I have lived within walking distance to Sheep Pond (Sheep Pond Estates community bordering the pond’s southeast side) since 1968. It is near and dear to my heart and provides my family year round joy. My father started swimming in the pond in 1942 and my son, now 13, has been fishing it daily for years. We would be lost without its amazing quality and abundant riches.
About a week ago, the Cape Cod Times ran an article detailing the poor health of Crystal Lake in Orleans. The article, like countless articles about Cape ponds and estuaries before it over the last two decades, highlighted the dire nature of its water quality, identified culprits, and noted the debate about various solutions. As I see it, the solutions noted were costly and controversial. Importantly, they did not target the causal factors. This is the perplexing part. These articles always identify nitrogen and phosphorus (lawn fertilizers, dish and clothes soaps, and other household cleaning products) as the main culprit. As is generally accepted, scientific research also backs up these claims. Therefore, removing or severely reducing this chemical seems a logical and very practical solution. I am wondering why there has not been significant public outcry to make this change? There are natural cleaning products available that greatly reduce the nutrient load.
Personally, I think these nitrogen (and phosphorous and ammonia) rich products should be banned from sale. The other forces at work are also clear to see. In my neighborhood, countless homeowners have cut down all the trees, natural shrubbery, and undergrowth on their properties and planted grass. They then proceed to water and fertilize heavily. The homes with “Cape Cod lawns” are publicly ridiculed. We are in need of a significant advertising campaign to change the public’s view of chemicals and make it fashionable to have vegetated and native grassed lawns.
Making these two changes is fiscally realistic/responsible and could be fast acting. I just clicked on your (APCC’s) map of Sheep Pond to see that it was in the red/dire need of help. Shocking to see that a deep water, aquifer fed body of water is in distress. Sadly this is not news to me as I have witnessed the decline over the years. For instance, the plethora of crickets, toads, and grasshoppers that were once plentiful along the shores have totally disappeared over the last decade. The joy those creatures brought to my children seems lost forever. Interestingly, when I speak to homeowners and ask them what their motivation was for buying a house in our neighborhood, the answer is always the same; The Pond. It is unanimous. They actually look at me in disbelief and say, “Are you joking?” when I explain that their actions are killing the pond the responses are mixed. A few say they did not know while others say I get it but do not change their ways. These are educated, informed, and highly successful folks. The lack of understanding is widespread. Knowledge in these environmental issues is not part of the public dialogue. The majority of us live on Cape Cod (or any place on the planet) to enjoy the gift of our fresh and saltwater ecosystems. If we lose them what do we have?
Lastly, upon further reading the information link associated with clicking on the red Sheep Pond on the map, I noted the large document listing actions that should be taken by homeowners and municipalities to protect our ponds. Buried in the list is the reduction of chemicals and importance of keeping a Cape Cod lawn. Great that they are there but I suggest making these two points front and center. One stroll down the cleaning and chemical isles at a supermarket or hardware store makes this very clear.
Sixty years post Silent Spring, it is time we clear the air and water. This falls under the category of preaching to the choir, but our planet is on the cusp of not being able to handle the massive chemical load we are subjecting it to. Knowledge and facts are on our side and great organizations like yours (APCC) are the ideal conduit.
I greatly thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and suggestions. Cape Codders are in great debt to your organization.
Stephen Boskus, Brewster, MA
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Pond Stories are a collection of writings from Cape Codders and visitors who love the 1000 local ponds that dot the Cape. We hope this collection of stories, that are as much endearing as they are environmentally aware, will awaken your inner environmentalist to think deeper about our human impacts to these unique bodies of water.
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