Coastal Plain Pond, General

Plymouth: South Ponds Preserve: People & Nature In Harmony

Update: January 25, 2023 State Division of Fish and Wildlife letter to Town of Plymouth demands Town address violations of Conservation Restriction on Town Forest, address illegal parking, dumping, destruction of globally rare Coastal Plain Pond ecology

South Ponds Preserve Coalition seeks stewardship commitment from the Town to protect entire South Ponds area

Report issued 8/5/2022 to guide future stewardship

Update: January 25, 2023:

The Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife sent a letter to the Town of Plymouth, demanding that the Town address an increase in illegal parking, foot traffic, dumping, and human waste on the Town Forest land around Great South and Little South Ponds since least 2019.

Several years ago, the State paid the Town for a conservation restriction to protect this globally rare Coastal Plain Pond ecosystem. In exchange the Town has a permanent duty to comply with the conservation restriction. The restriction protects the natural ecology and environment of the Town Forest lands. The Town is NOT doing its job and it is actively allowing this global treasure to be destroyed.

The Division pointed out that problems are due to the decision by Town leadership strip the Town’s Natural Resource Officers of the ability to enforce rules around the Pond area regarding parking and trespass. This means the area is unprotected and the conservation restriction is being violated by the Town. In the January 25, 2023 letter the Division requested that Plymouth take the following actions:

  1. Commitment for consistent enforcement of illegal parking along Drew Road, including daily patrols and citations issued to all illegally parked vehicles, especially during the months of June, July and August when activity inconsistent with the conservation restriction is at a peak.
  2. Commitment for consistent foot patrols of the sandy shoreline at the north end of Great South Pond during the same time period to enforce the no swimming regulation, as well other unauthorized/illegal activities (fires, dumping, public drinking, cutting of vegetation, etc).
  3. Improved signage along Drew Road indicating no parking aside from the two designated/official parking areas.
  4. Establishment of a formal tow zone for the entirety of Drew Road, with the exception of the two designated/official parking areas, which would enable illegally parked vehicles to be towed at the owner’s expense.
  5. Continued and improved blockage of illegal roadside parking areas along Drew Road. The Town should install permanent blockades (guardrail, boulders, posts, etc) to eliminate all illegal roadside parking/pull-offs.

The State’s letter to the Town of Plymouth is here:

See the Division of Fish & Wildlife 2020 warning letter to the Plymouth Police Department here:

After over two years of research and collaboration with stakeholders, the South Ponds Preserve coalition released its report. This is a starting point and framework for building community support for long term stewardship of the South Ponds Preserve area. It is a model for other Coastal Plain Ponds in Plymouth. We invite all feedback and participation. Email comments to

We thank everyone for their thoughtful participation and feedback so far. We look forward to engaging more community members!

Background on South Ponds Conservation Area: 1990 to present

Abutting Myles Standish State Forest in Plymouth is a unique complex of forests and ponds, a coastal pine barrens. Four major conservation projects over the last 30 years have helped to preserve the area. Private homes are located throughout. Public access is provided via trail networks. The lands include the Town Forest and Eel River Preserve (see more on Living Observatory) and preserves owned by Wildlands Trust of Southeastern Mass including the Crawley Woodlands Preserve on Billington Sea.

The area is under threat. The Town Forest located at the northern edge is facing challenges with increased public use. The Town Forest is governed by a Conservation Restriction held by the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW)(See below)

Our coalition seeks to maintain the area’s ecological integrity while supporting educational and recreational opportunities. Current challenges include illegal public use in areas meant only for hiking and fishing, resulting in trash, illegal fires, and use of the beach as a bathroom.

July 2020: Little South Pond, Town Forest parking area being used as a toilet and dump. This pond is part of the Town’s back up water supply and a rare species habitat.
July, 2020: Little South Pond, Town Forest, Drew Road parking area, rare mussels destroyed

Learn about the unique plants Plymouth’s South Pond complex including Great South Pond and Little South Pond on the website of Saliciola. Search for plant names like New England Boneset and Plymouth Gentian!

July 2022 Report Documenting Violations:

Concerned residents are cleaning up the beach and trying to prevent a public health hazard, contamination of the water, and biodiversity destruction.

The Town Forest Conservation Restriction, 2007

The Town is legally obliged to protect the Town Forest under the terms of the Conservation Restriction it agreed to in 2007. See the restriction here:

The Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) baseline report on by Mass Audubon in 2008 is here.

When the Town in 2022 tried to expand parking at the Town Forest, Save the Pine Barrens filed a legal appeal of the wetlands permit. See the appeal here.

Above: Great South Pond shoreline, 2015 showing rare Coastal Plain Pond ecology where endangered plants grow-some found nowhere else on earth except in Eastern Massachusetts on Coastal Plain Ponds. As of 2023, the plant habitat has been trampled and destroyed due to the failure of the Town of Plymouth to control access to the Pond. The Town does not adequately control public access to the Town Forest trails that lead to Great South Pond and other ecologically sensitive areas. More public education is needed to ensure the public has access to recreational opportunities while at the same time we preserve our globally rare ecosystems for future generations. Photo Courtesy of D. Stowell.