In 2019, the Nantucket Conservation Foundation’s Board of Trustees decided to retire cranberry cultivation on the Foundation’s Windswept Bog property (located on Polpis Road) in order to pursue a watershed level wetland restoration project. The 231-acre Windswept Bog property, which is contiguous with several thousand acres of protected conservation land in the Middle and Eastern Moors, contains 39 acres of former cranberry bog and 111 acres of natural wetlands. Cranberry cultivation began at Windswept in the early 1900’s, with the Foundation purchasing the property in 1980.
The decision to abandon cranberry cultivation was based on two important factors: the many economic and climate-change related challenges facing this industry across the northeast and concerns about water quality and nutrient loading within the Polpis and Nantucket Harbor watersheds. This restoration does not include the Foundation’s Milestone Cranberry Bog operation, which is still being actively farmed for cranberries and will continue to host the Foundation’s annual Cranberry Festival.
The Foundation’s Science and Stewardship Department is working with staff from the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration (MassDER) and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA) to assess restoration options for the bog and surrounding watershed. Through its Cranberry Bog Program, MassDER works with local, state, and federal partners to provide technical services (such as engineering, design work and permitting), small grants, and project management and fundraising help to landowners interested in restoring wetlands on retired cranberry bogs such as Windswept.
Preliminary goals for this restoration project include managing water flow through the site in a manner that maintains Stump Pond (a unique but human-made wetland created to serve as a reservoir for the cranberry operation back in the early 1900’s), maintaining public access, use and enjoyment of the Windswept Bog property and maximizing the restored wetland’s ability to filter excess nutrients to improve water quality in Polpis and Nantucket Harbors.
Planning and permitting for restoration site work will likely take multiple years and involve the use of ground-penetrating radar to assess historic pre-bog conditions, detailed elevation surveying and ground and surface water level and flow monitoring. To prepare for this, the Foundation’s Science & Stewardship staff are collecting information on pre-restoration site conditions. This includes: capturing and tagging spotted turtles on the property and tracking their movement patterns via radio telemetry; conducting preliminary water quality monitoring at multiple sites around the wetland; conducting wetland bird surveys at various times of the year; creating a comprehensive species list of plants currently found on the property to see if there are any rare or unusual species to be considered in the restoration process; and conducting vegetation monitoring along transects and within plots to document the pre-restoration plant communities present.