More than 60 acres of habitat for wildlife and the public have been restored in Plymouth - recreating a white cedar swamp with dramatic improvements to fish passage, water quality, wetlands, bird migration corridors and recreational opportunities.
The $2 million Eel River project team recently won a national Coastal America Partnership Award for its multi-year effort.
The project area, now protected as the Eel River Preserve, is off Long Pond Road in Plymouth. The spring-fed Eel River drains to Plymouth Harbor.
““It is this type of grassroots partnership that will protect and restore sensitive coastal areas for wildlife and people to enjoy,’’ “said Eileen Sobeck, Department of the Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks in a statement.
The award, given to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Massachusetts environmental agencies, the Town of Plymouth and local companies, recognizes collaborations that leverage and combine resources to accomplish coastal restoration, preservation, protection and education projects.
The team restored about 40 acres of retired cranberry bogs and removed a downstream dam. The removal or replacement of six culverts and the placement of hundreds of large wood pieces helped create habitat and passage for aquatic species, as well as reestablish natural water flow, according to an announcement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
More than 24,000 plants, including 17,000 Atlantic white cedar trees, have been planted to help restore rare wetland plant communities. The area supports one of few New England populations of the federally endangered northern red-bellied cooter turtles, as well as populations of eastern box turtles, bridle shiner fish, barrens buckmoth, adder’s-tongue fern and swamp oats.
The area, now managed by the Town of Plymouth, was historically known as Finney’s Meadow, according to the press release. A series of mills and dams were constructed in the early 1800s, and cranberry farming began in the second half of that century, continuing until 2002, according to a press release on the restoration.
Major financial contributions were provided by the USFWS National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program, NRCS and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Section 319 Grant Program.
Project partners include: Town of Plymouth, Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program), U.S. Department of Agriculture (Natural Resources Conservation Service), American Rivers, The Nature Conservancy, Massachusetts Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, Horsley Witten Group, Inter-fluve, Inc., Sumco Eco-Contracting, and the A.D. Makepeace Company.
Photo caption: The Eel River Preserve in Plymouth, Mass., is home to one of the few New England populations of northern red-bellied cooter turtles. (Bill Byrne, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.)