Recognizing the public importance of the property, the Coalition has worked for more than a decade to negotiate the addition of these lands to the state park. Fort Phoenix State Reservation contains a beloved beach and park. It also serves as the finish location for the Coalition’s annual Buzzards Bay Swim.
“The woods at Fort Phoenix hold a special place in my heart and it is extremely gratifying to see them permanently protected,” said Mark Rasmussen, President of the Coalition. “My third grade teacher at nearby Rogers School would take us on walks as a class to these woods to explore the vernal pools and trees. It’s one of the many places where I fell in love with nature and the lands surrounding the Bay.
“Now future generations will continue to have similar experiences at Fort Phoenix – not just on the beach, but in these neighborhood woods,” Rasmussen said.
The land acquisition is the result of an ongoing partnership between the Coalition and the state, said Allen Decker, the Coalitions’ Director of Land Protection. “We are grateful to our partners in the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) for their support and for their patience in seeing this effort through to a successful conclusion,” Decker said.
“The newly protected land had always functioned as a de facto part of the Fort Phoenix State Reservation, but the threat of a sale to a developer was always there,” said Shaun Provencher, land protection planner at the state Department of Conservation and Recreation. “DCR has limited opportunity to conserve lands on the South Coast and this long-standing collaboration with the Buzzards Bay Coalition was a pleasure to realize.”
The newly preserved woodlands that border the state reservation have long been used by the community as an extension of the state reservation. Trails that run through the woodlands, from Doane Street to the state reservation, are heavily used by local residents. However, before the purchase, the woods were owned by the utility company Eversource Energy, which worked with the Coalition and the state to realize the sale of the land. The property could have been developed into house lots.
“We’re proud of our partnership with the Buzzards Bay Coalition and the Department of Conservation and Recreation to preserve roughly 4.5 acres of land for Ft. Phoenix State Reservation,” said Eversource Senior Real Estate Specialist Chris Detwiller. “We strongly believe the conservation of open space land is central to the region’s character and appeal, and this sale will continue to promote public recreation and educational activities in the state park.”
In addition to the property bordering Fort Phoenix, the purchase facilitated by the Coalition also will protect a five-acre salt marsh situated along the westerly edge of Boy’s Creek. The property, which the Coalition will protect and manage, is part of one of the largest remaining marshes on Fairhaven’s coast that was privately owned. The marsh harbors a diverse array of plants and animals that are critical to the health of the bay. Its preservation also enhances the town’s resiliency to the increasing pace of sea level rise.