Founded last spring, Friends Of Sippewissett Marsh and Beaches aims to help protect and sustain the ecosystem of Great Sippewissett Marsh through collaborative educational projects with other organizations and town entities.
Composed of residents abutting the Great Sippewissett Marsh, the group is looking to increase visitors’ respect for the area by elevating their understanding of the fragility of the marsh and beaches.
Belle Traver McDougall, a founder of Friends of Sippewissett Marsh and Beaches, grew up on Little Neck Bars Road. Having seen the impact on the marsh over her lifetime and an increase in significant changes in recent years, Ms. Traver McDougall wanted to help form a community group to address those issues.
Increased boat traffic and visitors’ lack of understanding of the ecosystem were contributing factors in her desire to form FSMB. The group is pushing forward collaborative involvement with town entities to help mitigate the effects from increased or damaging usage of the marsh and beaches, Ms. Traver McDougall said.
“I wanted to bring the community here together to elevate the level of understanding about what’s happening in the marsh, what studies are being done, and elevate the level of stewardship in the marsh,” Ms. Traver McDougall said.
Founding members include Ms. Traver McDougall, Molly Niles Cornell, Martha Asendorf and Gilda Brancato. The group currently has 30 members.
Witnessing other community members’ commitment to protecting town waterways helped inspire the group’s inception as well. Ms. Traver McDougall specifically mentioned the efforts in West Falmouth Harbor as a catalyst for her decision.
Friends of Sippewissett Marsh and Beaches has been working on its initial goal of coordinating regular trash cleanups. Volunteers signed up to patrol for litter collection throughout the summer months and into mid-October, Ms. Traver McDougall said.
The group was able to connect with Alan Robinson from Litter Free Falmouth, who supplied yellow bags for litter collection and suggested the group adopt the beach to keep it clean from debris, Ms. Traver McDougall said. Weekly volunteers patrolled Black Beach, the inlet leading into Great Sippewissett Marsh, and down onto Woodneck Beach.
FSMB also collaborated with James Grady from the Falmouth Department of Public Works to coordinate litter collection for the area. Sometimes objects were too large to be removed by a single individual, Ms. Traver McDougall said. Mr. Grady agreed to keep in contact with the group for such issues.
“Jim (Grady) was really collaborative and happy to help us out,” Ms. Traver McDougall said.
In the coming year, the group wants to focus on gathering information on which entities are conducting scientific sampling within the marsh and beaches to keep residents and visitors informed.
Currently, to Ms. Traver McDougall’s knowledge, there is no overarching entity that compiles information from all of the organizations conducting scientific studies in the area.
“We want to support and collaborate with the other groups who are working to protect the marsh and these fragile conservation areas,” Ms. Traver McDougall said.
FSMB is looking to work together with organizations working on conservation efforts, such as Salt Pond, Marine Biological Laboratory, The 300 Committee, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts Audubon Society, and private resident associations adjacent to the marsh and beaches, including the Saconesset Hills Association.
“There are a lot of stakeholders who are interested in this area,” Ms. Traver McDougall said. “I think communication and elevating the level of knowledge in general in the community is just a win-win.”
Next summer the group plans to cosponsor a speaker series with the West Falmouth Village Association at the West Falmouth Public Library. The series would be a way for the two groups to bring in knowledgeable scientists to elevate the communities’ understanding, Ms. Traver McDougall said.
FSMB also hopes to install educational kiosks, approved by the conservation commission, to provide more information for visitors. Signage would be erected at two or three popular access points into the beach and marsh, Ms. Traver McDougall said.
“Nobody wants to change the feeling of the marsh and the beauty but we do want people to understand there are endangered species there,” Ms. Traver McDougall said.
Signage would inform visitors about the fragility of the entire ecosystem. The dunes, which have been greatly affected by erosion, and the marsh have already begun to see the repercussions of human interaction, Ms. Traver McDougall said.
Guided natural history walks are also in the works for next year, Ms. Traver McDougall said.
By collaborating on such projects, the group hopes to create a positive impact on how the marsh and beaches are used and cared for throughout the years.