I was sure we were moving forward and went looking for the perfect photograph. Bright yellow daffodils? Forsythia? Perhaps dandelions or hawkweed, giving me a reason to be proud of my neglected, fertilizer and pesticide-free lawn? Not to be. It's been snowing for the past two days and today's temperature is in the 20s. This week's been tough. I'll keep the snowy photograph.
Despite this, I'm confident spring will return next week. Within the Orleans Pond Coalition, I'm seeing a burst of activity. We're re-energizing our focus on our ponds, and you'll hear more about that over the coming months. We're reminding people to cut back on fertilizer and pesticides. We're preparing Ponderings to send out to our members and everyone in town. Our board members are returning from their amazing trips around the world, although, for some reason, a few seem to be heading back out again.
Hopefully, that optimism will return to efforts to clean-up our waters in Orleans. OPC and many others have been hard at work over the past two years, spending countless hours on the Orleans Water Quality Advisory Panel. Last year, the panel took its Consensus Agreement to Town Meeting where Orleans voters approved it unanimously. Last week, the Orleans selectmen split on recommendations for this year's warrant article, approving the proposal to move the Consensus Agreement forward by a 3-2 vote. By itself, that split vote will make it much harder for Town Meeting to approve moving forward. However, by that same 3-2 vote, the selectmen refused to place the funding article on the ballot, potentially halting efforts to clean-up our waters.
Tomorrow, the selectmen have another chance to lead. We hope they will reverse their position and allow Orleans to move forward, or at least vote on moving forward. We can always ask for more information, we can always conduct another study, we can always avoid spending money, we can always find another reason to delay, even as our waters continue to deteriorate and the costs continue to rise.
No matter what happens tomorrow, on behalf of the Orleans Pond Coalition, I want to thank the selectmen, our consultants, the Finance Committee, the town workers, the members of Orleans Water Quality Advisory Panel, and the many volunteers who have worked tirelessly to develop these plans to clean up our waters. We agree on some things, we disagree on others. We've made some good decisions and we've made some mistakes. We've seen too much criticism, some of it personal, and not enough thanks.
Most importantly, we've made friends and built the bridges necessary for the citizens of Orleans to work together and move forward, despite our differences. Let's embrace the optimism of spring, not return to the darkness of winter.
Despite this week's weather, it is officially spring on Cape Cod and the Town Meeting and the Town Election are right around the corner. The schedule gets busy over the next six weeks or so:
This Wednesday, April 6th, the Orleans Board of Selectmen will meet to agree on the articles to present to Town Meeting and debt exclusion items to include on the ballot for the town election. This is a very busy year and we encourage people to speak with the selectmen, attend the meeting, and consider speaking out at the beginning of the meeting.
The Orleans Water Quality Advisory Panel will meet on April 20th to review the proposed next steps and, hopefully, approve an Adapted Consensus Agreement showing the decisions we've made this year and the proposed plans for next year.
On April 25th, the Orleans Pond Coalition will send out another Bulletin summarizing the warrant articles, the ballot items, and the Adapted Consensus Agreement.
Town Meeting falls on Monday, May 9th, where Orleans voters will consider next steps on wastewater, the new police station, the new public works building, zoning changes, and other critical articles. Most of these items require a two-thirds vote to move forward.
The town election falls on the following Tuesday, May 17th, where Orleans voters will be asked to approve debt exclusions for many of the above items, if they were approved by Town Meeting.
Proposed Zoning Changes in Orleans
While we haven't seen the final language, we expect Orleans voters will have a chance to consider proposed changes to the zoning regulations for town center to ease some of the barriers to developing more housing units in town center. These changes are key for Orleans to achieve its long standing goal of having a more vibrant town center and to make it possible for younger families to live in town.
These zoning changes are being brought forward now, partially triggered by Todd Thayer's proposal to develop Orleans Marketplace, a mixed retail and residential development in town center. Todd's initial plans have been very well received by many in town and we hope Orleans will continue to work with Todd to move this exciting project forward.
The Orleans Fertilizer Bylaw
It's springtime and many of us are starting to get out and work on our yards and gardens. OPC reminds everyone that our updated fertilizer bylaw is now in effect and we can only put down fertilizer between April 15th and October 15th. Generally, the fertilizers we use should be phosphorous free, other than for new lawns.
Also, OPC encourages everyone to reduce our use of weed killers and other pesticides and to consider alternatives such as native plantings, smaller lawns, Cape Cod grasses, and other solutions which leave us with healthier soils, cleaner waters, and, in many cases, require much less maintenance.
Enjoy early mornings on the water this summer! Volunteers are needed to conduct sampling in our estuaries on five dates in July, August and early September, about one hour each day. No experience necessary. Training is provided. We will be adding new sampling points this summer so more boats and samplers will be needed in Town Cove, Roberts Cove, and Mill Pond areas. Please call Carolyn Kennedy at 508-255-7564 or leave your name and phone number at the Planning Department in Town Hall, 508-240-3700, ext 435.
The Marine and Fresh Water Quality Task Force, an Orleans Town committee, needs new members. Several openings are available. Those with interest in the health of our waterways are welcome. Persons with database or statistical analysis skills are also needed. Task Force meets once a month on a Monday morning. An interest indicator form is available in the Town Administrator’s office, 2nd floor of Town Hall. For information, contact Carolyn Kennedy at 508-255-7564.
In its ninth year: Volunteers are needed to count herring and eels as they migrate from Lonnie’s Pond to Pilgrim Lake. Ten minutes once a week is the time commitment. Starts April 1 and ends May 30th. Training will be provided. Contact Judy Scanlon at 508-360-4162.
The Orleans Pond Coalition is always looking for volunteers to help with our many activities from Celebrate Our Waters, to working with the schools, supporting Mutt Mitts, developing educational and other initiatives around our ponds. If you're interested, contact Jim McCauley at Jim.McCauley@OrleansPondCoalition.org or at 617-388-3717.
Coming Attractions: A Closer Look at Our Ponds
The Orleans Pond Coalition is continuing its work with all our ponds and we will be highlight several efforts over the next several months. We're spending quite a bit of time continuing our efforts to work with the Middle School at Boland Pond and to educate our board members and the public about our ongoing challenges at Uncle Harvey's Pond, Pilgrim Lake, and Cedar Pond.
We're particularly excited about our initial efforts to look at Uncle Harvey's Pond. By looking closely at this pond, we get to see firsthand how wastewater, stormwater, fertilizer, drainage, invasive plants, and other issues all affect our ponds. A tremendous learning experience, the critical first step in healing our ponds. More to come.