towards Nauset Beach. Turn left on Tonset Rd at the lights and follow Tonset Road to destination on right (1.4 mi). Look for OCT kiosk and sign. Parking is along the roadside.