Around the bend from Wellfleet Harbor, Jim O’Connell slides out of his white Ford F150 into the emerging sand. He clips his olive hip waders onto his belt as the salty waters seep out into Cape Cod Bay. From the shore, his truck is one of many that dot the curving horizon 400 yards off Indian Neck, the slick sand glass-like in the afternoon sun. O’Connell, along with many others, is there to check his numerous bags of oysters.
It’s a life dictated by the tides.
“I love the water. I’m definitely a water man,” he says, looking out over the series of home-welded racks, the skeletons that support his growing oysters.
O’Connell wasn’t always a Wellfleet man. He was born outside of Boston and later lived in New Jersey before moving to Cape Cod. A graduate of Wellfleet High School, he built his home from scratch, falling in love with the aquaculture-focused town in the process.
In 2004, O’Connell received a call from a friend in the nearby town of Dennis, offering him oysters. The next day he found himself with 125,000 two-millimeter oyster seeds. The first night in open water, three of O’Connell’s five bags floated away from the grant, the leased property where he farms the creatures. Twelve years later, O’Connell’s one of 17 farms off of Indian Neck. In his grant alone he farms roughly 300,000 oysters.
“I do as good as a job that I know how to do,” O’Connell says. “If you’re happy with the number of animals you’re growing, you can make time for your family or other things outside of work."
The state’s aquacultural history dates back to the hunter-gathering traditions of Native Americans. According to the state’s Department of Agricultural Resources, 1970 marked the beginning of commercial aquaculture cultivation. In an economic impact study of the shellfish industry by University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, 19.1 million oysters were sold in the 2013-’14 season. Of those oysters sold, 58 percent were farmed on Cape Cod.
“This is a growing industry,” said Julian Cyr, state senator-elect for Cape Cod and the Islands. Previously, Cyr worked in the state’s Department of Public Health, and working for a time as the director of policy and regulatory affairs for the environmental health division, which looked at the protection of raw foods like oyster. “Several years back this was a $5 to $6 million industry, and its now it’s up to a $14 million industry on Cape Cod and the Islands alone, and growing. So it's really become a place over the last decade where in aquaculture we’ve seen a lot of expansion, a lot of jobs.”
Wellfleet's shellfishing history dates back to the 1600s, according to the town’s history online. Since then, the shellfish industry has been an active and occasionally tempestuous economic marker for the town. As stated by the town, the harbor, sometimes references as the “jewel” of Wellfleet, “is why people come to Wellfleet whether to work, to play or to live.”
Shellfishing remains a multimillion industry for the town. According to a 2015 report by the Social and Environmental Research Institute, a nonprofit research firm, the town produces approximately 20 percent of the shellfish harvest in the state of Massachusetts, with the harvest of 2014 valued roughly at $4.5 million.
So renowned are the shellfish that Wellfleet OysterFest is dedicated solely to the appreciation of the bivalve. On the Lower Cape, it’s a holiday of sorts. Held every fall since 2001, it is a celebration of the town’s oysters, clams and deep-rooted shellfishing traditions, according to Wellfleet Shellfish Promotion and Tasting (SPAT), a nonprofit devoted to the town’s shellfishing industry. SPAT itself exists to help sustain the town’s unique industry and is in charge of OysterFest. This past year however, the event was marred by a state closure of the town’s shellfish beds. The closure fell on October 13, two days before thousands flocked to Wellfleet for music, art, beer, and, off course, shellfish.
“The whole OysterFest is promoting what I do for a living, what we do for a living,” O’Connell says. Although recuperating from health issues the past two years, he says he normally sells about 12,000 to 17,000 oysters that weekend. “I feel like I have an obligation to go and I enjoy watching people enjoy oysters so much.”
The Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services closed the town’s oyster bed after an outbreak of 75 cases of norovirus, believed to be linked to the consumption of shellfish from the area. With the news of the closure, all shellfish harvested on or after September 26, had to be recalled. The beds remained closed until November 14. Despite the setback, more than 20,000 people visited the town for its premier event.
