Centerville Group Unites to Keep Cranberry Bog as Open Space
CENTREVILLE — They’re neighbors but didn’t really know each other until the 11-acre cranberry bog at 1246 Bumps River Road was sold, and the new owner announced plans to put up a chain-link fence.
It was then that Helen Banevicius, Mary St. George, Ellen LaBerge and Nancy Murphy joined forces in hopes of preserving the 20 acres adjacent to their homes. It is said to be one of the last open spaces in Centerville.
“It should be conservation land,” Banevicius said. “It had been my grandparents’ house since the 60s. They sold part of it in the 80s which broke my heart. People are walking their dogs on the sandy road. We would like that it remains open to all.”
The bog provides an opportunity to share the story of the cranberry and highlight the historic importance of small, multi-generational family businesses to the economic growth of the city. For these reasons, Centerville neighbors are trying to preserve the land despite it being purchased by a private developer last year through a process they argue is flawed.
“We are trying to convince the city that this property should be placed in a land trust,” St. George said. “We’ve been working on it since last August.”
“The Friends of Centerville Cranberry Bog Preservation incorporated last month,” said LaBerge, who is licensed to practice law in New York. “We have a board of directors and 300 people on the mailing list. The Land Acquisition and Preservation Commission supports us and elected officials have heard about it. »
Rated as a “61A” agricultural property, the bog was last harvested in October 2020. It was put on the market in November 2020 and sold in 2021. It is now owned by Bog Partners, an LLC owned by Sam Slater under the umbrella of Boston’s Tremont Asset Management, LLC.
The group of friends appeared before the Conservation Commission last fall to oppose a request to install a 6-foot-tall chain-link fence approximately 1,800 linear feet around part of the bog. The group also testified in December 2021 before the Land Acquisition and Preservation Committee to seek support for the preservation of the Centerville Bog.
“He filed the (closing) petition two days after he bought it, for insurance purposes,” LaBerge explained.
“No Trespassing” signs visibly line the perimeter and dog walkers have been taught to steer to one side. “We can’t meet on the bog itself because it’s private property,” St. George said.
“There are a lot of wildlife using this bog,” LaBerge said. “It is connected to landed property and is critical to water quality. Additionally, Bumps River Road and Bay Lane are scenic drives.”
“It’s a wildlife corridor and an operational wetland that flows to Bay Lane Elementary School, and the creek running through it empties into Scudder Bay,” Banevicius said.
According to their research, Daniel Lumbert, a Centerville man, invented the first cranberry scoop to harvest berries. Gorham, Samuel, Oliver and Wilson Crosby and Andrus Bearse were among the first to build bogs in Centerville. By the late 1800s, Cape cranberry cultivation supplanted the declining maritime trade.
National Cranberry Magazine listed Braley Jenkins of Barnstable as “one of the greatest cranberry growers of the 1850s”. He is noted as the first to market “Cape Cod Cranberries”, ferrying his yield to market on his catboat “Pomona”.
Jim Jenkins took over his multi-generational family business when he was 19 years old. He was a member of the Ocean Spray Cooperative and director of the Cape Cod Cranberry Bog Association and owned 56 acres of cranberry bogs until his death in 2018.
“Mr. Jenkins let people wander around the bog,” Banevicius said.
The group of friends are due to meet City Manager Mark Ells and lawyer Karen Nober next week when they plan to suggest “an overhaul”. They argue that the 61A designation gave the town of Barnstable the first right of refusal upon proper notice of an intention to sell the property.
Under state law, notice of a pending sale or conversion of designated farmland must be sent by the landowner by certified mail or hand-delivered to the city manager, city council, assessor municipal, the planning board, the conservation commission and the state. forest.
In April 2021, the group of friends said, unbeknownst to other recipients of authorized notices required under Chapter 61A, that the city manager sent a letter stating that the city was waiving its right of first refusal to acquire or assign the right to acquire the Centerville Bog.
“Friends only became aware of this situation in August 2021, when the new owner, who purchased the Centerville Bog for $450,000, requested the erection of the fence and informed the abutting landowners of the project. proposed,” according to a letter Friends sent to the city in March. “Through a Freedom of Information Act request, we learned that the Section 61A notification requirements had not been met.
“Friends implore the Council to support our efforts to preserve Centerville Bog as an open space,” the letter reads. “You can help us by requiring receipt of the required notice to ensure that the City can fully exercise and consider its right of first refusal at this time.”
“We all recognize that’s an asset,” St. George said. “During COVID, it’s become a sanctuary.”
“Once it’s gone, it’s gone,” Banevicius said. “Why!? We just want to see the open space preserved.”