Mass Audubon seeks to raise $2.6 million to preserve Great Neck property
The Massachusetts Audubon Society is racing to raise $2.6 million this week as the the Sacred Hearts Seminary on Great Neck Road in Wareham prepares to sell to a private buyer later this month.
The land being sold by the seminary is 110 acres of coastal property comprised of salt marshes, beaches and forested upland.
According to Mass Audubon, 15 acres of this newly available property is open to development of any kind, including commercial. The remaining land is under a conservation restriction and will remain protected from development.
“This would clearly threaten the future of this beautiful property,” Mass Audubon officials said in a post made to their website. “Acquisition by a developer could bring commercial enterprises to Great Neck, increasing traffic, pollution and use, thereby threatening the open space protected for plants, wildlife, and people.”
The state’s largest nature conservation nonprofit 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 has the right of first refusal to buy the seminary’s remaining property before a private buyer will 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 has 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.
“We’ll see what the week brings,” said Bouchard.
“If Mass Audubon acquires this rare, mostly undeveloped, coastal habitat, it will be permanently managed as a conservation area with trails and programs for the public to enjoy,” officials said. “We will not have this chance again.”
In a recent message received by Mass Audubon members, the nonprofit had already raised more than half of $2.6 million to buy the property.
For more information or to donate, contact Development Director Liz Albert at 781-259-2104 or firstname.lastname@example.org.