Days before the reopening, O’Connell flips a few bags a top his racks that rest on the ocean floor. Trudging through in the slowly rising ankle deep water to peer at his recalled crop, the glare of the sun begins to slip slowly downward, putting the many summerhouses behind the storm wall back into shadow. Within half an hour of the low-tide mark, the water is already lapping at his tire rim.
“In this business you have mother nature and yourself,” O’Connell said. “So if you can come to grips with that then it’s physically demanding, and it can be very mentally demanding at times.”
A few miles from O’Connell’s grant, his buyers Alex Hay and Dan Roy sit across from each other in an upstairs office of the Wellfleet Shellfish Company (WSC). Downstairs, the concrete floor of the warehouse is slick with water and marked by the undeniable smell of fish. Groups of employees prep for the delivery of a local fisherman’s mackerel, and another push clams through a pipeline that sorts them by size into brightly colored, knit plastic bags.
Hay is the head of WSC, the wholesale branch of Mac’s Seafood, a local restaurant and fish market group started by Alex and his brother Mac that specializes in seafood, especially that harvested or caught locally. In 2002 the Hays purchased WSC from the original group of growers and founders, including O’Connell. Roy is Hay’s right-hand man, originally starting on the floor, and now the head of sales and purchasing.
Hanging on the wall between the two men, a yellowing posters reads, “Most Lobsters Just Crawl. Ours Can Also Fly.”
“We work with 40 to 50 growers throughout the year,” Hay says. “We may have some very dedicated growers that are very loyal to us. It lends to the fact that everyone still produces their own type of unique product, which is kind of artisanal in a sense.”
The Wellfleet oyster is world famous, featuring a briny finish, deep cut, substantial meat, and a clean shell. The cool waters of the town’s estuaries and high salinity makes the oyster one of the best on the East Coast. According to SPAT, the cold water temperatures slow down the bivalves' metabolism, allowing them to effectively “carbo-load” in the salty waters, creating a sweeter oyster with a clean, sharp flavor.
“The water, the care, the techniques [these] guys have developed over the years,” says Dan Roy. "The perfect oyster has a deep cut, good meat, clean shell.”
Across the table Hay chimes in.
“Basically being able to shuck an oyster and having it not explode is key to the quality and grade of an oyster,” Hay adds.
What makes WSC unique is their ability for wet storage. The white tanks in the warehouse are filled with sea water sourced from Wellfleet Harbor and the combination of UV light and a natural filtration system allows Hay to store fresh, live shellfish until the day they are to be shipped. As noted on their website, “We have the ability to purged sand from our shellfish, extending shelf life and ensuring that our products are fresh as the day they were harvested. Keeping shellfish in the same water where it was harvested produces a superior quality product and continual supply all year, even during the lean months.”
Since the opening of their wholesale venture, the market for oysters has continued to grow, but the market remains a tricky one.
“Oyster sales have continued to grow and they continue to change,” says Hay. “We’ve been producing more oysters but the per piece price has declined in the last five years because we’ve been producing more volume and more product up and down the East Coast. The product we produce in New England is exclusively for the raw market. … There’s no process market so the price is really dictated by demand on the retail level.”
According to the UMass Dartmouth economic impact study, the value of shellfish in the Commonwealth is between $45 to $50 million, with oysters being the most valuable product. Between 2001 and 2010, the value of annual shellfish production increased by nearly $7 million. The study also found that the majority of growers, 58.5 percent, sell to small local wholesalers.
Within such a high quality and saturated market, the competition is stiff. There are 252 farmable acres in the town and 70 grants, says Hay, meaning 70 different growers all working with the same product. As Roy points out, there’s only one spot on a menu for a Wellfleet oyster.
“You’re never just buyer or a seller or a salesman, you’re constantly researching, says Roy. “There are so many variables that go in to what we do here. It’s a big responsibility to have someone’s livelihood in your hands.”
Besides the obvious, a common thread that connects O’Connell to Hay and Roy is that they all hope to foster a cohesive market environment. The adage of think global buy local comes to mind.
