Friday, July 6, 2012

Take a Hike 
Boyden Farm

By John Nye Cullity

Next Sunday, July 8th at 2 PM, the Sandwich Conservation Trust will conduct its monthly walk at the town’s Boyden Farm Conservation Lands, off Cotuit Road.  This will be an easy, level walk to Peters Pond and back - 40 minutes or so.  This is the SCT’s first walk on this parcel, but I’ve also realized it is an opportunity to write about an important Sandwich man who was responsible for the preservation of this piece.
John A. Ohman (1913-2002) was born in Sweden, and immigrated to this country, Long Island, in 1923.  He was an extremely hard worker with a gift for technical detail, and after mastering radio repair and electronics, went on to a career as a self-taught civil and electrical engineer.  From 1935 to 1937 he was a member of the Andes-Amazon Expedition as radio operator and cartographer, an important experience that enabled him to solve problems under difficult conditions.  He later worked for Reiber Research in New York, American Airlines, Fairchild Instruments, and Southwest Research Institute.
In 1961 John and his wife Edythe purchased a cottage in Sandwich on Town Neck, and in 1964 the old Swann house at 104 Tupper Road, where he planned to establish a small research lab.  My own association with the Ohmans began at this time, and John provided me with work into my college years, and he was one of the greatest teachers I ever had.  The Swann house unfortunately, was termite ridden, and was replaced by a full-Cape with a research lab discretely attached to the back.  Ohman Research Lab operated for some years, designing prototypes of electronic and photographic devices for the government.
John Ohman had a deep appreciation of nature, and loved the “old look” of Cape Cod.  In the mid-1960s there was a proposal to build a new town hall on Brady’s Island, across from the fire station.  The house and outbuildings had been taken down, and the island and surrounding phragmites-free marsh were quite beautiful.  Alarmed about this project, John and the late Dr. Shirley Cross spearheaded the effort to preserve the island by bringing it to town meeting for purchase, which occurred in May, 1967.
In the early 1980s real estate development was occurring at an alarming rate, and in response, selectmen created the Environmental Task Force to research and propose conservation properties for purchase by town meeting.  Appointees were drawn from the conservation commission, planning board, board of health, appeals board, recreation, selectmen, water district, Sandwich Conservation Trust, and general citizenry.  It was a fine board that worked well together.  John Ohman became the chairman.
Work began immediately on drafting a conservation and recreation plan that would satisfy the state Department of Conservation, so we could apply for “self-help” funds.  Though everyone helped, the lion’s share was done by John, and the report was accepted and published in January, 1986.  That year, the ETF brought three parcels to town meeting, all of which were purchased.  One of these was a 48 acre parcel with 730 feet of frontage on Peters Pond.  This piece was owned by a developer, and John Ohman took responsibility for the negotiations.  A price of 1.1 million was arrived at.  $765,000 of this was provided by the state, thanks to the report largely drafted by John, quite an accomplishment for a volunteer.
Years later, the town purchased the former Hewlett-Packard corporate recreation site now known as Oak Crest – a nice package of adjacent town properties.
John and Edythe Ohman also donated 2.67 acres of salt marsh to the Sandwich Conservation Trust, opposite their Tupper Road home – the Ohman Preserve.
So, feel free to join us on a trek to Peter’s Pond this Sunday at 2PM.  I must say, the source of the name “Boyden Farm” is a bit of a mystery to me.  Perhaps someone can provide that information.  The walk will be cancelled if it rains.  Questions?  Call me at (508) 888-7629.

Update: More information on the source of the name "Boyden Farm" can be found here.

This aerial view of the Boyden Farms Conservation Lands was taken by the author in 1986.  
The town’s Oak Crest property is just below.

John Ohman, a valuable Sandwich citizen and conservationist.