Friends of Farm Pond, Oak Bluffs, MA

Time Line

Most Recent First - Most Recent Last

Simeon Butler operated a tannery on the shores of Farm Pond from 1733-1750. The tan barn was located immediately south of Farm Pond. He left it to his son Thomas, and the property was used as a tannery until 1825.

Des Barres' 1776 chart shows absence of Seaview Avenue and seawall. Farm Pond appears as several distinct arms. (MV Times)

The land that is now the west part of Farm Pond Preserve was farmed from 1814-1938 aprox.

Aerial photo of Farm Pond from 2005 (photo from MassGIS) with various shorelines overlaid. Shorelines are from Mass. Coastal Zone Management Agency. Shoreline Year – Red is 1846, Orange is 1897, Yellow is 1955, Green is 1978.
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1846 - 1988
Historical data on accretion vs. erosion of beach adjacent to Farm Pond and Harthaven.
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Ice is cut in Farm Pond by Charles Hamblin.

“… as shown on a chart from 1894, the seaward arm of the pond, roughly equal in size to the main body of the pond, was a separate body, with a road crossing over. The road construction appears to have involved some fill, and it is unknown how much thought was given to maintaining circulation between the arms. Beyond the water lay a comfortable width of beach, enough to support a railroad line that ran between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown. There was no opening to the sea, and the water must have been fresh or slightly brackish. East Chop had not yet been armored by boulders, and there was a steady supply of sand brought with the longshore transport from the north.” (M V Times)

Early 1900s “East Chop was armored in order to prevent erosion there. The armament was effective at keeping the bluff intact, but it also cut off the sand supply from the north. So the longshore transport, moving sand in a north-to-south direction, began tearing sand away from the beach. Unlike Sylvia State Beach, there is no compensating sand supply from the south.” (MV Times)

Original harbor entrance at location of abandoned jetties (entrance to Farm Pond from sea was via bridge just north of this harbor). Large schooner was moored just south of Young's house. Young's house had its own dock. (from conversation with Edward Abbe, 8/1/7)

Harthaven Harbor north jetties created and Harthaven Harbor opened – boats use navigable channel connected to Farm Pond. Farm Pond flushed through north jetties. Crabs, shellfish in abundance.

Wooden bridge built across Sea View Avenue. Inlet runs through underneath with a 6' wide culvert. The culvert was big enough to canoe through. Farm Pond circulation at this point is under Seaview to old Harthaven Harbor, and then to sea. Fish trough for herring run build just north of current harbor entrance. (from conversation with Edward Abbe, 8/1/7)

Scan of aerial photo from 1938 showing Oak Bluffs Harbor and Farm Pond.
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Hurricane closes old Hart Haven harbor entrance. Current harbor entrance is opened up.

During 40 year period, 1938 to 1980, beach erodes, and barrier dunes disappear. The large pond between Seaview Ave and the ocean, just north of Youngs, disappears. (from conversation with Edward Abbe, 8/1/7)

1940s to early 1960s
Active alewife fishery via Harthaven channel into Farm Pond

There is an active herring fishery in Farm Pond. (MV Times)

Shellfish planting and harvest records, compiled by Richard Madeiras, OB Shellfish constable (some years no data was available)
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There was a good blue claw crab fishery, and a respectable harvest of soft-shelled clams and oysters as well. (MV Times)

Aerial photo of Farm Pond and shore line from 1972.
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MV Commission fecal coliform data
* range = 0 - 49 per 100 ml vs. shellfish standards for fecal coliforms < 14 per 100 ml). (Comment by FWB: even as early as the 1970's the pond was experiencing periods with high coliform counts, above the limits for shellfish.)

