Mashpee Director of Natural Resources Richard York has announced that he will retire on May 29.
An employee of the town for more than 27 years, Mr. York became the first natural resources director when the harbormaster and shellfish department merged to form the new department in 2015.
“I’m comfortable doing this because we have a really good team now,” Mr. York said. He commended his department’s staff, including shellfish constable Ashley Fisher and harbormaster Jeffrey Smith.
Mr. York was instrumental in the development of Mashpee’s extensive aquaculture program, which now seeds millions of quahogs and hundreds of thousands of oysters each year to help remove nitrogen polluting the town’s bays and inlets.
“The biggest accomplishment of my career, not even just my time here, was the formulation and implementation of the shellfish portion of the Mashpee Watershed Nitrogen Management Plan,” Mr. York said.
Under his guidance, the shellfish program has grown over the course of the last decade from its humble beginnings as an experimental and untested approach for nitrogen remediation into a robust program with the potential to save the town millions of dollars.
Built in five phases, Mashpee’s Watershed Nitrogen Management Plan envisions reducing nitrogen loads in the town’s bays and inlets by coupling traditional sewering projects with the shellfish program.
“We’ve had positive results and improvement of water quality,” Mr. York said. “It’s working.”
The five phases represent a full build out of the sewer infrastructure. Later phases may not be necessary if the shellfish program continues to show results.
In recent years, though, the shellfish program has served as a stopgap as the town has struggled to get sewer projects off the ground.
“We’re successful but we have to keep working on them,” Mr. York said. “We’re making progress but we haven’t gotten to the finish line yet.”
Mr. York said there is a lot of time required in the administration of the natural resource department and that his retirement will give him more time to do water-quality work as a volunteer.
“I’m 70 and I plan to spend more time on water-quality work actually as a volunteer because I won’t have any other responsibilities,” he said.
Mr. York said he will likely continue cyanobacteria monitoring at Santuit Pond as well as working with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution as it develops a prototype, known as HABStats, for real-time water quality monitoring.
“People ask if I’m going to move back to Hawaii,” Mr. York said. “I’m not, it’s more fun here.
“The people are great, the people I’m working with, all the town employees, the tribe and the town residents... I really enjoy working with all of them,” he said.
Town Manager Rodney C. Collins described Mr. York as “the most dedicated employee the town has ever had.
“The time he invests in protecting the interests of the town is full devotion to duty and far beyond,” Mr. Collins said. “The knowledge and the experience that he has brought to the discussions at the professional level will always be appreciated.”
Mr. York “was the catalyst to get it moving,” Mr. Collins said of the town’s shellfish program. “He sometimes did it on a shoestring budget and was very creative in the process.”