Joseph Driebeck Way, Marshfield, MA 02050, USA
Owned By: Town of Marshfield
Harbor Park is a small, grassy town park, located directly on Green Harbor itself. The Harbor Walk is a wide, 1-mile long, sidewalk-type walkway. It connects Harbor Park to the Marshfield Town Pier, the Brant Rock Esplanade, and Peter Igo Park. It extends along Route 139, crossing the Green Harbor River, and continues to Careswell Street. Stroller-friendly.
The Marshfield Kiwanis Club maintains the town-owned Harbor Park.
The Brant Rock Dike — at the far end of the Harbor Walk, near the Green Harbor Marina, has an interesting history. In 1871, a group of farmers petitioned the court to construct a dike, or tide gate, on the Green Harbor River where present-day Dyke Road crosses it today. By impeding much of the flow of saltwater upstream, more arable land would be created upstream. The dike was constructed in 1872, with the condition that, “Should shoaling take place above the level of mean low water in the channel in consequence of dike construction, it was to be removed by the Marsh proprietors.” Shoaling did occur, and thus began the “Brant Rock Dike Feud.”
By 1876, shoaling in Green Harbor was significant enough that the Harbor and Land Commissioners demanded its removal. The fishermen claimed that “the value of the harbor was totally destroyed,” as there wasn’t enough water for their boats to enter the harbor at times other than high tide.
The farmers did not respond to this request. They said the harbor was made illegally, while they followed proper channels to get their dike. They argued that boats had trouble entering the harbor at lower tides even before the dike was built. They claimed that shoaling would have happened anyway, without the construction of the dike, and that if they removed the shoals, the problem would return soon enough.
The situation remained in stalemate until one angry anti-diker, Henry Tolman, contrived to force the issue by blowing up the dike. Word of his plan got out, and a Boston detective firm was hired to keep an eye on him. Marshfield selectmen warned that, “No man can catch him but a woman can,” so a female investigator was assigned to the case. After becoming acquainted, Tolman invited her to accompany him to the dike in the middle of the night. He brought along a wheelbarrow of dynamite, fuses and “other equipment necessary to achieve the destruction in view.”
Tolman was arrested. However, the police acted too soon. Tolman was stopped while still on the road above the tide gate, not down in the sluiceway where the detonation was to occur. In court he claimed that he was only transporting the dynamite to Brant Rock, . . . and that he was doing so in the middle of the night so he wouldn’t endanger anyone. He was allowed to go free, but “under bond for the rest of his life.”
The dike feud continued for decades. In 1898, the Massachusetts legislature passed a bill that called for the removal of the dike. But a few days later, Governor Wolcott vetoed the bill, because it included a clause guaranteeing the farmers be paid damages for what would once again be salt-ruined land. So the dike remained.
Really, no one won the Dike Feud. Unfortunately, Hatfield/McCoy-type spats continued in town meetings and other venues for many years. Although the farmers got to keep their dike, the promise of arable lands upstream never did materialize, as their crops did not grow the way they had hoped. Meanwhile, the fishermen continued to endure shoaling in the harbor – a problem that continues to this day. Green Harbor’s cod and lobster fishing industry has prospered for many years nonetheless.
It is important to know that shoaling has always been an issue on the Green Harbor River, even before the dike was built. According to Jim O’Connell, a Coastal Processes Specialist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, “the channel would be shoaled with or without the dike.” O’Connell continues, “The harbor tidal prism (volume of water between high and low tide) is too small to flush the channel to a point to keep the channel open; wave and wind dynamics move sand into the channel and current velocities are too low to move the sand back out.”
Does the dike contribute to the need for periodic dredging in Green Harbor? It is certainly a factor, but so many other issues must be considered as well. Professor of Geography Reed Stewart cites a few: sea level rise, the building of seawalls, and the changes in the amount of sand washed south along the beach since the realignment of the North River mouth in 1898.
“Even after extensive study, the Corps of Engineers cannot figure out how to keep the entrance channel from shoaling,” says O’Connell. “Natural coastal processes are at work here that we humans cannot overcome!”
A wide, ADA-accessible concrete walkways extend across, and around the perimeter, of Harbor Park. The Harbor Walk, which is basically a sidewalk, extends between the roadway and the edge of the marsh from the Marshfield Town Pier, past Harbor Park and a parking lot for Brant Rock Beach, and onward to Peter Igo Park, up Route 139, across the Brant Rock Dike to Careswell Street. Next to the Water Treatment Plant, there is a spur trail to the Brant Rock Esplanade. The total length is about 1 mile.
Habitats and Wildlife
Harbor Park is situated right at the edge of Green Harbor itself. The Harbor Walk extends along the edge of the salt marsh from one side the harbor to the other. This is a prime location for spotting shorebirds. Snowy egrets are often seen in the marsh.
The Green Harbor River finds its source in springs and ponds in Duxbury. It twists and turns through Marshfield via a large cranberry bog complex, the Green Harbor Golf Club, the Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary, property owned by the Marshfield Municipal Airport, and Peter Igo Park. Just downstream of the Dyke Road bridge (and dike) it flows into the Atlantic Ocean at Green Harbor.
Historic Site: No
Boat Launch: No
Size: 2.3 acres
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
Parking: Small parking lot across the street on Joseph Driebeck Way (Town Pier Road).
Trail Difficulty: Easy
At Harbor Park: benches, covered picnic area, trash receptacles.
Along the Harbor Walk: benches on the Brant Rock Dike (at Green Harbor River)
Boat Ramp: No
ADA Access: Yes
Scenic Views: Yes
Waterbody/Watershed: Green Harbor River