“We’ve been working with our farms to get everyone on that collective mindset of producing a high quality oyster for cheaper,” says Hay. "Unfortunately I have to say, as much as we want to say it’s one big happy community, It’s not. It’s very independent and independent-minded with very little collective thinking.”
As a business WSC works to create this identity in its purchasing as a whole. A video created for the company features many of the families that Hay began working with for their original seafood shack in 1995. As with the filtering nature of oysters, the promotion of this industry has worked to improve the health of the harbor as well as employ the local community.
“I consider myself a professional shellfish farmer, whatever that means,” O’Connell muses. “I’m serious about it, I care about it, and I also speak my mind when I see stuff going on that I don’t feel as though is doing it justice. Mind your own business doesn’t work in this business in Wellfeet, because it's all our business.”
What O’Connell is referring to is the overall quality of the oysters that come out of Wellfleet as well as the preservation of the waters and harbor that yield this multimillion-dollar industry.
“I’ve been in the school of thought that the more nice oysters that come out of Wellfleet, the better for everyone,” O’Connell says. “I don’t want to be the only one in town with nice oysters. That would be crazy, and it wouldn’t look good for Wellfleet as a whole. But some people don’t think that way.”
As detrimental as the closing of OysterFest was initially, it is a reminder that a collective community and work towards a healthy environment and oysters is what matters for the existence of this livelihood. From icing oysters as soon as they are harvested, tumbling and shaking the bivalves, and paying attention to any threats that may leach into the water supply, it’s all in a day's work.
“I hope we don’t have anymore closures like we had. That’s no good. But I think there’s something to be learned from that,” O’Connell says. “I just like to work, and I don’t want to risk being out of work for two weeks because there’s a vibrio closure, because there’s someone not doing what their supposed to. Its not just you losing work, it could shut down the whole harbor.”
When it comes to this business, attention to detail is key.
A few weeks after the beds reopened, the temperatures have slowly begun to drop throughout Massachusetts and on the Cape. The winter will soon begin to take hold, bringing ice to the harbor and draining it of some of oysters’ favorite foods. O’Connell will begin to move the creatures from their watery home to the damp of his root cellar to wait out the coldest months. The hibernation will last until the first big tide of March, and is yet another step in keeping the animals alive.
The wind chill will soon drop the water temperature. As O’Connell says, it's better to err on the side of caution before the ice begins to form. Within the root cellars he’ll have control of the temperature and humidity until the first big tides in March call the oysters back into their watery home.
With the temperatures dropping, the sunsets O’Connell watches over the harbor daily will begin to grow more and more vibrant, a sight he never ignores.
“I can't walk by a beautiful maple tree that is this golden yellow dropping its leaves. I see all of that,” he says on his relationship with nature. “I always have, and some people don’t, but I do. I’d rather be outside in the rain than indoors almost anytime. So it's kind of perfect for me.”
All he hopes is for more days out on the tidal flats.
“That's it. Just want to wake up tomorrow and keep doing it,” he says. “That’s all.”
This multimedia story was produced as part of WGBH News contributor Dan Kennedy's class in Digital Storytelling and Social Media at Northeastern University by Alexandra Malloy. Then published by WGBH.
My approach to climate change and the topics surrounding it has often been a pessimistic one, often followed by the sentiment that we’re too far gone and that not enough people care.
In the words of Robert Swan, a polar explorer and environmentalist, “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”
When it comes to climate change, the ocean is a factor that is largely overlooked. It’s the big blue, a tumultuous body that, to date, we’ve explored less than five percent of. It is an environment that we largely take from, without realizing that our influence on the ecosystems masked by waves and tides. As noted by NOAA, “The ocean is the lifeblood of Earth, covering more than 70 percent of the planet's surface, driving weather, regulating temperature, and ultimately supporting all living organisms.”
Even through I’m just scratching the surface, the news recently regarding the protection of the ocean has been promising… so consider this an optimistic post.
