682R Commercial Street

Whistle Path Woods

This has nothing to do with just putting your lips together and blowing. Whistle Path is a footpath winding through the northwest corner of these woods that was used by so many cranberry pickers on their way between town and dune bogs in the 19th century that engineers on the Old Colony Railroad were compelled to sound a warning where their tracks crossed the path. As the configuration suggests, the seven-acre Whistle Path Woods were once part of a “great lot” running from Provincetown Harbor to the Atlantic Ocean. The 80-acre parcel was purchased in 1919 by the artist Max Bohm, whose home and studio, Grand View, 676 Commercial, is still the most imposing human-created feature on the site.

Much of the Bohm family’s “great lot” was taken under eminent domain over the years for the railroad right-of-way, for Route 6 and, principally, for the Cape Cod National Seashore. The property passed from Bohm; through his widow, Zella; to their daughters Elizabeth (Bohm) Schwartz and Esther (Bohm) Locke. Upon Schwartz’s death in 1999, control of the entire remaining parcel, nearly 10 acres between the old railroad bed and Commercial Street, passed to Roger Locke, Esther’s son. With his siblings, he proposed an 18-lot residential subdivision.

Because “the Locke parcel represented the largest remaining unprotected forest area in town,” according to the Town Conservation Area Management Plan, a public acquisition was deemed worth pursuing. After two years of negotiations, a purchase price of $1.48 million was agreed upon. The town’s contribution was limited by Town Meeting to $752,000, so the Provincetown Conservation Trust set out to raise the other $728,000, through grants from the commonwealth, a foundation and “significant funds raised from the East End neighborhood.” The woods were acquired in May 2001.

One of the most important facets of this habitat is that its main characteristic is not that of a typical immature pitch pine forest. “Deciduous trees are predominant,” the management plan states. “Oak, beech, sassafras, birch, tupelo and red maple are the primary trees found, with an understory of highbush blueberry, swamp azalea, shadbush, beach plum, bayberry and huckleberry.” Hmmm. What about cranberries?

 

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