Mass Audubon raises $2.6 million to preserve Great Neck property

Offer submitted to seminary officials for review
Feb 14, 2019

The Massachusetts Audubon Society has reached its fundraising goal of $2.6 million this week to purchase 110 acres of land at the Sacred Hearts Seminary on Great Neck Road in Wareham. Approval of the sale will take roughly three to six months to complete, officials said. 

Mass Audubon Director of Land Conservation Bob Wilbur delivered the nonprofit’s offer to buy the property on Feb. 13, which is now awaiting a response from the owners of the seminary, the Congregation of Sacred Hearts of Mary and Jesus.

Mass Audubon currently manages a 95-acre wildlife sanctuary on seminary property which was created for $4 million in 2010 through a permanent conservation restriction.

This restriction was a collaboration of the town, Mass Audubon, the Wareham Land Trust, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Sacred Hearts Seminary and several abutting neighbors who were interested in preserving the land for future generations.

The sanctuary can be accessed from a parking lot on Stockton Shortcut, off of Great Neck Road and features a two-and-a-half mile nature trail with views of Buzzards Bay.

Because this restriction is in place, Mass Audubon had the right of first refusal to buy the seminary’s remaining property before a private buyer would be allowed to purchase it later this month.

Seminary administrator Sister Claire Bouchard said the property has been on the market for the past two years. The land and seminary is owned by the Congregation of Sacred Hearts of Mary and Jesus, an order of brothers, priests and nuns that dates back to the late 1700s.

Bouchard said a dwindling number of priests and financial difficulties had forced the congregation to sell. She said she’s unsure if the property will remain home to the seminary, which attracts a variety of groups that use it for retreats throughout the year. 15 of the 110 acres sold is open to development of any kind.

Wilbur said Mass Audubon would evaluate the property’s existing structures for potential use in the future, but said it was likely for many of them to be torn down.

“The goal of Mass Audubon is to connect people with nature,” he said. “So while we do offer environmental programming, its likely most of the buildings would be removed for the purposes of the sanctuary.”

Wilbur added that Mass Audubon also operates two other pieces of conservation land next to the Sacred Hearts property, which he said would be incorporated into the nonprofit’s new purchase once finalized.

“We’ll have a wildlife sanctuary with over 200 acres of land and a mile of coastal frontage,” Wilbur said. “It’ll be an amazingly beautiful area, and I can’t stress how thankful Mass Audubon is to the Wareham community. They’re the ones who made this all possible.”