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Black Pond Bog Preserve Reaches 50 Years

Black Pond Bog, "a classroom to learn about the unity of life," was dedicated in 1962.

By Eric Aldrich

When Wes Osborne looks out across Black Pond Bog in Norwell, he sees the past, the present and the future.

He can envision the enormous ice chunk that melted during the Ice Age’s retreat, leaving this kettle-hole bog more than 10,000 years ago. He can see the sphagnum moss, ferns, pitcher plants and cedars that slowly grew around its edges over the ages, creating the bog it is today.

And Wes remembers the remarkable fund-raising campaign in the early 1960s that allowed the nascent Nature Conservancy to make Black Pond Bog its first preserve in Massachusetts.

Along with William Vinal, who led the campaign, Wes was in the thick of it, raising money, making connections and showing folks why this place was worthy of being protected forever.

“Cap’n Bill” Vinal, as he was called, was at the time professor emeritus of environmental education at the University of Massachusetts, a lifelong resident of Norwell and champion of conservation. “Cap’n Bill knew that this place was unique and that it was worth preserving,” Wes says. “So he brought a lot of people together and led a campaign that allowed The Nature Conservancy to protect it. We led a few tours and talked to a lot of people, and we raised the money. It was a great campaign.”

When the group celebrated the preserve’s creation in 1962, they had a large rock near the entrance engraved, dedicating the place as “a classroom to learn about the unity of life” and honoring Cap’n Bill.

Now a spry 89 years old, Wes also thinks about the future. He’s ready to hand off some of the tougher stewardship duties—like cleaning up fallen trees—to another volunteer, Ross Edwards of Quincy.

And even further into the future, Wes envisions the natural evolution of Black Pond Bog. Its floating sphagnum and dwarf cedars will gradually move closer to the middle. Eventually— thousands of years from now—the pond will give way to an Atlantic white cedar swamp.

But thanks to Wes, Cap’n Bill, many loyal supporters (including the local garden club) and The Nature Conservancy, this place will always be protected.

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