By Michelle Pelletier Marshall
---- — ROWLEY — Concerns over the preservation of the salt marsh have caused Parker River Wildlife Refuge management to close a portion of Stackyard Road to vehicular traffic. The road, on the east side of town off Route 1A, leads out to Nelson’s Island, a popular commercial clamming area. The road is also used to reach boaters in emergency situations on Plum Island Sound.
The road is still open for all residents and down to the parking lot, where it is open to walkers and bird hunters and bird watchers. The portion of the road that extends from the locked gate to Nelson’s Island is the area where no vehicle traffic is allowed.
Representatives of the refuge, along with local government officials, such as state Sen. Bruce Tarr and aides from Brad Hill and John Tierney’s offices, local clam diggers, the harbormaster and others met to discuss the road closing at the Oct. 28 selectmen’s meeting.
Frank Drauszewski, acting refuge manager, spoke of how over the last few years, high tide has seen some areas of the road out to Nelson’s Island under as much as 18 inches of water, with three particular spots remaining wet at all times, regardless of the tides.
“The road has deteriorated over the last four or five years ‘beyond the point of no return,’ and we didn’t want to maintain it, nor did anyone else,” said Drauszewski, of the road closing to protect the salt marsh. He explained that if the road were filled in to make it passable, the sediment would not flow properly into the salt marsh area, threatening its existence.
Selectmen chairman Bob Snow was empathetic to the concerns to protect the salt marsh, but wanted to ensure a route for clammers to do their job. “I see this as an impact to the aquaculture industry in Rowley,” he said. “I understand about the condition of the road, but we don’t want the fishing industry, which goes back to 1630, to die in this area.”
There are about a dozen commercial clammers in town who use Stackyard Road on occasion, mostly in the winter, hauling two or three bushels of clams — that’s 55 pounds a bushel — down the nearly 1-mile road without a vehicle at this point.
The group agreed to meet again to discuss the possibilities of allowing seasonal limited access with vehicles on the road for clam diggers and to ensure that emergency access plans were in place.
Bill DiMento, Rowley’s harbormaster, said it was never the intention to abandon the maintenance of this road, but the economic conditions during the recession in 2008 put it on the back burner. “I think a meeting of the minds could possibly identify a solution that allows some very limited seasonal access to the road by the clamming community that relies on that road for their livelihood,” he said.
Drauszewski was going to arrange for a future meeting with the group to work through the options.