Preserving Sandwich’s Brady’s Island
By Paul Gately
Posted Feb. 6, 2014 @ 1:21 pm
Updated Feb 6, 2014 at 1:25 PM
Brady’s Island is part of that natural swath between the Mill Creek marsh to the east and the wetland on the edge of downtown Sandwich. It is an historical tract that existed long before they built Route 6A right through the middle of it.
William Burbank, a planning board member and retired landscape architect experienced with difficult terrain, wants to get the Brady tract back “to its historical commonplace. I don’t know what that would be yet, but the idea is to take valuable areas and preserve open space fallen into disrepair.”
Most motorists drive right through Brady’s Island and miss it altogether. The sign is easily overlooked across from fire department headquarters. But from a small clearing, trails snake toward the marsh; toward River Road.
Suffice it to say, anybody trying to walk through the entire marshy area will get wet. This is likely why in the old days, ditches were dug to drain sections where agriculture was undertaken.
Behind the police and fire stations, the tract stretches toward the Sandwich Boardwalk; crossing the railroad tracks. The entire area is under the care and custody of the Sandwich Conservation Commission.
Burbank for much of this winter has pursued a grant award from the Sandwich Economic Initiative Corp., and he hopes to generate Sandwich Historical Commission interest in the nascent preservation effort. The historical commission in February will consider Burbank’s project ideas.
There is a need for signage, he said, and long-term clearing and maintenance in places; including five acres of upland behind the public safety buildings.
Burbank said he has considered the idea of constructing a train station along the tracks beyond the police and fire stations; something, he said, he has discussed with Thomas Cahir, the rail enthusiast and director of the Cape Regional Transit Authority.
Burbank said the Brady tract is a “charming open space” right next to everyday happenings in town. It was once the homestead of a “very independent family,” he said. He’d like to locate the foundation of the Brady homestead “and leave it as it is.”
Historical commission member Carolyn Crowell says a project such as that Burbank envisions would need “a general town information campaign” based on material held in the town archives.
There are issues to consider, Crowell said. One would involve any new structures being placed above the floodplain mark, something likely to run afoul of the Old Kings Highway Historic District Committee.
Burbank says a new channel into the area would help kill invasive vegetation, which appears at first glance to be taking over. But Crowell adds the point that more water flowing in means tidal water ultimately endangering the village area.
Burbank nonetheless argues the point that Brady’s Island preservation is a “tangible” project; even though it will need a grant award, local support and Town Meeting funds.
“We need to plan carefully,” he told the historical commission. “But we need to move briskly. This area is a real gem. It’s a diamond in the rough. It offers great views of the village. It would attract strollers, painters and photographers.”
The area will get some publicity later this year. Commission member Bill Daley, wrote a chapter on Brady’s Island for the Sandwich 375th birthday celebration book
Then they built 6A
Town Archivist Barbara Gill said the tract was uninterrupted until 1930 when the state built Route 6A through it. She said the Brady family lived on the natural expanse until the early part of the 20th century; with its homestead on the west side of Route 6A.
The area was full of haying operations, Gill said. “Special wood-float shoes were designed for the horses to cut across the marsh during harvests,” she said.
Gill said that after Sandwich was settled, the large expanse of marsh was divided up so townspeople could move in and cut the hay.
The Brady family at times included farmers, glass factory workers and tenders at the railroad crossings.
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