1976 aprox
Healthy oyster population and quahogs cultivated in rafts according to Ed Bugbee, OB shellfish warden

1977 June -July
Fecal coliform data (sampling by town of OB)
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1979, July 24-25
Report by Richard Packer, Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Quality Engineering
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1980 (aprox)
Large northeaster storm fills up north end of inlet with sand and reduces water from inlet to Farm Pond to a trickle. (from conversation with Edward Abbe, 8/1/7)

1980's early
founding of "Farm Pond Yacht Club" (defunct) by Guy R. Clements (deceased)
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“A new opening to the sea was proposed in the 1980s in place of the ever-narrowing channel to Harts Harbor. However, the permitting for the new culvert turned out to be something of a nightmare. A fierce paper battle was fought over 100 square feet of salt marsh that was ultimately displaced in favor of culvert construction. The struggle was ironic because the poor circulation in the pond was clearly unhealthy for the salt marsh. Since the culvert was constructed, about fifteen years ago, the salt marsh habitat has improved greatly.” (MV Times)

Amidst large controversy, the town and a corps of engineers decide to block off inlet culvert and install new, smaller culvert between Farm Pond and the ocean. The recommendation for the culvert size by the engineers was a 71 x 41 elliptical pipe, however what was installed was a round culvert of smaller dimensions.

"Harthaven Inlet Study: Evaluation and Recommendations" by Joseph Forns
* discussed shoaling problems at inlet due to coastal processes, plus recommendations for dredging, modifying jetties, dune restoration and increasing the size of the culvert.

Photos of closing the old culvert and aerial photos of farm pond.
Click to launch photo album.

1984 March
Storm constricted flow into Harts Harbor.

Decline of recreational eel fishery.

Farm Pond is closed to shellfishing by Oak Bluffs Board of Health.

1985 August 13th
Samplings by Frank Barvenik
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1985 August 17th
Petition urging town action to increase tidal flow, signed by 31 neighbors and taxpayers.
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1985 August 22nd
Martha's Vineyard Times article "Farm Pond Endangered"
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1985 August 23rd
Vineyard Gazette article by Mark Lovewell "Oak Bluffs Selectmen Request Emergency Aid to Farm Pond"
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1985 August 26th
Letter from Carol Borer, MV Commission to OB Selectmen and Board of Health
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1985 August 29th
letter from Frank Barvenik to OB selectmen "Farm Pond, Emergency Action" cited recommendations made by Carol Borer, discussion of alternatives with reference to fecal coliform levels, decaying vegetation, anaerobic bottom waters, shellfish problems, eutrophication, excessive mosquito problems in 1985-85
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1985 Late Summer
preliminary efforts by members of Harthaven community and residents of the North shore of Farm Pond to install sand fencing and plant beach grass, in order to stabilize barrier beach

1985 September 5th
OB Conservation Commission declares one month state of emergency.

1985 September 10th
Vineyard Gazette article "Farm Pond Wins Emergency Status"
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1985 September 13th
Vineyard Gazette article "Oak Bluffs Selectmen Discuss Farm Pond Pollution Problems"
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1985 October 5th
Deadline to complete emergency work on Farm Pond opening.

1985 Autumn
Dredging of Harthaven channel into Farm Pond by White Brothers, from 100 feet south of footbridge to 500-700 feet north of footbridge. The channel was widened and deepened and piles of sand put on the beach. There was a verbal commitment from Harthaven to do the grading, fencing and planting. Large rocks were removed from the culvert. Some fencing was needed right away per Carol Borer. They still needed to do the relocation of the water pipe at the culvert but needed funding.

1985 November 8th
Vineyard Gazette article "Relations Among Oak Bluffs Selectmen Break Down Again"
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Scan of aerial photo from 1986.
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1986 July 1st
Report by Tena J. Davies " OAK BLUFFS--Shellfish--(V-15); REAPPRAISAL: Farm Pond, Hamlin Pond". * shoreline walking survey, observations of homes and general conditions

1987 January
Photographs taken of crab creek and the (then) barrier beach after a storm in January 1987.
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Mindy creates Vanessa - sea serpents - to protest slow action by town government in opening culverts to farm Pond.
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1988 May
"Report on the Hydrology and Water Quality Characteristics of Farm Pond, Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts prepared by IEP, Inc., Sandwich, MA for OB Board of Health
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1988 July
Closed to shellfishing by Division of Marine Fisheries

1988 July 20
Mass. Division of Marine Fisheries fecal coliform testing. 2 of 3 samples > 64 per 100 ml (vs, shellfish standard of 14 per 100 ml)

1988 week of 7/29/88
Town of OB on emergency basis hired a crane to excavate channel in barrier beach. Within days much of the algae growth flushed out and neighbors reported improved water quality

