“Rewilding” Great Neck

Almost a year ago, thanks to the support of many, generous donors, Mass Audubon acquired the 110-acre former Sacred Hearts property abutting Great Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Wareham.

Here’s an update on what’s been happening since then:

First, we had a celebration!

Friends and donors gather to celebrate a remarkable fundraising effort and the successful protection and acquisition of the former Sacred Hearts property.
Sister Claire speaks to the audience about her long involvement with the Sacred Hearts Healing Center at Great Neck and the sanctuary the land will continue to provide under Mass Audubon’s stewardship.

Then, with a vision towards restoring the landscape, we hired a demolition company to remove most of the buildings – including 30 bathrooms!

Thanks to due diligence performed before purchasing, we knew there was some asbestos in the buildings, as well as five underground fuel tanks. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know the full extent of a hazard until destructive testing begins. The asbestos here turned out to be more widespread than projected, but it was all safely removed (along with the fuel tanks).  

The full demolition began in March 2020. These before and after photos tell some of that story.

Before: Boathouse at the edge of Buzzards Bay.
After: The newly unobstructed view across the water with beach grass planting to follow soon.
Before: View of the 46-room Manor House with attached chapel building.
After: The Manor House has been removed and the chapel secured as a venue for hosting educational programs in the future.

With the demolition complete, we shifted our focus to revitalizing the former campus. Mass Audubon received two grants totaling over $20,000 that enabled us to plant over 100 trees and shrubs, and to sow native flowers—transforming the past building sites to benefit bird and butterfly populations.

Next up, staff and volunteers will develop additional trails and plan educational experiences for visitors—creating interpretive signage and offering programs.  Great Neck Wildlife Sanctuary’s projected role in accommodating salt marsh migration gives us the perfect opportunity to demonstrate land conservation’s vital role in our collective response to the effects of climate change.

Our rewilding efforts to date, particularly the infrastructure removal noted above, were far more costly than originally estimated. If you’d like to help us continue the work we’ve started here and make the full vision become a reality, please consider making a donation to Great Neck Wildlife Sanctuary today.