EASTHAM — Plans to build a harbormaster office at Rock Harbor were met with suspicion by abutters at the project’s first regulatory hearing before the conservation commission last week, as neighbors questioned the planners’ overall intentions.
The commission, whose purview is limited to environmental issues, tried to keep the discussion on that track, but the comments veered toward increased use of the harbor.
“I know,” said Joe Pedlow, who owns property on Dyer Prince Road, “this is really a conservation meeting. But it seems like the opportunity to mention picnic tables, bicycle racks, portable toilets, and viewing areas seems to come up over and over again, even though the presumption or the preface is always that this is for an office building. So, I’m a little concerned that there’s an agenda that’s still being driven here and maybe not really being addressed directly.”
Noting that the $1.3-million Rock Harbor Improvement Plan had been approved at the 2018 annual town meeting, Town Administrator Jacqui Beebe replied that the “not very secret agenda” included the harbormaster building as one component and that “providing more access to the harbor and the water is part of the plan. Yes — no secret there.”
Dyer Prince Road resident Carol Zaglio said the notice of intent for the harbormaster building project included several references to the Eastham Harbor and Waterways Management Plan, whose recommendations she found alarming.
“There’s a lot of stuff in the management plan that really makes me and others that live in this area extremely apprehensive about where the entire project is really going,” said Zaglio.
The harbor and waterways plan recommends several new uses for Rock Harbor, including “collaborate with the Town of Orleans and the Mass. Office of Fishing and Boating Access to explore options such as (1) construction of a footbridge connecting the Eastham and Orleans sides of the Harbor in a manner that does not impair navigation (similar to the footbridge in Ogunquit, Maine or Boothbay Harbor, Maine); (2) the use of the harbor parking lot during the shoulder season to allow for events such as concerts, fish and shellfish celebrations, and food truck events. New uses should take into consideration the capacity of the parking lots and access road in order to minimize congestion/user conflicts and ensure public safety.”
Stopping the Knotweed
Conservation commission members did their best to keep the focus of the April 13 hearing on the issues under their purview, delving into plans to control invasive species as they discussed herbicide use to fight a Japanese knotweed infestation that covers about 4,000 square feet at the project site.
“Japanese knotweed is one of our biggest thorns in our side, in terms of invasive species,” said Amy Ball, a senior ecologist with the Horsley Witten Group.
Ball said a combination of mechanical removal of the plants and targeted treatment with herbicides over the course of a few years could keep the knotweed at bay. A targeted stem injection or wand application could be used, if the spraying of herbicides were not permitted, Ball noted.
Ball named both glyphosate and triclopyr as possible herbicides to use in the knotwood battle. Eastham Projects and Procurement Director Shana Brogan said triclopyr was recently approved for use by the conservation commission at a project on Great Pond Road and complied with the town’s municipal herbicide use regulation.
The town’s regulations may also affect the choice of wood used for the harbormaster structure’s pilings. While Kuth Ranieri Architects project manager Rob Marcalow said pressure-treated wood was preferred over greenheart wood from Guyana, because harvesting and transporting the greenheart wood generated a greater carbon footprint. Town regulations prohibit using pressure-treated wood at the project site.
“Our regulations for the town don’t permit it,” said commission member Janet Benjamins. “At some point, we probably need to review those, but at this point we don’t permit it.”
The commission requested additional information on invasive species treatment plans, pressure-treated wood, and septic system plans, and continued the hearing to April 27.