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OPET Mission Statement

OPET is dedicated to:

  • land conservation in the pond’s watershed;
  • monitoring the ecological health of the Pond while engaging and promoting related scientific studies;
  • educating the pond watershed residents and encouraging them to reduce their impact on Oyster Pond;
  • working with the Town of Falmouth and other organizations to support the long-term preservation of the pond.


What You Can Do to Help Oyster Pond


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The water quality of the pond is improving! The nearly 2 inches of rain in mid-September and the opening up of Trunk River helped flush out much of the algal bloom.  The cooler and shorter days are also helping.  The pond is losing its pea-green color.

  Falmouth DPW dredging Trunk River on September 29th. photo by Richard Hale

Many thanks again to Chuck Martinsen, Falmouth's Herring Warden and Deputy Director of Marine and Environmental Services for all his work to help OPET improve the condition of the pond.  Many thanks also to Dr. Brian Howes, Director of the Coastal Systems Group at UMass Dartmouth  and author of the Mass Estuaries Project Report on Oyster Pond.  Chuck and Brian met to review the condition of the pond and agreed that Trunk River needed additional work to allow the pond to flow more freely to break up the algal bloom.  They directed the Falmouht DPW to remove an additional 16 cubic yards of material from the river. This is in addition to the 8 cubic yards already removed in August.

The dredging substantially increased the outflow of water from the pond from 736 m3/day to 2,600 m3/day. Water clarity is also improving as the density of the algae dissipates.  On August 24th a sample had 1,768 cells of algae per .1m of water, by October 3rd it had fallen to only six cells per .1m.  This means we can now see down several feet into the water, while during the densest part of the bloom, nothing could be seen below 7 inches!

Oxygen levels are also being restored to the water column, but sadly, not before a fish kill was discovered.   Russ Lemcke of Quonset Rd. reported seeing three dead fish on September 20th.  Bill Kerfoot went out to investigate and also discovered dead adult herring near the Treetops dock and gulls fighting over floating fish in the middle of the pond. A dead snapping turtle was also floating off of the Sphors Garden dock.  We think the number of dead fish were in the tens, not hundreds.  However, because they are scavenged so quickly by gulls and other animals, it is difficult to know the exact numbers.

Our regular water sampling during the bloom showed that the levels of nitrogen in the upper cove were double what they need to be to restore the pond back to healthy conditions.  This again demonstrates that not only do we need to continue to monitor the flushing and outflow of the pond, but also in the long term limit the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus entering the pond from septic systems.


The massive blue-green algal bloom impacting Oyster Pond is not going away despite our initial efforts working with the Town to increase the outflow of Trunk River. The bloom is caused by a combination of excess nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen), sunlight, low-water or low-flow conditions and warm temperatures.

Dr. Aimlee Laderman, Lecturer at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University and a limnologist at the Marine Biological Laboratory, looked at photographs of the algae in the pond and identified it as a very dense bloom of freshwater blue-green Cyanophyta, indicative of severe eutrophication. 

OPET is working vigorously to alleviate the situation and find a short term solution to help the pond.  Two things are needed to improve the water quality - rain and lots of it to dilute the nutrient pollution and in-flow from Vineyard Sound to bring in salt water to restrict the growth of this freshwater algae.  OPET is working with local scientists and engineers to design a plan to allow salt water into the pond to take to the Town for their approval. 

In the meantime, OPET thought it prudent to warn our Oyster Pond neighbors to limit contact with the water. In some instances, cyanophyta blooms can sicken people and pets and cause skin rashes, eye irritation, and possible gastrointestinal distress when ingested in large quantities. Some Cyanophyta blooms can also cause the death of fish.  This is more likely due to the simple lack of oxygen rather than the effects of the cyanophyta.  As the algae overgrow and die, the oxygen in the water column disappears. 

The Charles River is also experiencing a cyanobacteria bloom and public officials there have warned the public to avoid contact with the water as it is difficult to determine if a bloom can cause health problems.

Therefore, as a precaution, we suggest you and your pets
avoid contact with the water and thoroughly rinse contacted areas after exposure.

A secchi disk is an ingeniously simple device to check water clarity and the density of algae.  Usually, the disk is visible down to 5 feet during the summer. As of mid September, it was just over a foot.

As stated above, we are strenuously working for a quick, emergency solution to the pond's current state.  However, this bloom brings into focus the deeper underlying problems with Oyster Pond -- there is too much nitrogen and phosphorus from septic systems polluting the pond. In the long run, we must prevent another algal bloom by capturing these nutrients before they enter the pond.  Either a sewer system must be installed or septic systems upgraded to include a denitrifying component.  The Town is continuing to study what option will work best for the Oyster Pond watershed.


What a startling difference in this aerial view between the blue Salt Pond and pea-green Oyster Pond! Salt Pond has far fewer houses in its watershed and therefore far less nutrients polluting its water.   

Great talk on Mosquitoes at the OPET Annual Meeting !

Gabrielle Sakolsky, Assistant Superintendent and Entomologist of the Barnstable County Cape Cod Mosquito Control gave a great talk at the OPET Annual Meeting about the efforts of her office to trap, monitor and control mosquitoes and their diseases. Although the risk of a Zika outbreak here is extremely low, other mosquito borne diseases such as West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis are of concern.



Plans for the new Headwaters land are underway!

