Opinion: Majestic parcel offers residents something more valuable than horse racing

Feb 9, 2021

To the Editor:

I grew up on Hunter Avenue, a mile from where they’re proposing to put a casino and racetrack off of Glen Charlie Road. I’m opposed to the project because I think it will ruin the otherwise pristine, quiet, and safe little corner of East Wareham that so many of us hold dear in our hearts, and because developing this high quality parcel of land would go against Massachusetts’ own plan to combat climate change. Keeping the parcel undeveloped is in the best long-term interests of Wareham residents.

Save for approximately 32 acres used as a sand mine, the parcel is undeveloped, and consists of approximately 243 acres of native pitch pine forest. This parcel has likely remained undeveloped throughout its entire history, thus preserving the native flora and fauna in the region. This parcel is in fact part of the Coastal Pine Barrens, a globally rare ecosystem of which the pitch pine forests of Cape Cod are one of only three examples left in the entire world. Losing 243 acres of native forest would be a devastating loss for Atlantic biodiversity and the wrong direction for East Wareham to take. 

You see, this is an area that has always been about outdoor fun and family. Splattered with lakes, sandy beaches, huge swaths of pitch pine forests, bike paths, and cranberry bogs, this is a place where kids can roam free and adults can relax, knowing that their families are safe. A strong community of families lives in this area, whose children have grown up together for generations. The native pitch pine forests contribute to a high quality of life in this corner of Wareham, and also help preserve the drinking water and clean air for the entire rest of the Town.

The parcel sits on top of the EPA-designated sole-source Plymouth/Carver aquifer, which, according to the EPA, is the principal drinking water source for the entire region. If this aquifer were contaminated, it would create a significant hazard to public health. According to the Massachusetts DEP, the parcel also sits on top of an approved wellhead protection area, meaning the land on which the parcel sits has been determined to provide water to local public supply wells. The forest and sand that sit atop the parcel now help recharge the aquifer with drinking water and filter rainwater, helping maintain the quality of water for the region. The EPA states that it’s important to be aware of the nature and value of local groundwater resources; please be aware that our parcel is currently part of an important network of forests that protect the drinking water for Plymouth County. 

The parcel is also surrounded by mapped, protected natural resources. According to MassDEP, to the west, the parcel is bordered by coniferous swamp and shrub swamp wetlands, open water, a perennial stream, and potential vernal pools (which are salamander and wood frog breeding habitat); this area to the west of the parcel is also mapped as an estimated habitat of rare wildlife. To the east, the parcel is bordered by wooded coniferous swamp and protected open space. This parcel forms a continuous woodland habitat for local animals to migrate between priority resources and protected woodland. To lose 243 acres of local habitat would be a huge loss for our native species.

According to the 2018 Massachusetts Integrated State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Adaptation Plan, nature-based solutions should be considered in policy-making decisions. The Plan calls for strategies that conserve and sustainably employ the natural resources of the Commonwealth to enhance climate adaptation, build resilience and mitigate climate change. According to the Plan, leaving the parcel in its natural state helps mitigate climate change by reducing heat island effects, sequestering carbon, reducing storm surge damages in hurricanes, providing habitat services, supporting a restoration economy, improving water quality, all while improving housing values. It’s no coincidence that we have pitch pine forests, one of the largest aquifers in New England, and a family-oriented community all existing in one spot. I call on Wareham to preserve this parcel in perpetuity, to save our forests, save our ecosystems, protect our drinking water, and preserve our quality of life.

Katherine Harrelson