1988 August 18th
Mass. Division of Marine Fisheries fecal coliform testing. Highest measurement = 11 fecal coliforms per 100 ml ("acceptable" for shellfhishing); Note by FWB: there is no statistical difference between 11 and 14 (the shellfish limit); the test is inherently imprecise. (Vineyard Gazette 9/16/88)

1988 early September
Experimental opening was closed by an ocean storm - "The experiment is over." " The land is three feet higher than it was before they cut it. You can't even tell wher the cut was." (Vineyard Gazette article, 9/16/88 )

1988 September 16th
Vineyard Gazette article "State Tests Show a Vast Improvement After Opening of Farm Pond to Ocean".
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Harthaven donates 27 acres of land surrounding Farm Pond to Land Bank for conservation. This is now known as the Farm Pond Preserve

In 1990 the Culvert was large enough for people to take their boats through the culvert, when the tide permitted.
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1990 Summer
Closed to shellfishing by Division of Marine Fisheries

1990 September 11
Memo from OB Board of Health agent, Cynthia Barletta to Local Boards and Supporters, "Support for Farm Pond ENF, EOEA # 8388, Farm Pond" * request for letters in support of project to be sent to the Mass. Environmental Affairs secretary

1990 November 14th
Oak Bluffs Conservation Commission holds a public hearing to discuss the proposed installation of a culvert beneath Beach Pond in order to restore tidal flushing in Farm Pond.
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1990 November 23
Vineyard Gazette article by W.C. Platt "Nature Acts on Pond but State Delays"
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1991 May 28
Memo from OB Board of Health to OB Conservation Commission declaring a public health emergency due to: Harthaven channel blocked, smell of decaying algae, potential flooding of homes and septic systems, potential to develop high levels of fecal coliforms as in the past. The US Center of Disease control notification of danger of mosquito borne eastern encephalitis, and damage to the alewife and shellfish fisheries.

1991 June 01
"Final Environmental Impact Report, Farm Pond, Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts"
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Storm Fury Spreads Scene of Damage Across Island. Article in the Vineyard Gazette by Rachell Orr.
Click here to read article.

Small culverts built between Farm Pond and Vineyard Sound.
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1992 December 18th
Storm Leaves the Beach Road Impassable. Article in the Vineyard Gazette by Amy Callahan
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1992 December 18th
Photographs from newspapers of the December northeaster flooding Sea View Ave into Farm Pond
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1999 Oak Bluffs Conservation Commission and Oak Bluffs Highway Department installed a large stormwater infiltrator into Viera Park to catch the first 1 inch of rain before the over flow is discharged into Farm Pond through and 18 inch cement culvert.

Shellfish Committee asked Constable to investigate whether or not Farm Pond could be opened for shellfishing. The pond was placed on the MA DMF “Prohibited” list about 1985.

Robert Hayden –senior tax work off – researched and prepared a historical background report on Farm Pond.
With funding from Coastal Zone Management “Coastal Pollution Remediation” program the Town of Oak Bluffs installed an infiltrator system into Viera Park to entrap the first one inch of rain water before any of the stormwater entered Farm Pond.

12/2001 - 11/2002 monitored 3 sites analyzed for coliform bacteria spiked high mid May – early October tested clean in winter months possible candidate for MA DMF “conditional approval” for shell fishing; same as OB harbor is currently

Successfully lobbied to have Farm Pond included in Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s (MVC) monitoring program beginning in the 2003 season With the 2005 seasonal water quality work – gives us 3 yrs of data. The monitoring has continued and will continue.
MA Division of Marine Fisheries collected a round (August) of water samples and results showed coliform bacterial contamination.

Dave Grunden receives funds to conduct water quality testing of Farm Pond (a requirement for joining the Massachusetts Estuary Project). Study begins with help from the Martha's Vineyard Commission and the state Department of Environmental Protection. (Gazette).

MA Division of Marine Fisheries collected two rounds (June and August) of water samples and results showed coliform bacterial contamination

October 2004 Farm Pond placed on Coastal Zone's Wetlands Restoration Program's priority list of ponds in need of help (Gazette article).