The first week of September, Hawaii was host to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress. Members voted on September 9, to support increasing the portion of the ocean that is highly protected to 30 percent in order to conserve biodiversity.
Currently only two percent of oceans are officially protected (Here's a fun map of current conservation areas globally).
As noted by the Pew Charitable Trust, “The passing of this motion is a milestone for marine conservation and underscores the need to create more marine protected areas around the world to combat increasing threats from overfishing, marine debris, pollution, and other human activities.”
Pew notes that the increase to 30 percent would not only support fisheries, and conserve biodiversity, but would also help bolster the ocean’s resilience to climate change.
Although this is a step forward, the treaty (Motion 53) could soonest be adopted by 2020, but only if governments stay on track.
Guy Dinmore of the New Scientist, covered the meeting, and noted the possibility that the passing of such a motion is possibly only a symbolic gesture. IUCN resolutions do not carry the weight of law, but the “congress [is] an important platform for creating and implementing international treaties and domestic legislation.”
“The high seas have outstanding value on the global scale, yet they have little protection,” Dan Laffoley, principal advisor on marine science and conservation for the IUCN, was quoted by Dinmore. “These areas are exposed to threats such as pollution and overfishing. It is therefore crucial to mobilize the international community to ensure their long-term conservation.”
This is an important step in the conservation community, but as with most good ideas bureaucracy is the biggest hurdle. My next post will take on a bit more U.S. specific focus, given that the Our Ocean conference concludes in Washington today.
Just paying more attention to this beat I’ve realized the wealth of information this topic possesses as well as how many people actually care and work for change.
Photo by the Bureau of Land Management
Ah, yet another blog post about my attempt to blog. I guess at least this time it’s graded ( a little added incentive).
Despite my somewhat cynical view, only due to past experiences, blogging has been the most continual advice I’ve received. With that in mind, I’ve decided to focus on environmental topics, specifically issues related to ocean conservation and biodiversity.
My decision to focus on such a topic is two fold. About two years ago I took an introductory class to sustainability and design. Although this class was based mainly on architecture and landscape architecture, it has completely shifted my outlook on life and professional goals. I completed my Journalism 3 final based largely around my sustainability class and it’s been my inspiration ever since. The issue is no longer about sustainability but now about adaptation in our epoch, the Anthropocene.
The second reason for my topic focus is because I’m from Cape Cod and have grown up along the shores of the Atlantic my entire life. I’ve seen first hand how storms have intensified as I’ve grown older and how species have come and gone (shout out to the Cape’s orca population).
Environmental journalism is what I hope to pursue professionally at this point and am currently debating between attending an ocean conservation and biodiversity masters program or work to start my professional career outright. Either way, hopefully I’ll get addicted to this beat and this will jump start my decision.
I get the majority of my news from Twitter but the following are the news sites I hope to follow the most:
The Pew Charitable Trust: Pew is not only a great resource for journalists in general, but also offers solid environmental reporting on national topics, while also weaving in political and energy related news.
Ocean Currents: The blog for the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy, Ocean Currents offers news and opinion about the health of the oceans.
United Nations Environment Program: I get a lot of my environmental news from UNEP (via Twitter) and helps to offer a more political and global glimpse on environmental protection.
The Guardian: Although a general news site, The Guardian has great environmental coverage that is easy to understand and synthesize.
The New York Times: The times, like the Guardian, offers easy to understand science articles, just not as frequently as I’d like.
Humannature: Conservation International is one of my favorite organizations in general, and covers not only ocean related topics, but also the human side of the issues.
These may be the sites I follow the most but I also turn to the Atlantic, the New Yorker, National Geographic, Science, and Nature (if I can get my hands on the journal). I also hope to bring in some narratives about climatic shifts regarding the ocean and economic factors as well.
If one pine were placed in a town square, what admiration it would excite! Yet who is conscious of the pine-tree multitudes in the free woods, though open to everybody? —John Muir
Just off of College Avenue in Somerville, Mass., a cheerful yellow barn houses a virtual indoor playground.
