Friday, July 2, 2004
ConsCom requests removal of Great Brook parking fee
The Carlisle Conservation Commission (ConsCom) has provided strong local input to a pending decision by the state Department of Conservation Resources (DCR) that could prove critical for the town's sole remaining dairy farm, operated by Mark and Tamma Duffy. The DCR decision will determine the fate of a $2 parking fee instituted last year at Great Brook Farm State Park, where the Duffys have held an unsubsidized lease on the agricultural activities for the past 17 years. As part of the dairy operation, the couple participates in an educational program for visiting families and runs an ice cream stand which is important to the profitability of the farm.
Fees blamed for low attendance
ConsCom's letter to Secretary Katherine Abbott points out that park attendance, as reported by Park Superintendent Ray Faucher, has dropped from a peak of 215,000 in 1999 to 101,000 in 2003. Although customers of the ice cream stand alone were allowed 30 minutes of free parking, that concession has proven insufficient for maintaining profitable customer levels. To quote the commission's communication, "Allowing just 30 minutes for ice cream is probably not adequate time for people to enjoy the ice cream, the scenery and the farm animals, especially visitors with children who may never have seen a working farm."
With the $2 fee temporarily in abeyance for the 2004 season, Duffy reports that returning clientele have often remarked how happy they are to have things "back to normal." However, a query about the related effect of the "temporary" closing of North Road until repairs can be made to a serious washout brought a reply of, "It sure doesn't help." Not only is the farm located on that byway, but the popular MapQuest web site directs would-be patrons from Route 3 to Treble Cove Road to North Road.
In presenting its appeal, ConsCom cited Duffy's other major agricultural contribution as lessor of the 100-year-old, town-owned Cranberry Bog that operates under a 20-year contract, which includes a step-by-step restoration of its historic potential. As reported by the Mosquito, and recently the national media, the cranberry business has been distressingly volatile over the past five years, with prices dropping from a high of 80 cents a pound to a low of 12 cents, before apparently stabilizing at about 30 cents in 2004.
Ocean Spray rejects Pepsi
Asked in a brief phone interview about his take on the recent decision by the Ocean Spray Cooperative to reject a joint business proposal from the Pepsi Corporation, the farmer, who is not a member of the co-op, did express doubt that the beverage giant would have pushed hard enough to bring the ailing cranberry industry out of its doldrums. Nevertheless, he remains hopeful that with that divisive vote out of the way, Ocean Spray members can once again work together creatively to stabilize the business at a profitable level.
Low milk prices hit dairy farms
Highlighting the plethora of uncertainties that can plague a small family farm, Duffy reported that milk prices that, in 2002 and 2003, hit a 25-year low, then picked up during the winter to an acceptable level, are threatening to drop again. The dairyman believes that the uptick was caused in part by a supply shortage, as many dairy farmers were forced out of business during the bad years. By nature an optimist, and proud of his own herd's standing as the most productive in Massachusetts, Duffy is hoping that the present high demand for milk and milk products in the grocery stores will keep the price at an acceptable level, without sparking renewed overproduction.
The closing paragraph of ConsCom's appeal to DCR (copied to Governor Mitt Romney and Carlisle's legislators on Beacon Hill, among others) gave a clear indication of what may be at stake for both Great Brook Farm State Park and the Town of Carlisle as the agency ponders its policy on fees: "During their 17 years in Carlisle, the Duffy's have contributed greatly to maintaining the town's agricultural character. It would be a great loss to Carlisle if the Duffys felt they could not make a decent living here and chose not to renew their lease. We urge you and others at DCR to consider creative solutions that would enable the Duffys to continue operating their ice cream stand without the additional burden of a parking fee."
Duffy closed the interview by indicating how much he appreciated the concern shown by the commission for the welfare of the public's properties and personally welcomed their strong statement of support.
© 2004 The