MA Division of Marine Fisheries collected two rounds of water samples in April and results showed coliform bacterial contamination. In the earlier round (April 8) only one of four sample sites showed contamination

September/October 2004 issue of Martha’s Vineyard Magazine had feature article “Saving Farm Pond”
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December 2004 placed onto MA Coastal Zone Management (CMZ) "wetlands restoration priority list".
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Aerial photo of Farm Pond from 2005 (photo from MassGIS) with various shorelines overlaid. Shorelines are from Mass. Coastal Zone Management Agency. Shoreline Year – Red is 1846, Orange is 1897, Yellow is 1955, Green is 1978.
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Farm Pond Association is formed to help protect and revitalize the pond. Friends of Farm Pond was launched in 2005 by an informal meeting at the culvert and the group was solidified by inviting Jane Goodall to the home of Martha Shaw with the Island's environmental leaders to discuss how to effectively build community around an issue.
Click to learn more.

Spring 2005 MA Coastal Zone Management began work on Farm Pond

Summer 2005 New photos ground truthed by private surveying firm Developed bathymetric map of pond itself.

Summer, 2005 Martha's Vineyard Commission, with the help of the state and local volunteers, conducts a survey of eel grass beds in the pond using new GPS technology. They found a total of 12 acres. The data is being compared to a survey done eight years ago. (Gazette)
More information on Eel Grass Survey.

Further studies are done by the MA Division of Maring Fisheries and the Coastal Zone Management. With now three years of water quality data Farm Pond became eligible to enter into MA Estuaries Project.
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December 2005 Farm Pond was placed onto the Corporate Partnership Restoration Priority List.

Permits granted to Town of Oak Bluffs to maintain culverts in Farm Pond.

Spring 2006 MA Division of Marine Fisheries collected a round of water samples on March 13 and it tested clean

2006 March
Coastal Zone Management funds study to create flushing model for Farm Pond and make recommendations for remediation.
Hydrodynamic and Inlet Alternatives Analysis for Farm Pond, Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts prepared by Applied Coastal Research and Engineering, Inc. for Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management
Click here to view report

April annual town meeting it was voted to appropriate Town’s share of funding ($20,000) to enter Pond into Massachusetts Estuaries Project.

David Grunden reports: "The health of Farm Pond is declining, but there is still enough time to save it and restore it. This is a time to be proactive." (Gazette)

May 8, 2006, David Grunden met on site with representatives from NOAA, The Nature Conservancy, MA Division of Marine Fisheries, Land Bank, MVC, and Hart Haven Community. They discussed the goal to get Farm Pond opened for shellfishing and generally improve the quality and health of the pond.

2006, July 18th
Martha Shaw and Heather Goff invite members of the community to join together in an effort to help save the Pond

Summer 2006, TNC made avian species list. OB Shellfish:Marine and estuarine species inventory. MA DMF assistance estimate standing shellfish population. Woods Hole Sea Grant assistance. Met with BOH and searched records of homes within watershed. TNC provided summer interns to assist the search. MVC: continue water quality monitoring.Update eel grass mapping.

2006, August 10th
Friends of Farm Pond is founded with a vote of confidence and some advice from Jane Goodall, "Keep finding new ways to communicate."
read article

(Fall) culvert cleaned and opened.
Click to view photos.

October 2006, Greg Skomal, a state Division of Marine Fisheries biologist, completes a survey of fishes in the pond. (Gazette)
Click to view Farm Pond Species Inventory.

Farm Pond declared a part of Massachusetts Estuaries Project.

December 2006 Oak Bluffs Board of Health adopted regulations that at property ownership change the septic system must be improved to at least a title V system. Prior to this the system only needed to be inspected and found not to be a failed system.

2006 Storm closing Sea View Avenue
Occasionally a storm with close Sea View Avenue. Sea water will breach the sea wall and flow across the road into Farm Pond.
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Fall/Winter 06-07 Began developing species inventory list from summer 06 field data Analyzed 06 field data and estimated standing populations of quahogs and steamer clams
Click to view Farm Pond Species Inventory List.

Fall/Winter 06-07 Began tabulating data mined from OB BOH records re: development and Housing within watershed.
Click to view Farm Pond Watershed.

More research funded by MA Coastal Zone Management.
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Oak Bluffs is developing a program to encourage home owners within the town (including Farm Pond) to upgrade to denitrifying septic systems. $20,000.00 from the Community Preservation Act Funds was approved at a special town meeting in April.

CPA funds $10,000.00 to purchase state of the art GPS/GIS hardware and software and also training. This advancement will allow the Town of Oak Bluffs better monitor the changes in and around the pond – including the spread of invasive species particularly in the salt marshes.