Inside, Christopher Frost sifts through proposals for various projects, each decorated with sketches and collages. Beneath the angular shadows of a plywood tree, its branches filled with undulating birdhouses, a slate etching of Thoreau looks out stoically across the studio. Frost hums through the guitar solo of “Hotel California” as he works.
Frost studied sculpture in Maine and Paris, but, really, he’s more of an experimenter. His art combines paint, wood, resin, light, and words. He takes found objects, from toys to branches, and turns them into his artistic inspiration. The results usually evoke thoughts of play.
“I don’t feel like I have a specific style, but people say there’s a common thread that runs through [my work],” the 50-year-old artist muses.
His work moves between boundaries, bringing the inside world outdoors and the outside in, drawing on natural narratives such as geography and botany. He describes his outdoor work as site-specific and incorporates the history and physical characteristics of the artwork’s intended location into his process.
“I don’t like my work to take away from its surroundings,” he says, his gray-blue eyes falling on a delicious row of red-topped, ceramic mushrooms he’s working on for a project near Walden Woods, in Concord, Mass. “They should work together and complement each other.”
Frost wanders downstairs to his workbench. He sifts through a seeming pile of rubble and pulls out three colorful rock forms. The rocks are made out of blue-dyed resin, cast from the forms of stones he found on the New England National Scenic Trail (NET), and embedded with LED lights. Each stone connected to a solar panel hidden in a tree near the trail, providing the power that kept the rocks glowing softly from dusk until dawn. Emblazoned on the rocks is a portion of Emily Dickinson’s poem “The Mountains Stood in Haze:” “So soft upon the scene / The act of evening fell / We felt how neighborly a thing / Was the invisible.”
The rocks are the remains of Hespera Stones, a 2012 sculpture installation on the NET commissioned by Charles Tracy of the National Park Service. The stones were placed along the Holyoke Range, in Skinner State Park near Hadley, Mass. The installation remained onsite for a year, part of the NET’s Artist on the Trails program, which has featured the work of both artists-in-residence and commissioned artists. Frost says the goal for his project was subtlety—reflecting the words and emotions of Dickinson, who lived in nearby Amherst, in a physical object that blended in with its surroundings.
“I know hikers are hiking because they want to be out there to enjoy nature and be surrounded by that tranquility and vastness of nature, so I didn’t want to put something out there that seemed out of place, loud, and disrespectful,” he says. “I didn’t want to use a color that was so drastically unnatural in that setting. Blue is an all-around perfect, natural color but also would stand out.”
“I consider any pieces outside to be public,” says Frost, whose CV includes projects for Forest Hills Cemetery, in Boston; Bradley Palmer State Park, in Hamilton and Topsfield, Mass.; and Maudslay State Park, in Newburyport, Mass. “Public art is a way to address issues important to a natural setting, whether [that’s] conservation or destruction,” he says. “It can also act simply as a way to better observe the environment around you. It can force you to see details you may have not seen before.
For Frost, working outside provides a level of freedom. He describes the desire to touch the great works in a museum; to run one’s hands down the canvas of a Picasso to feel its peaks, valleys, and eddies of oil paint, or stand in solace next to Auguste Rodin’s Thinker. An outdoor setting allows for uninhibited exploration and sensory immersion. “It’s not a gallery setting, and there’s no guard telling you what you can and can’t do. It’s out there. It’s the public’s.”
“It feeds a part of us that is really vital. We suffer when we don’t have a connection to the natural world.”
The battle we have fought, and are still fighting for the forests is a part of the eternal conflict between right and wrong, and we cannot expect to see the end of it…. So we must count on watching and striving for these trees, and should always be glad to find anything so surely good and noble to strive for. —John Muir
Under Charles Tracy’s watch, the 215-mile NET—already a picture-perfect New England landscape of river valleys, forests, and the echoes of Colonial America—has become its own gallery.
