Waiter, There’s a Dune in My Food Chain


If you’re the beach-going type, you’ve seen those stretches on the Outer Cape’s “back shore” (the ocean side of Cape Cod) where the dunes change dramatically from one year to the next. We’ve never worried much about those changes: they’re all part of a natural process. But for the last couple of years, we’ve had some unusually mighty winter storms here. And shore mapping experts over at the National Seashore say that seawater surging over the eroding dunes at Ballston Beach is reaching the freshwater marsh behind them.

OK, now we’re worried.

It may not look like much, but that marshy pond is actually the head of the Pamet River, which supports Truro’s entire harbor ecosystem.

It takes a little portaging, but you can kayak all the way from the harbor to that pond. When we were kids, we used to come into Pamet Harbor after fishing with our grandfather and wander upriver picking mussels out of the tidal muck. It’s one of those places where, as a kid, it dawned on me that everything is connected. Clean, fresh water behind those dunes means baby eels, menhaden, herring… creatures you won’t necessarily find in our markets or restaurants, but essential players in the local food chain.

Fortunately, there’s something we can do to stabilize the dunes. Our inventive Wellfleet neighbor Gordon Peabody and his Safe Harbor Environmental Management company have come up with the neat strategy you can see in the picture below: thin wood fencing slats are tapped in to collect blowing sand; then beach grass is planted so it can eventually take over that job; meanwhile, footpaths zig and zag to redistribute the kind of wear and tear caused by people rather than storms. The town of Truro and the National Seashore are on board with materials and advice. Volunteers are tapping in slats. Gordon has given his own time, too.

Even with so much volunteerism, some cash is needed to see this restoration through. According to Gordon, this year’s effort will cost around $4,000, and beyond that, we’ll still have several years of work ahead. We believe this is an important community effort, and we hope you’ll join us in supporting it. We’re in for a $500 matching gift, so any donation you make will have that added boost behind it!

Friends of the Cape Cod National Seashore (FCCNS) is collecting the donations for the Ballston Beach Dune Restoration Project. To donate, send a check payable to FCCNS and write “Ballston Beach” on the memo line to: Friends of the Cape Cod National Seashore, P.O. Box 550, Wellfleet, MA 02667.

There will be another way to help come late May. Safe Harbor is planning a community planting day sometime before Memorial Day. We’ll keep you posted when we hear about the date. But meanwhile, if you’re interested in volunteering, e-mail Audra at audrasafeharbor@yahoo.com or call 508-237-3724.

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