New public conservation area opened in West Wareham
Wareham has a new public trail to enjoy: the Douglas S. Westgate Conservation Area & River Walk. The ribbon cutting for this 49-acre, town-owned conservation land took place at its entrance off Papermill Road in West Wareham on Saturday, Nov. 9.
The land was purchased in July 2011.
“Not long after the property was purchased, in recognition of Doug’s 36 years of service as a Wareham Conservation Commissioner, the conservation commission voted to name the site after him,” said David Pichette, Wareham’s conservation agent.
“When the fellas told him, he kind of teared-up,” Mary Westgate remembered.
Douglas Westgate passed away in June 2012. The ribbon cutting featured Westgate’s friends, family and colleagues.
“Even though he’s left us unexpectedly, we know that he was aware of the project, and he contributed to it,” Pichette added.
“It is, however, ironic, that we stand here in an area where Doug spent so much of his boyhood, entertaining himself and playing with others,” Arthur Westgate said.
“I could certainly entertain you for a while with all the wild stories and everything that went on in these woods while we were growing up, but that would take the rest of my lifetime,” he added.
“This was his playground as it will remain a playground for all to come,” he assured attendees.
The land will be a rather large playground. The land shares a border with the Fearing Hill Conservation area, also owned by the town.
“With that, the town now owns the land around the Weweantic River from Papermill Road to Fearing Hill Road,” Pichette explained. “In total, this is about 115 acres.”
The land also features four cranberry bogs surrounded by walking trails.
“The acquisition of this land was made largely possible by the efforts of the Buzzards Bay Coalition,” Pichette said. “It was the Buzzards Bay Coalition that met with property owner, negotiated the purchase and sale agreement for the property -- which they then later assigned over to the town.”
Pichette told attendees that the coalition also applied for and received $400,000 in grants for the purchase.
Alongside the Buzzards Bay Coalition, the Wareham Land Trust garnered community support to pass a Town Meeting article to secure $225,000 of Community Preservation funds to go towards purchasing the properties. The trust was also actively involved in preparing the land for public use, according to Pichette.
The Wareham Land Trust is “the co-holders of the conservation restriction on this property with the Buzzards Bay Coalition,” Pichette added.
“We try to keep these properties open to the public,” said Kevin Bartsch, Wareham Land Trust vice president.
Overall, the project needed about 75 volunteers to construct.
“We want this to be a sight for families to come and enjoy,” Pichette said. “Hopefully, people take advantage of it.”
Douglas Westgate “would have been -- with everyone that came -- he would have been ecstatic. He would have embraced everyone,” Mary Westgate said. “He was here, I feel. He was here -- that sunshine.”