ConCom gives landowner deadlines to start fixing wetlands damage

The owner of a six-acre strip of land off Hancock Street has been given new deadlines to start fixing damage he caused to wetlands near Ames Nowell State Park.

The Conservation Commission gave Colin Haviland until July 26 to finish installing silt fencing around two areas of wetlands that were impacted by unpermitted work this spring. By August 2, he needs to have the property formally surveyed and have a wetlands scientist revise the flagged boundaries of the wetlands. And by August 9, he needs a wetlands restoration plan.

Hikers and bikers in Ames Nowell State Park alerted the Conservation Commission and state Environmental Police in late May that there was heavy machinery clearing trees and widening an old trail on land between Hancock Street and Cleveland Pond. Despite the trail’s existence on park maps, the land is actually privately owned and not part of the 600-acre reservation. Haviland bought the land, which borders his John L. Sullivan Way home, in 2020 for $25,000.

Haviland was ordered to stop all work. Subsequent investigation determined that clearing and grading work had taken place in two separate wetland areas on the property.

Some commission members walked the site last week along with an employee from the Department of Environmental Protection, who said, based on soil borings he conducted, that the wetlands were larger than the area flagged by a consultant for Haviland by 3-5 feet in some spots. Commission members also said some of the clearing may have crossed into the abutting property, which is why they’re requesting the property line survey. The board said they were frustrated that silt fencing still isn’t fully installed since the initial enforcement issue was ordered on July 8.

Haviland told the committee there was a “difference in opinion” between his wetlands scientist and the DEP representative about the extent of the wetlands. He said he wants to repair the damage, but warned that the more demands the commission places on him, the more time it will take.

“We’re doing everything we can to fix this,” Haviland said. “The more steps we take, the slower it is to fix this.”

Haviland bought the long, narrow, 6-acre parcel of land, seen here in the middle of this map, in 2020. Image captured from the online Massachusetts Interactive Property Map.

The abutting land is part of a large estate owned by the Pohorecky family, who declined multiple offers by Ames Nowell himself to buy the land in the 1940s. Abington has now been entangled for several years in a complicated legal process to take the land because of unpaid taxes. Once taken, the land could be used to expand the state park.

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