Tracy has been working with the National Park Service for 28 years, acting as both a landscape architect, and more recently as the NET trail administrator and the National Park Service’s arts partnership specialist. The Artists on the Trail program has hosted six individual artists, including Frost, and two additional group projects. Works have ranged from photography to sensorial walks—even a hip-hop music video.
“I saw that art is a great way to introduce the trail to new audiences and get people to think about the trail and experience the trail in different ways,” Tracy says. “Nationally, with the National Park Service, we are increasingly working with artists to have another lens to look at our parks and national trails.”
For Artists on the Trail, Tracy selects individuals interested in engaging visitors with the outdoors. As he notes, there is no one way. “I’m interested in exploring as many medias as possible,” he says. “I think different types of art connect to different types of people.” For his part, Frost describes Tracy as an enthusiastic and encouraging patron, with an obvious love for art, the environment, and the park system’s access-for-all mission.
Although Tracy refers to the art installations as a means of creative engagement, they are inherently public art. While for many the phrase “public art” may call to mind heroic memorials or expansive murals, public art can take on any medium, scale, and range, from temporary to permanent.
Through their public placement, works like the Hespera Stones evoke sensory and emotional responses. The art and its viewer are outdoors along of NET, occupying the same space, the same ecosystem.
“I’m interested in the impression it leaves, or the memories it leaves, on the people who experience it,” Tracy says of the art he chooses for Artists on the Trail. What he doesn’t want is for that art to leave an impact on the landscape. Before placing even a temporary work, he must consider the natural and cultural resources affected, as well as the potential visitor experience. “I approach art projects as I would any other project on the trail,” he says.
In other words, the guiding force behind Artists on the Trail is conservation. The projects are meant to be introspective rather than intrusive, to promote a sense of personal engagement. “If people feel a stronger connection to the land and environment, my hope is that it would increase personal stewardship,” Tracy says. “If no one goes out there, there is no stewardship. So the first step is really to get people outside.
“One of the things I’ve learned from artists: Trails are great for getting from point A to point B, but trails are also a great place to stop and look.”
THE PARKS AND THE TRUSTS
In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. —John Muir
In the summer of 2015, a project similar to “Artists on the Trail” came to the Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park. In an alcove of Fort Warren on George’s Island, one of 34 islands in Boston Harbor, Amy Archambault’s Traverse sat dappled by light beaming through the musket holes in the wall. The contraption of chairs, drawers, bungees, sleeping bags, strapped to two blue keels created a jury-rigged escape unit, as part of the Isles Art Initiative.
“I was interested in the functionality of the fort as a prison,” says Archambault, a 30-year-old resident of North Chelmsford, Mass. Fort Warren held Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, and was the site of multiple failed escapes. “Prisoners tried to escape through the musket holes and gather stuff to make boats,” she says, a narrative and location that sent the tone of her piece.
“It’s such a curious environment, and people almost play in it. The art and the space came together in this really beautiful way,” she says.
From a historical standpoint, artists have been creating art in National Parks and on other public lands since the 19th century. Members of the Hudson River School—Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, Frederic Edwin Church, among others—created an iconic style of American landscape painting while focusing on the Catskills and venturing further afield to paint Niagara Falls and Acadia National Park. In the words of Durand, “one studio which you may freely enter and receive in liberal measure the most sure and safe instruction…the Studio of Nature.”
In May 2016, The Trustees of the Reservations, a Massachusetts conservation and preservation organization, announced its own outdoor public art initiative. “Art and the Landscape” will feature site-specific works by the Los Angeles-based artist Sam Durant at the Trustee’s Old Manse, in Concord, and by the Copenhagen-based artist Jeppe Hein at World’s End, in Hingham. Durant’s piece will be be on display for four months, from July through October, and Hein’s will be installed in August and remain up for a year.
“We hope these installations will create transformative experiences for our visitors—inspiring them to come visit one of our properties for the first time, or perhaps see it in a new light and gain a deeper appreciation of its significance,” Barbara Erickson, the Trustees’ president, said in her announcement.