Now that we've purchased the Headwaters land, thanks to you, plans are underway to draft a management plan and improve the trail system. This is the fun part!
Watch the video to see the latest on plans to expand the trail system and see beautiful features of the Headwaters Property.

OPET is beginning to design a circular trail system to link together points of interest in the new Headwaters property with the existing trails.  We are trying to balance access to interesting features while protecting fragile resources and maintaining a buffer to neighbors’ backyards. There are already informal neighborhood trails linking Ransom Road to Fells Road and one running up to Hackmatack Way. There are also existing trails in Zinn Park, the conservation land OPET acquired in the mid 1990s (green dotted lines). 

Click on the map to see a larger version.

OPET President Bill Kerfoot at one of the boundary markers on the new Headwaters land. The first step to managing the land is finding its boundaries! It is always nice when you can find these as they are usually hidden under years of leaves and dirt.
Mark Robinson of the Compact of Cape Cod with a GPS in hand scouting out new trails and identifying interesting features.
An example of the challenging type of landscape we face for the new trails.

The above map shows some possible new trails layouts.  In January, Mark Robinson of the Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts helped us start mapping and considering the new routes. Mark had a handheld gps that tracked our movements as we cut our way through the Headwaters property (purple dotted lines).  This work is only possible in the winter as the vegetation is incredibly dense the rest of the year! We also identified some features to highlight in a future trail guide.

Once the snow has melted enough we will go back out again with the GPS to map the remaining proposed trails (yellow dotted lines).   We might discover new routes when we are back in the field.


It's official, OPET now owns the Headwaters of Oyster Pond!

John Dowling, OPET's President, shakes hands with Jeffrey Fernandez, WHOI's CFO to celebrate the land transfer.
Photo by Jayne Doucette, copyright Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

On October 19th, the land transfer was completed and OPET officially acquired the 22 acre Headwaters of Oyster Pond from WHOI. Thanks to a flurry of last minute donations, we closed the remaining $30,000 funding gap.  The Headwaters will now be protected in perpetuity for all the citizens of Falmouth!

This is all possible due to YOU and all of your generous donations.

So many people were involved in this purchase.  We had 230 donors with donations ranging from $5 to the $500,000. Donations came from the Massachusetts Landscape Partnership fund, the Town of Falmouth Community Preservation Fund, foundations, The 300 Committee Land Trust, the Compact of Cape Cod  Land Trusts, other non-profits and many, many private donors. It really did take a village to purchase this land!

On October 19th, the land transfer was completed and OPET officially acquired the 22 acre Headwaters of Oyster Pond from WHOI. Thanks to a flurry of last minute donations, we closed the remaining $30,000 funding gap.  The Headwaters will now be protected in perpetuity for all the citizens of Falmouth!

Now our attention turns to managing this beautiful property and improving the public access. Any gifts that were received in excess of the purchase price and expenses will become the foundation for a Headwaters long-term stewardship fund.  This winter will be spent mapping out trails and developing a management plan. Other plans include installing a three space parking area and an informational kiosk.  We will keep you up to date with these plans as they progress.

Conservation Leaders Fight to Protect Our Open Space from Development Sprawl

Listen to the discussion on the value of preserving open space on the radio program The Point with Mindy Todd on WCAI. Panelists include OPET's Executive Director, Wendi Buesseler, Jaci Barton of the Barnstable Land Trust, Katherine Garafoli of the Dennis Conservation Trust and Michael Lach of the Harwich Conservation Trust.

Falmouth Enterprise Editorial - January 9, 2015 - Thank you Bill Hough!

The 5 WHOI lots are very important to preserving the health of Oyster Pond as they are the last large developable parcels in the pond’s watershed.  These lands drain into a creek that is the source of the only surface water to Oyster Pond.  Groundwater seeps up into the wetlands and flow under Ransom Road and directly into the pond.  Any pollutants on these properties will migrate through the soils, enter the groundwater and make their way to the pond.

A $2.1M Capital Campaign is underway to purchase and preserve 22 acres of undeveloped land being divested by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Successful acquisition of this land will ensure that it remains undeveloped and will continue to be a vibrant natural and cultural resource for the entire community.

Oyster Pond and the hundreds of plant and animal species, many of which are endangered, rely on this land (Oyster Pond’s headwaters). 

Additional housing development would have a devastating effect on Oyster Pond and the surrounding habitat.  Development could result in up to 70 new housing units, if a developer used the 40B provision of the Falmouth planning bylaws. 

Preserving this land — and guarding against development — will have lasting cultural and economic benefits for our community.

To learn more about this important initiative and how it affects all of us, please read our brochure.

There are many ways to give Ways to Give.

We need everyone’s help to reach our funding goal - please donate today

All donation amounts are welcome and appreciated - thank you!

A slideshow of the land.










Wood frogs "quacking" and spring peepers singing at one of the vernal pools.

Vernal Pool Chorus from OPET on Vimeo.


Oyster Pond Environmental Trust

Now you can support OPET everytime you shop through Amazon. If you are an Amazon customer, you can support OPET every time you purchase or download eligible items.  Amazon will donate 0.5% of your purchases to OPET through the Amazon Smile program.



In 1994 residents of Oyster Pond’s watershed area formed
Oyster Pond Environmental Trust, Inc. (OPET)
to improve the pond’s health.







Oyster Pond Environmental Trust, Inc.
501(c) 3 non-profit organization
PO Box 496 • Woods Hole, MA 02543-0496