Mashpee Town Conservation Gate at Moody's Pond Destroyed

Damaged gate at the entrance to Moody's Pond in Mashpee - Damaged gate at the entrance to Moody's Pond in Mashpee

The malicious destruction of a $4,000 metal gate protecting town conservation lands at Moody’s Pond has Mashpee town leaders and law enforcement officials determined to find the culprits and bring them to justice.

On Tuesday afternoon, a group that included Town Manager Joyce M. Mason, Police Chief Rodney C. Collins, Deputy Fire Chief Thomas C. Rullo, Conservation Agent Andrew R. McManus, Department of Public Works Director Catherine A. Laurent, and Assistant Town Manager Thomas J. Mayo convened at town hall to discuss the matter. The town is also considering offering a reward for information leading to an arrest.

The damage to the gate, which was discovered late last week, was so great that Mr. Mayo said that a car or other passenger vehicle could not have caused so much damage, and that some type of heavy equipment or a plow had to have been used. Chief Collins speculated that it could possibly have been a winch that was used to destroy the gate.

“This malicious damage is a felony and we are going to do everything we can to find whoever did this. These conservation lands were purchased with taxpayer money and they need to be safe and preserved. That’s why the gates are there,” Ms. Mason said.

The 15 gates protecting Mashpee’s conservation areas and beaches are not intended to keep people out, but are there to prevent damage from vehicles, including ATVs, from harming vegetation, ripping up the property, and potentially causing fires from sparks. The gates also are a mechanism to control the illegal dumping of difficult-to-remove household and construction waste, as well as to discourage underage parties and bonfires where drinking and drug use are prevalent.

The gates have been effective in eliminating a significant amount of illegal dumping activity in Mashpee.

Ms. Laurent reported that since the gates have been erected, the cost of disposing of illegally dumped debris has gone from $3,000 for 40 tons in Fiscal Year 2011, to $1,300 for 17 tons in FY13. For comparison’s sake, the trailers used at the transfer station, with compacted loads, generally carry about 15 tons.

Tribe Opposed Erection of Gates

In May, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe sent a letter to the Mashpee Board of Selectmen and Conservation Commission stating that the town’s erection of gates at conservation areas interfered with the tribe’s aboriginal rights to fish and hunt on the properties.

In particular, the letter highlighted the town’s efforts to keep motor vehicles out of the areas surrounding Moody’s Pond.

“Additionally, the town has blocked the only access to Moody’s Pond with rocks and shrubs and regraded the road with recycled asphalt. This pond is on the Pocknett Family Homestead land and is pristine and the loss of access is in direct violation of our hunting and fishing rights. Also the use of contaminated material to regrade the road is introducing pollutants into the pond. Runoff from the road is carrying the recycled asphalt down to the pond. Mashpee Wampanoag people have fished this pond for many generations and it was Mashpee Wampanoag people who entrusted this land to town conservation,” the letter stated.

In response, the Town of Mashpee sent a letter of its own to the tribe, stating that while it is committed to working with the tribe, it is also dedicated to the responsible conservation of the town’s natural resources for all members of the community.

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“In summary, the Board respectfully disagrees with your contention that the town’s erection of gates and the placement of other obstacles to regulate access to environmentally sensitive conservation and recreational areas are ‘violations of state, federal, and tribal law.’ Rather, the town’s adoption and implementation of regulations restricting access to certain conservation areas are nothing more than a reasonable non-discriminatory and legitimate attempt to conserve those irreplaceable and significant natural resource areas for the benefit and enjoyment of all members of the Mashpee community, including members of the tribe,” Mashpee Board of Selectmen Chairman John J. Cahalane wrote in the letter of response.

Through a spokesperson, the tribe declined to comment on the recent destruction of the gate.

“Whoever is doing this is disrespectful to the land, and is not doing it out of love for Mashpee,” Mr. Mayo said.

Chief Collins urges anyone with information regarding the destruction of the Moody’s Pond gate to immediately contact the Mashpee Police Department at 508-539-1480.

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