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.
The Foundation’s Science and Stewardship Department is working with staff from the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration (MassDER) to develop restoration plans for the former bogs and surrounding areas at Windswept. Through its Cranberry Bog Program, MassDER works with local, state, and federal partners to provide technical services (such as engineering, design work, permitting and construction assistance), small grants, and project management and fundraising help to landowners interested in restoring wetlands on retired cranberry bogs.
Preliminary goals for this project include restoring wetland flow and connectivity, creating natural gradients between restored wetlands and surrounding uplands, maintaining or establishing valuable plant and wildlife habitats, perpetuating public access, use and enjoyment of the Windswept Bog property, maintaining Stump Pond (a unique but human-made wetland created to serve as a reservoir for the cranberry operation back in the early 1900’s), and maximizing the restored wetland’s ability to filter excess nutrients to improve water quality in Polpis and Nantucket Harbors.
Since the early stages of this project, the Foundation’s Science & Stewardship staff have been 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 on the property to document rare, unusual or invasive 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.
Currently, we are working with our colleagues at Mass DER and Fuss & O'Neill, Inc. (an environmental engineering firm) to develop preliminary restoration design plans and prepare for permitting. We have installed data loggers at numerous locations to gain an understanding of how surface water and groundwater flows through the site to inform these plans. We are also in the process of surveying nearby wetlands on Nantucket to serve as reference sites- areas of comparable size, structure and function to what Windswept likely supported before it was altered by cranberry farming.
If this project proceeds as planned, we aim to have preliminary permitting completed (or at least in progress) by 2023, which would be followed by final permitting and anticipated construction initiation over the next year (dependent on grant funding availability).
We are extremely grateful to our partners at Mass DER for technical expertise and funding provided to support this project since its inception.
Here's a link to our presentation about all our current work on Windswept: Windswept Restoration Presentation