2007 new jellyfish found in Farm Pond
Gonionemus vertens: New to the Vineyard - During an eelgrass sampling project in late June in Farm Pond, we were stung by small jellyfish that seemed to come up out of the eelgrass blades when we disturbed them. The jellyfish were somewhat unusual in that they had a cross marking against their otherwise clear bell.
Click to learn more about the new jellyfish.

2006, August 14th
Friends of Farm Pond Meeting at the home of Martha Shaw, followed by series of gatherings on the beach

2007 August 31
Friends of Farm Pond meeting at Mickey Graham's home.

2007 September 13th
David Grunden arranged meeting with Jeremy Bell from Coastal Zone Management. All interested persons were welcome. The meeting was held at the MVC meeting room at 4 PM on Thursday
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2007 September 14th
Friends of Farm Pond met at Mickey Graham's home at 5:00 on Friday, September 14th.
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A petition is created to show support in opening the second culvert to Farm Pond which is currently plugged.
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Friends of Farm Pond meeting is held at the home of el Edwards and Al Willens
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Public hearing scheduled for November 13th - the following was posted in the Gazette on November 2nd, 2007
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2007 November 11th
'Friend"ly Coffee at Martha's at 10- 10:30 am. on Monday morning- Vets Day.

2007, December 8th
604b proposal and letter of support by David Grunden. David asks for all of the Friends of Farm Pond to submit letter of support as well.
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2009- August 5th. Progress towards unplugging the Farm Pond Culvert
Army Corp of Engineers Permit Issued. To the best of our knowledge this is the last federal permit that Mass Highways required that we have prior to their approving and issuing the Mass Highway Access Permit. They have made us jump through a lot of hoops. Hopefully they will allow us to do this small project soon.
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2009, August 9th
Friends of Farm Pond will be meeting at Mickey Graham's home at 5:00 PM on Sunday, August 9th.

October 15th, 2009 - removal of plugs from second culvert
A cold and rainy day in October, but the spirits were high as David Grunden and his team removed the plugs from the second culvert.
click here to view photos

Friends of Farm Pond Meeting, July 1st 2010
Mickey Graham's beach deck, Seaview Avenue by the Harbor.

July 8, 2010 A public presentation of the recently completed inlet alternatives report to alleviate the flushing restriction at Farm Pond
A public presentation of the recently completed inlet alternatives report to alleviate the flushing restriction at Farm Pond will be held July 8, 2010 at 4:30 PM in the Library Meeting Room John Ramsey of Applied Coastal Engineering will make the presentation. This study was commissioned by the MA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife’s Division of Ecological Restoration Office.

2011, March 9th. Project Design and Permitting Kickoff Meeting for the Culvert Replacement
Farm Pond Tidal Restoration meeting to kick off the project design and permitting for the new culvert.
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2011, November ENF and 25% DOT/Access Permit for Farm Pond Submitted
Jeff Oakes of CLE Engineering submitted an ENF and 25% DOT/Access Permit for Farm Pond. Click on the link for copies of the plans.
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2011, November 15th, Grant Reward and Permit Filing
Initial permits are filed, and an $80,000 grant is rewarded from Restore America's Estuaries.
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2011, November 22nd, Review and Site Visit
MA Environmental Policy Act review and site visit is scheduled for 1 PM November 22nd at the Town Hall in the smaller meeting room downstairs. All are welcome to attend.

2012, October, Proposal for Funding
The first of two proposals that David Grunden is submitting to the town to request funding through the Community Preservation Act.
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2013, May 17, Meeting to discuss floodgate alternatives for the Farm Pond culvert
The engineers from Fuss and O’Neil, Franz from the MA Division of Ecological Restoration and Eric Hutchins from NOAA will be attending. The meeting will be Friday (17th) at 10:30 AM in one of the downstairs meeting rooms in the Town Hall.

January 2014, Letter of Support
Martha Shaw created a letter of support for enlarging the opening of Farm Pond to the sea. "On behalf of The Friends of Farm Pond, a group of homeowners who have properties around the periphery of this valuable intertidal watershed, I write this letter in support of enlarging the opening of Farm Pond to the sea, to which it once flowed freely."
Click here to read full letter.

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