Horsley Witten Group, a full-service environmental consulting firm based in Sandwich, providing sustainable and resilient environmental design solutions, has partnered with the Town of Mashpee, the Massachusetts In-Lieu Fee Program, and the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration to restore the former Chop Chaque cranberry bogs to healthy, thriving wetlands similar to what they were prior to conversion to cranberry farming approximately a century ago.
There are two cranberry bogs at Chop Chaque totaling 6.5 acres that are situated on a nearly 12-acre town-owned parcel of land adjacent to Santuit Pond. The cranberry bogs have been out of production for approximately four years.
Since cranberry cultivation has become more economically challenging in recent decades for farmers on Cape Cod, many have opted to retire bogs and place the land under conservation easement protection. Municipalities and other conservation entities that acquire the land or the conservation easement for these retired bogs often seek to restore them to something similar to the natural wetlands that existed prior to the conversion to cranberry agriculture and that will better support complex ecosystems and associated habitat. Ancillary benefits, such as improved nutrient management, are also often realized.
“It is a major trend and for good reason – restoring cranberry bogs to their natural state benefits the environment, encourages the return of wildlife and rare species habitats and contributes to the health of our waterways,” said Horsley Witten Group Principal Scientist Neal Price. They do, however, need to be carefully restored, since simply abandoning bogs with no restoration intervention can bring on its own set of adverse environmental issues, including the proliferation of invasive species.”
The Chop Chaque project is being funded through a $525,000 In-Lieu Fee Program allocation from the Massachusetts Department of Fish & Game.
Horsley Witten Group was responsible for assessment of the Chop Chaque site, developing designs for restoration, which will include removal of the excess sand that had been added periodically over the decades of agriculture, filling artificial ditches, roughening bog services, removing a culvert that connects Santuit Pond to the bogs, and permitting of the project. Final design, construction, and post-project monitoring are still to come.
Construction work on the Chop Chaque restoration project is expected to begin during the fall of 2024 and be completed in approximately two to three months.
“We look forward to once again working with Horsley Witten Group on this important ecological restoration project,” said Mashpee Conservation Agent Andrew McManus. “The organization and its team of talented and accomplished environmental scientists have worked with the Town of Mashpee on a wide range of projects including culvert replacement, dam repair and planning and permitting processes.”
Horsley Witten Group has also managed or participated in other local cranberry bog restoration projects in Mashpee, Falmouth, Marstons Mills, Plymouth and Yarmouth.
Additional information can be found at www.horsleywitten.com.