Pulsing below the surface of the tidal rivers and bays, unseen. Flowering, fruiting, and seeding in forests, ignored. Ancient, towering trees set in an acidic flow, unknown. Yet these are timeless reminders of life beyond our present lives, technologies, and frivolous diversions. Nature unobserved is a loss of empathy for a child and wisdom for an adult.

Explorations begin with mysteries of life in water so acidic that it is colored red and the resilience of the centuries old Atlantic white cedars that form pristine stands of trees, spared by the loggers’ ax in a former century. Here are species so biodiverse that the Acushnet Cedar Swamp was listed as a National Natural Landmark in 1972. Turner Pond is a watery gateway to the Atlantic white cedar swamp, quaking bogs, fens, and to the whir of thousands of shimmering damselflies and dragonflies in flight — Some hatching, living, and migrating from New Bedford to the tropics in winter. These scenes capture time immemorial as seen by generations of native people before the colonists reached these shores.

These critical environmental areas of concern have long been threatened with cutting and filling, fragmentation, and neglect. This is tragic, for the Acushnet Cedar Swamp provides flood storage, natural filtration, and water purification for the city of New Bedford. Further, a healthy biome of Atlantic white cedars, fens, and a pond has an astounding biodiversity of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and insects. These landscapes are a national treasure worth preserving and protecting.

Conditions at the Suffolk Avenue canoe launch at Turner Pond have deteriorated so much that it’s unsafe to use. Credit: J.E. Ingoldsby, American Society of Landscape Architects

I am saddened to report that over the years these landscapes have been nibbled away with development and maintenance issues at the interface of development, roadways, and infrastructure. This is disheartening as an intact ecosystem with water access bounding the populous city of New Bedford provides an extraordinary opportunity to introduce the public to nature pulsing within the city.

Today, the access is blocked with road washout, scouring from the road to Turner Pond, and illegal dumping. This is disheartening. People do not know the functions and beauty the Atlantic white cedar swamp provides. Collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the City of New Bedford, public institutions, and private parties offer an opportunity to correct these immediate issues at Turner Pond. Canoes are the best means of accessing the Turner Pond gateway to the Acushnet Atlantic White Cedar Swamp. However, this must wait until the banks are restored and there can be safe parking and access to the pond for canoes. Perhaps this is something that can be considered and corrected?

Westport resident J. E. Ingoldsby is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects, whose mission is to advance landscape architecture through advocacy, communication, education, and fellowship.


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