As highlighted by both the Harbor Islands and the Trustees, Tracy has seen a growing interest nationally among land managers and conservation groups in staging public art projects. Another opportunity provided by the National Park Service is an Artist in Residence program, similar to the NET’s Artists on the Trail. Tracy says that these projects help to tell untold stories, including those which may be difficult to tell.
The power of imagination makes us infinite. —John Muir
Back to the beginning—where inspiration comes from. For Christopher Frost, the Somerville artist, childhood memories and musings fill the loft of his barn studio. A spray-painted cardboard crown and sword lie on the edge of a table otherwise cluttered with colorful 3D studies from his time in China. Nearby sits a wooden box of velvet cushions, the future home of what Frost calls the ultimate stick gun—a version of the boyhood classic cast in bronze and plated with nickel.
“Sometimes it’s just nice to make art for art’s sake,” he says. “You can’t get too caught up in it.”
Frost’s primary project at the moment—whose working name is Traces (Along a Forest Hymn)—incorporates four elements: a log, a branch, a maple leaf, and a stone. He plans to cast them in bronze and then silverplate them, similar to the stick gun. Each piece will be emblazoned with a single word on one side and imprinted with his name and contact information on the reverse should the objects be found in their future hiding spots.
The work is inspired by the Hudson River School and the seminal New England landscapes its members painted. “Along a Forest Hymn” references a poem by William Cullen Bryant, a school patron. Frost points out that the school had a strong influence on 19th-century conservation whose principles guide his own work. In honor of that tradition, the text on these new objects will read: Preservation, Salvation, Sanctuary, and Inspiration.
Frost says with a hint of frustration, that he has applied for funding for the work but has been unable to secure it as of yet. Instead, he’s just going to do it.
He intends to hide them in the wild, within an environment where you’d expect to find logs and branches and stones. He hopes that these pieces will become a permanent part of the landscape. “The outdoors is cool,” Frost says matter of factly. “I love the idea that, as a viewer, if you’re just walking along and you stumble upon something, it’s like finding a little treasure. I’ve done pieces out in the middle of nowhere, and you just hope someone stumbles upon it. I love that idea of exploration.”
“What a great feeling,” he says, mostly to himself.
This post was originally published by AMC Outdoors.
The East Coast region is home to 73 National Wildlife Refuges, providing habitats for hundreds of animal species: furry, feathered, and finned. Since 1903, when Theodore Roosevelt named Florida’s Pelican Island the first refuge of its kind, the NWR designation, first and foremost, has protected and restored wildlife populations and habitats. But these refuges are also great places to hit the trail and spot critters. Here are eight of the best hikes in National Wildlife Refuges in New England and the Mid-Atlantic.
Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge
With views of Petit Manan Light, the second-tallest lighthouse in the state, Petit Manan Point stands out among the 55 islands and four mainland parcels that make up the 250-mile-long Maine Coastal Islands NWR. Petit Manan’s gently sloping Birch Point Trail takes you through blueberry fields, forest, and salt marsh on the way to an overlook of Dyer Bay. The shorter, though more rugged, John Hollingsworth Memorial Trail leads to the ocean and features interpretive signs about Maine’s history. Look out for bald eagles, which are known to nest on Petit Manan Point, as well as arctic terns and endangered roseate terns along the shore.
Distance: 4 or 1.8 miles round trip
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast (AMC Books); U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Located on the eastern shore of New Hampshire’s Great Bay, this former Air Force base is now a vital stop for migrating birds and a year-round home for peregrine falcons and osprey. The area also hosts the state’s largest concentration of wintering black ducks and bald eagles. Take the Ferry Way Trail for a 2-mile round trip to a scenic overlook of Great and Little bays. Or, for a shorter option, hike the 0.5-mile Peverly Pond Trail, passing a stream and a series of vernal pools. In the summer, watch for white-tailed deer and their fawns, as well as families of wild turkeys.
