Opinion: Protect Wareham’s Natural Resources & Quality of Life by Voting “NO” on Article 1

Apr 5, 2021

To the Editor:

While responsible economic development is a must for every community, we’re asking Wareham residents to vote “NO” on Article 1 because rezoning these 700+ acres potentially threatens the town’s drinking water, rare species habitat, local wildlife, and outdoor recreational opportunities, which many residents enjoy.

The most important reason to oppose this effort to create a “Hospitality, Recreation, and Entertainment Overlay District” at the April 10 Special Town Meeting is that it threatens to permanently damage Wareham’s drinking water supply. This land is home to the Plymouth-Carver Sole Source Aquifer—Wareham’s only source of clean drinking water. Dense commercial development not only means increased water withdrawals that the region can’t absorb, but also the threat of groundwater contamination via nutrient enrichment from runoff and wastewater disposal, as well as other chemicals and contaminants. Keeping the land open allows forests to purify and recharge water as it passes through sandy soils.

In addition, the coastal Pine Barrens on this site are a globally rare ecosystem that represent some of the last undeveloped habitat of its kind. This landscape supports more than 200 endangered and threatened animals and plants and the state has formally designated most of the acreage as Priority and Core Habitat or Critical Natural Landscape, which is why millions of dollars have been spent by The Trustees, MassWildlife, A.D. Makepeace, and other partners to restore and protect the Red Brook’s sensitive habitat. In recent years, the Brook Trout population has rebounded and now provides one of the most popular destinations for trout fishing in Southeastern Massachusetts. The herring runs at Red Brook also contribute to the region’s recreational fishing economy as they are a primary food source for striped bass and other coastal fish. All of that will be threatened should this rezoning pass, opening the door for commercial development to destroy current habitat.

As property owners in Wareham for nearly 20 years, we care for the beloved 210-acre Theodore Lyman Reserve, which is visited by thousands of Wareham residents every year who enjoy fishing, hiking, and the outdoors. The future of the Reserve, which is a unique and treasured natural landscape, is threatened by the proposed rezoning proposal, which is why we’re joining several other local organizations to oppose Article 1 including the Buzzards Bay Coalition, the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Trout Unlimited, Wareham Land Trust, Herring Pond Wampanoag, Mashpee Wampanoag, Southeastern MA Pine Barrens Alliance, and the Sea Run Brook Trout Coalition.

We hope the residents of Wareham will see fit to protect the Town’s resources and the extraordinary natural landscape. This developer-led effort began last year as a proposal to build a racetrack and casino but has now morphed into a vague rezoning effort that asks Wareham residents to sign a blank check of sorts. With no details as to what is proposed for the land, this zoning change opens the town to dense, incompatible commercial development that would negatively impact Wareham’s water quality and quantity, globally rare Pine Barrens habitat, a crucial fishery, and the overall character of the town.

While we understand the need for a balanced approach to municipal economic development, we also know it cannot be done at the expense of our precious and dwindling natural resources which, as the last year has shown us, are more vital than ever.

The Trustees’ mission has been the same for 130 years—protect and conserve our state’s most special places to support the natural and cultural resources that our communities need to thrive. That’s what we’ve done at 120 special places across the state, especially at the Lyman Reserve in Wareham, which can be visited by anyone from sunrise to sunset, free of charge. It’s what we plead with you to do for these critical natural resources comprising more than 700 acres.

Please join us in protecting Wareham’s water, natural areas, and fish and wildlife habitat by voting “NO” on Article 1 at the April 10 Special Town Meeting.

Jocelyn Forbush
Acting President and CEO, The Trustees