Making Meaning at Tidmarsh
Friday, July 28, 2023
Seven years post restoration, 51 people from 21 organizations assembled at Mass Audubon's Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary to walk, explore, and learn how this wetland restoration has responded to the restoration intervention. The goal of the day: learn together about the process of recovery and collect insights that can be applied to other wetland restorations on cranberry farmland. The event was co-hosted by Mass Audubon Southeast Region and Living Observatory
At 9:00 AM, with the temperature and humidity rising, the group formed a large circle under the protective roof of the big barn for a welcome by Lauren Kras, Regional Director Mass Audubon Southeast and a land acknowledgement by Alex Hackman, Director of Ecological Restoration at Mass Audubon and former head of the Cranberry Bog Program at MA Division of Ecological Restoration (DER), who emphasized that all of us can play a role in acknowledging the centuries of indigenous stewardship of these lands. Glorianna followed with a brief introduction to Living Observatory, a collective of researchers, practitioners, and landowners who seek to learn from, document, and share knowledge about the arc of change that follows the wetland restorations on retired cranberry farms.
Brief introductions followed in which each person highlighted their connection to Tidmarsh, the restoration intervention (completed in 2016), other wetland restorations, and partner organizations. We then set off to explore several areas and share observations about the topography, hydrology, plants, insects, other inhabitants, and stewardship of this wetland that is now seven years into its recovery.
Exploring and learning
We then set off with a handout that provided before and after images of the land to explore five areas and share observations about the topography, hydrology, plants, insects, other inhabitants, and stewardship of this wetland that is now seven years into its recovery. At each location, Alex referenced the before and after images to set the stage, introduce the design goals, and call on various members of the restoration team to evaluate whether the outcome met expectations. He then asked the group to fan out and jot down with their findings. As we moved from location to location, Christine Hatch measured the temperature of the stream, while Chris Neill and Sara Quintal kept a running list of plant species. At Stop 2 and 3, measured at a mid-point between banks, the stream temperature was18 degrees C or 64.4 degrees F. Steve Hurley pointed out that this was good but that to get a “fish worthy” reading we would need to calculate the water temperature for a larger area. The plant list topped out at 65 species with 4 invasive and two rare species.
Many of us who were involved in the Tidmarsh restoration (2016) and the Eel River restoration (2009) before that, were thrilled by the sense of adventure, passion for learning, and commitment to stewardship that the younger participants brought with them. Whether it was a plant they were learning to recognize, the cool stream, a turtle, or a discussion with a colleague they had just met, their presence provided the promise of sustainability not just of ecological restoration writ large, but also for this movement to return the cranberry farms of Southeastern Massachusetts to wetlands. As Christine Hatch frequently points out, wetland restoration of these coastal farmlands has the potential to be successful because the farms were built on former wetlands that developed within the regions underlying glacial geology. As the group fanned out at stop 4, many of us had the privilege of standing on a spongy depression where sand had been removed during the restoration. On this Friday in July, the depression was filled with a low-growing rush and sphagnum moss. In a wet spring the depression will likely be filled with water.
A big thanks
Many thanks to Alex Hackman, Nick Nelson, Travis Sumner, Helen Castle, who were there at the beginning, Mass Audubon for allowing such a large group to walk the site, the many Living Observatory research collaborators, our partners from the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration, the land stewards who are working to restore cranberry farms on Cape Cod and Nantucket. You made the day!