A Conservation Victory on Buzzards Bay

Sacred Hearts property at Great Neck © Heidi Marsella Bythe
Great Neck © Heidi Marsella Bythe

Great Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Wareham already offered its visitors one of the most beautiful coastal expanses in southeast Massachusetts. Now, thanks to some very generous donors, even more ecologically important habitat for rare species will be joining the fold.

Located on the peninsula in upper Buzzards Bay for which it is named, Great Neck features four miles of walking trails that wind through shorefront, salt marsh, and upland pine forest. Ospreys, Great Blue Herons, and shorebirds are all common sights.

For many years, the sanctuary was bordered by a 110-acre parcel owned by the Sacred Hearts religious community. Understanding that the property might eventually come up for sale, Mass Audubon obtained an option several years ago to match any offers. When a decision to sell the property was made last December, there were only a few short weeks to raise the funds required to save it from development.

Facing this extremely short deadline, 100 generous supporters proved to be true nature heroes, raising more than $2.6 million in a mere two weeks to allow Mass Audubon to enter into a formal purchase-and-sale agreement.

This deal will ensure the permanent protection of more than 200 acres at Great Neck, increase wildlife and habitat diversity (much of the land is designated priority habitat for state-listed rare species), and enable the wildlife sanctuary to provide more expansive nature experiences for members and the broader public.

"On behalf of Mass Audubon and our more than 125,000 members across the state, I extend our deep gratitude to all those who answered the call to protect the beautiful and ecologically important coastal property," President Gary Clayton said. "We salute their generosity and farsighted commitment to conservation, and we could not be more grateful."

South Coast Sanctuaries Director Gina Purtell expanded on Clayton's remarks: "We are thrilled to add the Sacred Hearts property to Great Neck because there are very few opportunities to save such beautiful land on Buzzards Bay."

"There is such potential here to improve coastal habitat and learn more about climate change," she also noted. "We look forward to adding trails and hosting programs that will engage members and other visitors from throughout the greater Wareham community and beyond."

The new property will begin welcoming Mass Audubon members and the general public next year, once it is prepared for visitation.

Visit massaudubon.org/greatneck for more information as the project progresses.