What started as a small group of residents concerned about the health of their neighborhood pond has grown over the last year into a nonprofit organization working to educate residents about the need to protect ponds on the Cape.
Educational outreach has been at the forefront of the Deep Pond Preservation Project’s efforts since its founding last September. Its primary mission is to preserve the health and beauty of Deep Pond, located in the Hatchville neighborhood of East Falmouth.
As a coastal pond home to rare native plants, it is especially vulnerable to growing threats such as invasive species, septic overflow and herbicides.
Deep Pond Preservation Project president Mary Grauerholz said the changes have been very clear, following a summer that saw the recreational use of the pond increase significantly.
“Every few months we are becoming aware of issues,” Ms. Grauerholz said. “This is a really critical point right now.”
The project began last August when a letter signed by 16 concerned neighbors was sent to every home directly on Deep Pond, informing them about the immediate nature of the problems and what could be done to combat them. The mailing list has grown to 85 recipients and the newsletter informs residents of immediate hazards and updates on pond-related news.
It is difficult to reach everyone. Renters staying on the pond and others have not yet subscribed to the mailing list.
The DPPP has received a grant from the Woods Hole Foundation to collect data on Deep Pond. Testing will provide a better understanding of the rare plant species and help guide intervention and educational outreach going forward.
“It’s been amazing what they have done in such a short amount of time,” said Mark Kasprzyk, conservation land manager/MES technician, who works closely with DPPP. “Their educational facet had been tremendous. It’s easy for people to understand.”
Ms. Grauerholz said Dan Schall and Pam Polloni, officers of the Botany Club of Cape Cod and the Islands, have been instrumental in helping to identify which plant species in and around the pond were in need of attention. The survey, which covered roughly a third of the pond’s shoreline, concluded that there are several species of importance. The results have been compiled into a research sheet to use as a guide in protecting or eradicating certain plant species on and within Deep Pond.
Invasive plant species such as miliform brought in by boats, kayaks and other watercraft have begun to invade sections of Deep Pond. The organization posted signage at the public landings, alerting visitors to the invasive plants watercraft can bring into the pond. According to information released by DPPP, simply cleaning off the undercharge of these crafts can prevent the spread from one body of water to the next.
Board member Kim Comart called the efforts of the nonprofit “a call to action to everyone on or near the pond to act as responsible stewards in order to protect the water and shoreline.”
Like other freshwater ponds on the Upper Cape, Deep Pond has experienced blue-green algae blooms, or cyanobacteria. Climate change has helped the naturally forming bacteria, which thrives in warmer nutrient-rich waters. Another major issue contributing to blooms is the introduction of nutrients from septic systems and chemical fertilizers. Several times last summer it was unsafe for humans and pets to swim in the pond due to these blooms.
“A record-high water temperature of 85 degrees was recorded last summer,” said Ms. Grauerholz, who saw families unaware of the dangers still using the pond during active blooms.
DPPP has collaborated with other entities as well. The Association to Preserve Cape Cod and the Falmouth Water Stewards have been integral in efforts of education and advocacy, Ms. Grauerholz said.
“There are plans for the Falmouth Water Stewards to continue testing every two weeks throughout the summer for cyanobacteria” to ensure the health and safety of everyone using the pond, Ms. Grauerholz said.
Destruction to the water’s edge from the clearing of decades-old natural trees and brush is also damaging the ecosystem. Combined with the increase in new construction, Deep Pond has seen a decline in water clarity, sediment disruption, and a reduced number of fish, turtles, and frogs. DPPP is working with community members to create a list of environmentally sound practices for homeowners to reference when considering construction or landscaping.
The nonprofit is not trying to police individual properties but is attempting to change perspectives in order to ensure the quality of the pond is maintained for everyone’s enjoyment.
Mr. Comart emphasized that not only is the water affected by these issues, but “the quality and habitable state of the pond can greatly affect property values surrounding it.”
DPPP has done such a tremendous job in public outreach that other budding pond associations are turning to it for advice.
“The hope is to form an umbrella of pond organizations,” Ms. Grauerholz said.
Beyond its mailing list, the DPPP holds meetings open to community members, currently every two months. Meetings often include educational talks by community members. There are plans to hold meetings once a month during summer 2021 in order to remain vigilant in educating the organization and the public on the current biology of the pond.
For more information regarding Deep Pond Preservation Project, visit its website or join the mailing list at deeppondpreservationproject.org.