At a special town meeting in April, 813 residents voted against the rezoning plan put forward by the Quincy-based Notos Group while just 141 voted in favor of the proposal.
The Coalition joined forces with Trout Unlimited and the international Waterkeeper Alliance on outreach efforts aimed at mobilizing voters for the special town meeting. In all, ten conservation organizations, including the Wareham Land Trust and The Trustees, opposed the measure and lobbied for its defeat.
“This is a solid win for clean water and for our future,” said Mark Rasmussen, president of the Buzzards Bay Coalition. “This area is not the place to focus intense development in Wareham. This is a place that requires protection: for our drinking water, for our rare fisheries, for the health of our coastal waters, for our future.”
The tract of land proposed for rezoning threatened Red Brook, which harbors the increasingly rare sea-run brook trout. Once plentiful in southeastern Massachusetts, the population of brook trout, which travel between ocean saltwater and freshwater streams, has plunged since the 19th century due to dam building and land development. Thanks to conservation efforts, Red Brook is one place where that decline had been reversed.
In addition to Red Brook, which flows to Buttermilk Bay and on to Buzzards Bay, the land includes a rare Pine Barrens forest that is home to a diverse array of plant and animal species and sits atop the groundwater aquifer that supplies drinking water to Onset.
“The re-zoning proposal offered no protections for Red Brook and the unique fish species like the wild Sea Run Brook Trout that live there,” Rasmussen said. “Not only would forests and wildlife be affected, but such massive amounts of paving threatened the quality and quantity of downstream surface waters and groundwater.” In addition, the Coalition noted that the town’s wastewater treatment capacity is near its limit, and there was no plan for handling the significant increase that large-scale commercial development would generate.
The overwhelming vote against large-scale development in this part of Wareham will protect these sensitive and valuable natural resources for now, but preserving them for the long-term will require ongoing effort.