The Nantucket Conservation Foundation (NCF) this week launched a multi-year, "watershed-level wetland restoration project" on its Windswept Bog property, which was retired from active cranberry farming in 2017.
Work at the site (located off Polpis Road) began this week. The project is the culmination of over four years of research, monitoring, engineering plan development, permitting, and grant writing undertaken by NCF, the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration’s Cranberry Bog Program (DER), and Fuss & O’Neill, Inc. engineers.
NCF has contracted with SumCo Eco-Contracting, a firm that specializes in ecological and environmental improvement projects and has considerable experience restoring wetlands at other retired cranberry bogs elsewhere in Massachusetts. The restoration work at Windswept is scheduled to take place over two to three years, with construction activities happening only during the winter dormant season (from November to mid-March) to avoid impacting rare plants, nesting birds, and breeding wildlife on the property.
Construction this winter will be taking place in the southwestern and northeastern portions of the property and will then proceed to the center and property entrance areas in subsequent years.
"Restoring naturally functioning wetlands on retired cranberry bogs provides many important ecological benefits," the NCF stated in its announcement. "Negative impacts from past cranberry farming include: a sand fill layer placed over native wetland soils; lateral and perimeter ditching, berms, and water control structures; and straight, unnatural water flow paths. The cumulative effect of these alterations is altered hydrology, drier soils, and a trajectory toward more upland plant species over time."
The NCF's goals for the Windswept Bog Restoration Project include: restoring wetland flow and connectivity; creating natural gradients between restored wetlands and surrounding uplands; maintaining or establishing valuable plant and wildlife habitats; perpetuating and enhancing public access, use, and enjoyment of the Windswept Bog property; educating the public about the importance of restoration work; maintaining Stump Pond (a unique but human-made wetland created to serve as a reservoir for the cranberry operation back in the early 1900’s); and maximizing the restored wetland’s ability to filter excess nutrients to improve water quality in Polpis and Nantucket Harbors.
“We are so excited to break ground on this critically important restoration project,” said Karen Beattie, vice president of science and stewardship at NCF. “This is a keystone project for the Foundation that not only stands as a testament to NCF’s environmental stewardship and habitat restoration goals but also serves as a model for similar projects across southeastern New England.”
This project is being funded by DER and grants from the Southern New
England Estuary Program (SNEP) Watershed Implementation Program and the Richard King Mellon Foundation.
Periodic closures of portions or all of the Windswept Bog property will be necessary to protect public safety during the active construction process. NCF requests that property visitors respect all posted closures and keep their pets on leashes when visiting portions of the property that remain open to pedestrians and bicyclists.