Distance: 0.5 or 2 miles round trip
Info: Outdoors with Kids Boston (AMC Books); Southern New Hampshire Trail Guide, 3rd ed. (AMC Books); U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge
The Oxbow NWR spans nearly 8 miles of the Nashua River, from Harvard to Ayer, Mass., and passes through a variety of habitats, from old fields to oxbow ponds. The Still River Depot Road location features a remote 2-mile hike following the Riverside and Turnpike trails and Tank Road. The route is dotted with the work of beavers, and you might even spot the threatened Blanding’s turtle. Please note that the refuge was once a military training area and there is a remote possibility of unexploded devices, so stay on the trail.
Distance: 2 miles round trip
Info: Outdoors with Kids Boston (AMC Books); U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge
Home to the rare New England cottontail rabbit as well as harlequin ducks, piping plover, and more than 200 other bird species, Sachuest Point offers especially strong wildlife watching. Combine the Ocean View (1.5 miles) and Flint Point (1.2 miles) loops for a trek along the Atlantic Ocean and Sakonnet River. Three observation platforms and multiple points of access to the shore provide spectacular spots for you to witness sunrise and sunset.
Distance: 1.2 and 1.5 miles round trip
Info: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge
With its 316 acres of salt marsh, forest, and grassland, the Salt Meadow Unit offers a glimpse of the eight-unit, 60-mile McKinney NWR for which it serves as headquarters. As the 1.1-mile trail winds from meadow to marsh, you’ll pass a restored log cabin and the remnants of the home of the property’s donor, Esther Lape. Also watch for great egret, osprey, and fox from the trail or from the observation platform overlooking Gatchen Creek.
Distance: 1.1 miles round trip
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Connecticut, 2nd ed. (AMC Books); U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
Green Village, N.J.
An hour’s drive from Manhattan, Great Swamp contains the only federally designated Wilderness in the metropolitan New York City area. Hardwood ridges and cattail marshes host more than 19 miles of trails of varying difficulty. Within the Wilderness Area, you can even explore off-trail. Park at Myersville Road and hike the Orange Trail to the center of the refuge. It’s a good idea to wear waterproof footwear or old sneakers due to the frequently muddy conditions. A variety of migrating birds seek refuge here, in the midst of suburban New Jersey.
Distance: 3.2 miles round trip
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes Near New York City (AMC Books); U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
John Heinz at Tinicum National Wildlife Refuge
Heinz NWR, the nation’s first federal urban refuge, is less than a 30-minute drive from the heart of Philadelphia and accessible within a 2-hour drive of 35 million people. The 1,000-acre property features 10 miles of trails winding through freshwater tidal marshes. Starting at the Cusano Environmental Education Center, follow Haul Road and the Trolley Bed Trail to the Dike Trail for a 5-mile loop that passes an observation deck and crosses a dike. Keep your eyes open for beaver, mink, and river otter. If you’d like to get off-trail, Darby Creek can be paddled at high tide; check the tide chart in the visitor center.
Distance: 5 miles round trip
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes Near Philadelphia (AMC Books); Outdoors with Kids Philadelphia (AMC Books); U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Patuxent Research Refuge
Divided into three tracts, Patuxent offers a total of 45 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Within the South Tract, follow Fire Road Trail before turning onto Laurel then Cash Lake trails, traversing boardwalks and floating bridges along the 2.7-mile route. Look out for bright red scarlet tanagers flying past, as well as eastern red bats sleeping in hollow trees. Patuxent is the only National Wildlife Refuge with a research mission focus, home to the U.S. Geological Survey’s research center. The Central Tract, which is home to rare whooping cranes, is only open for special tours, while the North Tract features the 20-mile, car-friendly Wildlife Loop, as well as 20 miles of trails.
Distance: 2.7 miles round trip
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes Near Washington, D.C. (AMC Books); U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Daniel Case, Susan Charkes, Gene Daniell, Kim Foley MacKinnon, Beth Homicz, Carey Kish, René Laubach, Stephen Mauro, Steven D. Smith
This piece was originally published by AMC Outdoors.
Chronicling my journalistic endeavors.
All ocean conservation/biodiversity posts are my own original thoughts. All other posts are my work for other publications.