Sandwich Land Conservationist Honored
By: Mary Stanley
Anyone who has ever walked the expansive Maple Swamp conservation property just off Service Road and had the opportunity to take in the natural beauty of the land, protected forever from subdivision and development, has John Nye Cullity, founder of the Sandwich Conservation Trust, to thank.
Mr. Cullity is a lifelong resident of East Sandwich. He is a historic preservationist and possesses a deep appreciation for the environment and a passion for protecting “wild places” here in town.
Next Friday, the Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts’ board of directors will formally thank Mr. Cullity when they honor him with the Ansel B. Chaplin Award. This award, named in honor of the compact’s founding president, Ansel B. Chaplin of Truro, and voted on by the compact’s board of directors, is intended to recognize and celebrate significant work conducted by an individual or group of persons to increase the amount and quality of legally protected conservation or park land in Barnstable County. The award could be for a single major project or a lifetime of dedication to the cause of open space.
“John is somebody who qualifies under either of those areas,” said Mark H. Robinson, executive director of the compact.
Mr. Robinson went on to say that the award is intended to recognize somebody who has really gone above and beyond the call of duty to conserve land on the Cape.
He said selecting Mr. Cullity for the award this year could be based on any one of the accomplishments he has made with respect to land conservation or a combination of his 25 years’ worth of work in land preservation, including the founding of the Sandwich Conservation Trust in 1985.
“That was a gutsy move for a young guy. He was only in his 30s at the time [when he founded the SCT],” Mr. Robinson said.
But Mr. Cullity said it had nothing to do with guts and everything to do with the values he was raised with.
He grew up in Sandwich and, even at a young age, recognized the importance of conserving open space here for future generations to enjoy.
“I grew up in East Sandwich with my parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We all loved our home here because it was a rural place. We developed a love of rural landscape and nature. As kids, we wandered all around. It was a paradise, and it was a great privilege to be able to wander around and explore. By preserving conservation land, we are preserving the opportunity to wander around and explore,” he said.
His fellow board members on the Sandwich Conservation Trust are delighted with the regional conservation board’s decision to choose Mr. Cullity as the recipient of this year’s award.
“It was a unanimous decision by that board to select John this year,” pointed out fellow Sandwich Conservation Trust board member Deborah A. Gannett, who was one of several people to write a letter in support of Mr. Cullity’s receiving the award.
“As one of the founders of the Sandwich Conservation Trust, he has been steadfast in his beliefs. John is a visionary for the long-term importance of conserving land in Sandwich and is committed to maintaining the environment that attracts so many people here,” Ms. Gannett said.
Mr. Robinson agreed and pointed out that one of Mr. Cullity’s first and perhaps most important missions as founder of the Sandwich Conservation Trust was in bringing attention to the moraine ridge, which runs east to west through the south side of town in the Maple Swamp area.
“John possessed a history and knowledge of that ridge and its habitat and had the foresight to preserve a large chunk of land that now includes 800 acres,” Mr. Robinson said.
Mr. Cullity said the 86 acres that Town Meeting voted in 1986 to designate as conservation land not only included three hilltops but more importantly served as an access to a huge amount of land already designated as conservation land.
“Those 86 acres gave us access to the rest of the land that is the Maple Swamp,” he explained.
While the Sandwich Conservation Trust has acquired nearly 75 acres of privately donated land for the purposes of preservation, as president of the SCT, Mr. Cullity has worked tirelessly in his efforts to have other parcels of land designated as conservation.
Ms. Gannett said one of the reasons that so much land has been donated to the Sandwich Conservation Trust has to do with Mr. Cullity and his integrity. “Land donated to the Sandwich Conservation Trust is preserved forever. When someone donates land to the Sandwich Conservation, they can be reassured that it will never be developed,” Ms. Gannett said.
She said Mr. Cullity exudes trustworthiness, and people immediately sense that.
“He has values that are rock solid and sticks to the fundamental values of what is important,” she said.
Others who nominated him for this award used words such as “unassuming” and “inspiring” to describe Mr. Cullity. In their written testimonials supporting Mr. Cullity as a recipient of the award, they pointed out that his work on the Sandwich Conservation Trust goes far beyond acquiring land for conservation purposes—he tends the land—all voluntarily.
Member of the SCT Joseph A. Queenan Jr., wrote in his letter of support, “it is not unusual to see John at ‘work parties’ cutting grass and digging post holes. If trash is dumped in our woods, John just happens to have a pair of work gloves with him and simply cleans up the mess.”
“I have never seen anything like it. He is the land manager for the Trust and a one man crew when it comes to the 75 acres we own. He’s an old Yankee—he does it himself,” said Peter S. Thomas, a member of the Sandwich Conservation Trust.
Just as his fellow board members expected, Mr. Cullity was somewhat humble when discussing the award.
“This award came as a complete surprise to me. It’s a great thing to be honored—especially by this regional group,” Mr. Cullity said.
The compact’s board of directors will present Mr. Cullity with his award next Friday at its annual meeting, which will be held at The Beach Club in Centerville. The meeting begins at 5:30 PM.