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Neighbors irate at plans for driveway

Project would replace pathway at nature center

By Christine Legere
Globe Correspondent / December 15, 2011
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The Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences has maintained an amicable relationship with its half-dozen neighbors during the last 50 years, but that changed when the organization decided last month to convert a grassy path through its farm into a gravel driveway.

The driveway, connecting the center’s offices with Manomet Point Road, is part of a plan to restore the 22-acre Plymouth property, known as the Holmes Farm, say center representatives.

Previous owners grew cranberries, vegetables, and blueberries there. Now, bogs are being rebuilt and a farmer has been licensed for organic cranberry growing.

Because the driveway is on private property and the land carries an agricultural designation, neither town boards nor local opposition can stop the driveway from being completed by the end of the month. But the dispute has put the well-known environmental group in the position of being called environmentally insensitive.

In a letter to neighbors, Manomet Center’s vice president of finance explained that the driveway will make it safer for heavy equipment to restore and farm the bogs. It also will provide better access for visitors and public safety vehicles. A few years ago, a nearby house burned down before firefighters arrived.

The letter did little to defuse the animosity, which has only grown since work on the 12-foot-wide driveway began about two weeks ago. Opponents launch daily attacks against the center via a Facebook page called “Remind Manomet Center They Stand for Conservation Not Convenience.’’ They have submitted letters to a local newspaper, accusing the center of violating its mission to protect the natural resources under its care.

The Facebook page claims cars on the driveway “would pass directly next to the cranberry bogs, spewing vehicle exhaust onto the potential crop which is being advertised as organic.’’ The driveway will pass a protected vernal pool, says the page, bringing traffic through a “pristine landscape and the home of countless species of wildlife.’’

The center, meanwhile, bristles at the criticism being hurled its way.

“How is a gravel driveway over a grassy path on a private working farm contrary to our mission?’’ said David McGlinchey, Manomet Center’s director of communications. “The driveway may change the aesthetics of the farm, but it won’t impact any wildlife habitat, wetlands, or conservation areas.’’

Access to the Manomet Center, until now, has been limited to Stage Point Road, which is narrow, dirt, and riddled with ruts. “It has several turns and a lot of growth,’’ McGlinchey said. “We have been grading it, but that’s expensive to do several times a year.’’

The center recently notified neighbors of its decision to install the gravel driveway, saying use would be limited to vehicles heading to the center: 10 to 12 employees and volunteers per day, visitors, and a few delivery trucks each week.

Cheryl Carvalho, a Stage Point Road resident and niece of the couple from whom Manomet Center purchased the farm, said she doesn’t want to watch delivery trucks chug through the fields behind her house.

“That’s pristine land,’’ she said. “My aunt would be rolling over in her grave.’’ Carvalho questioned the safety of the gravel driveway. “If it gets rutty, trucks could overturn on the steep hill,’’ she said.

Carvalho grew up near Holmes Farm. She and her husband now live in her grandmother’s old house. “We’ve been fighting development here all our lives,’’ Carvalho said. “I have four acres I own and I could sell it, but I’d rather eat dirt.’’

She said the gravel driveway “seems to fly in the face of everything else the Manomet Center is doing.’’

Carvalho contends that her aunt, Emelyn Holmes, sold the farm to the center in 1991 so it would remain undeveloped. At the time, the Manomet Center operated a bird observatory, and “my aunt admired their work.’’

McGlinchey argues the driveway is part of the farm’s revitalization. “We know there is a deep emotional attachment there, but we really believe we’re continuing the legacy by working to restore it to a working farm,’’ he said. “We’ve maintained open space there for 20 years and we will continue to do it.’’

Carvalho isn’t the only neighbor who is upset. Galen Green lives on Manomet Point Road, a few driveways from the center’s planned access. “I talked to the people at the center and told them I wasn’t in favor,’’ Green said. “I thought it was inappropriate and unnecessary.’’

Green said he understands the limited influence that neighbors have, since the driveway will be completely on private property. “It’s not for me to judge what they do with it,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, another Stage Point Road resident, Karl Anderson, supports the Manomet Center, saying the same people opposing the driveway cost him quite a bit in legal costs when he was trying to put a subdivision in. The opponents eventually lost the case, but they are now opposing another residential development, he said.

“My opinion is these neighbors should mind their own business,’’ Anderson said. “It’s an advantage to them if the driveway takes traffic off Stage Point Road.’’

The gravel driveway is expected to be completed by the end of the month.

Christine Legere can be reached at christinelegere@yahoo.com.

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