HALIFAX– Citizens will soon be able to drive to a parking lot again, rather than park directly on Elm Street, in order to access the Halifax entrance to the Burrage Pond Wildlife Management Area, shared with Hanson. There is no other vehicle access in Halifax to the WMA, although there is in Hanson.
The WMA, once dominated by cranberry bogs, was purchased and created by the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) in 2002. The 1,600-acre property was sold by the Northland Cranberry Company.
The controversial purchase led to litigation between Halifax and the DFW, regarding taxes Halifax asserted were owed on the land as it was no longer being used for agricultural purposes, which was eventually settled. This was not the only controversy regarding the WMA, though. A couple who abuts the parking lot and driveway to the Halifax entry-point have complained for years about a lack of policing, litter and nightly noise caused by trespassers. Christopher and Thais Kasmerek, by a fluke, discovered that due to a surveying error, they actually owned a good portion of the access road, and essentially closed it off to vehicle traffic by building a fence down the middle, delineating their newfound property.
Citizens are still able to walk on the State-owned side of the fence to enjoy the WMA, but have been creating a safety hazard by parking on the side of Elm Street.
In response to the fence, the DFW has announced it will simply pave a new road around the Kasmerek’s fence, to the original parking lot, by-passing private property and remaining on State-owned land.
The Kasmereks have come before the Halifax Board of Selectmen with their fears of actions that the Town or State might take to open up access again, as recently as December.
At that meeting, Selectmen foresaw just this scenario, and attempted to work with the couple on a compromise in order to prevent it. The DFW had offered to build some sort of buffer for the Kasmereks, but they rejected that offer suggesting that no buffer could assuage their concerns.
The Kasmereks complained of more “bad-behavior” behind their property after the DFW created the WMA, with people coming and going at all times of day and night and leaving behind beer cans, glass, needles and dog refuse.
Another issue is that policing of the property falls primarily under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Police, because the WMA is owned by the DFW. The Environmental Police, a relatively small agency, appear not to have the will or resources to properly police the huge WMA, at least not to the satisfaction of abutters.