Swale at Nye Pond on Old County Road

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(SOURCE: Paul Gately, Wicked Local.com/Sandwich Broadsider)

John Cullity seemingly has nothing in common with the late Yankee catcher Yogi Berra, but the Nye family member and historian is following that old Yogi-ism: “It ain’t over until it’s over.”

Cullity is quietly engendering community support; hoping to convince the Sandwich Public Works Department to abandon plans to construct a second swale at Old County Road, East Sandwich, up the roadway from the Benjamin Nye Homestead and Museum.

The conservation commission approved construction of the swale last year to help control roadway runoff in storms, a project upheld by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection upon appeal by the Nye Family Association of America.

The Nye group argued the town-engineered swale does not work as designed; the DEP decided the feature as engineered by the DPW did not harm area wetlands.

Cullity argues the swale fills up and overflows into Nye Pond. The swale is not pedestrian-friendly, he says, and robs the homestead and East Sandwich Grange of parking spaces. “We’re making other plans; we’re not giving up,” Cullity told the Sandwich Historical Commission. “More swale means more lost parking spaces and mars the beauty of an area that is also historical.”

Town Manager Bud Dunham, meanwhile, has agreed to serve as a liaison of sorts between the Nye group and the town DPW; each with separate missions and responsibilities that continue to collide.

Cullity hopes there can be more community input into engineering sketches for a second swale designed to mitigate water flow; at least more input than went into the original swale plan that went to conservation commission review and prevailed through appeal and construction.

The historical commission will send a letter to Town Hall, urging site restoration with minimal disruption of safety conditions, area history and scenic beauty. The letter will urge municipal consideration for preservation efforts at the homestead and the integrity of its surroundings.

The commission is not seeking a fight, but it is willing to buttress Cullity’s sentiment.

“I think we should turn up the heat and try to right a wrong” historical commission chairman Greg Anderson said. “At least invite more discussion. We need proper protocols to compare issues of the moment that arise that have a broader scope. We need to keep this swale discussion alive. Let’s start the fire on this.”

Commission member Lisa Hassler agrees there is a dire need for more “public awareness” on the Old County Road issue, including a “reach-out” to the DPW.

Bill Burbank told the commission it should write to the planning board to engage some input. “This is another example in town of where scenic roads get no review for any issue that arises. We need much more awareness and discussion about a cluster of uses in what used to be known as Cedarville.”

Commission member Bill Daley said the panel’s mission, in part, is to “preserve the landscape of the community.” He said Anderson should write to selectmen and Dunham, “asking for a more sensitive approach to mitigating the (run-off control) issue.

“It seems as though people of good will could create an arrangement to benefit the community,” Daley said.

It appears a second swale would not need to go before the conservation commission because it would be constructed outside the buffer zone of Nye Pond across from the homestead/museum; for which the Nye association makes a payment to Sandwich in lieu of property taxes.

Cullity, meanwhile, said a second appeal to DEP has been ruled out. He acknowledges the point that attempts to change DPW thinking is difficult when a project has been approved by the town. But he places faith in Dunham’s style of municipal management that affords time for discussion and listening.

Cullity wants a paved waterway up the road “fixed” to capture more water, the current 95-foot swale filled with crushed stone or material to assure drainage, and for the DPW “to set aside methods its considers appropriate and acknowledge the conditions in place that have worked for 80 years.

“We want restoration closely to what was there so we can operate our museum,” he said.

The town DPW does not want to fill in the swale approved by town and state wetlands protection agencies.

So the Nye family member is set to continue his quest; framed by protecting homestead needs against ‘you can’t fight city hall,’ sentiment.

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