Archive for the 'Star gazing' Category

Interpreter’s Notes – The Atlantic Path


In the early years of European settlement of America residence along the coastline was considered appropriate only for the more economically disadvantaged among the community.  Needless to point out, things have certainly changed.  Today we’re all quite aware of the ever increasing material value of waterfront property.  Hand-in-hand with that truth goes a number of issues relating to public access of the coastal areas that belong to us all.  It’s estimated that in New England the public has easy access only to about half of the coastal topography that belongs to everyone.  In Massachusetts, the laws governing public access to coastal lands is even more restrictive than in other states with shorelines.  In 1647 the Massachusetts Bay Colony Ordinances moved the line between public and private property to the low water mark, a situation which still prevails and is in reverse of what exists in most states today.  In Massachusetts, the intertidal area between the low and high water mark is presumed to belong to the waterfront property owner.  In other words, the coastal property owner is considered the owner of the coastal area to the low tide mark.  The original intent in creating these “private tidelands” during the Colonial era was to facilitate private wharf construction and economic development.  Although the 1647 Colonial Ordinance transferred ownership of intertidal flats from public to private, it did not relinquish all property rights held in trust by the state.  It did not give up public rights to the waters above the land and also preserved the right for the public to continue to use private tidelands for the purposes of fishing, fowling and navigation.  Over time, with many new business and recreational activities the public enjoys, courts have had to step in to interpret the spirit of the initial Colonial Ordinance.  In 1991, Massachusetts passed a special act that requires a public on foot free right-of-passage along the shore between the low and high tide line subject to certain limitations.  Perhaps not surprisingly, waterfront property landowners had a frosty response to this new law, even with being absolved of liability from the results of the public’s access under the Massachusetts Recreational Use Law.  Today, even with this more recent legislation, public access to waterfront areas remains a sometimes contentious issue in the state, with the public unaware of their rights or not aware of how they can gain access to a shoreline that belongs to all. However, due in part to the efforts of the town of Rockport, the public can find almost two miles of unfettered coastal access that is called The Atlantic Path.  The nearly two miles of public coastline is, at its most informal definition, made up of three public resources – The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation at Halibut Point State Park, the abutting acres belonging to Trustees of Reservations, and the town of Rockport’s land next to it.  Although only the Rockport coast section is officially designated as The Atlantic Path and is partly called Sea Rocks, the land belonging to the public stretches from the northwest corner of Halibut Point State Park all the way to Pigeon Cove.  If you consider exploring The Atlantic Path, there are a couple of things you should know – the Path is not really a “path” per se; although some areas of it are a defined path, the route encompasses a bouldery shore, some clambering around jagged rocks by privately owned property as well as traveling through seaside thickets.  However, the reward is great for those embarking upon the trek – hikers will encounter numerous and diverse flora & fauna, wonderful tidepools and some of the most extraordinary geology found on Cape Ann.  (Including a sprawling, stunning pegmatitic formation you can see a bit of in the middle photo prefacing this version of Interpreter’s Notes – for more on pegmatites and their significance go here.)  Another factor to consider if considering an exploration of the path is where and how to access it.  Many points of access are narrow footpaths located on residential streets with limited or no parking for non-residents.  Those whom explore The Atlantic Path often find the best way to gain access to the area is to park at the Halibut Point parking lot and either head into the park and down to the shore from there or walk down to the end of Gott Ave. and onto the Trustees Path.  Several years ago Halibut Point initiated an Atlantic Path program that explores this wonderful shore.  The program, usually featuring a guest educator or two as well as park personnel, is scheduled monthly in June, July and August.  In 2009, Halibut Point’s first Atlantic Path program will be on Saturday, June 6th at 2:00pm.  Please check our monthly program schedules as they are are posted for details and dates for July & August.  If you plan on attending one of the park’s Atlantic Path programs there are some things to consider: remember that the path is sometimes challenging, with it often necessary to climb around boulders; the program is a solid three hours in length with no amenities once we are out there; and frequent bramble, thicket and poison ivy leave us recommending attendees do not wear shorts.  We hope you’ll attend an Atlantic Path program at Halibut Point State Park or find some time to enjoy the path on your own.  If you’d prefer to explore Rockport’s Atlantic Path on your own, you can find a map listing some path access points here.  As a member of  Rockport’s Right-of-Way Committee once said, “The best way to insure the posterity of your public lands is to use them.”


August 2011 Programs & Events

The August 2011 schedule of special events at Halibut Point begins on Saturday, August 6 at 1:00pm with Nature Day – two back-to-back live animal programs featuring creatures seldom seen.  It starts with Nocturnal  Mammals with The Center for Wildlife from Cape Neddick, Maine.  The Center, one of the largest wildlife rehabilitation facilities in New England, is bringing along some of their wildlife ambassadors who will demonstrate the advantages and challenges of nocturnal life and reveal their unique adaptations to life in the dark.   Following Nocturnal Mammals at 3:00pm Richard Wolniewicz of Mass. Audubon is offering Essex County Amphibians and bringing along newts, frogs, toads salamanders and more.  Special events for the weekend of August 6-7 continue on Sunday the 7th at 2:00pm with the Gloucester Area Astronomy Club offering The Sun: Exploring Our Nearest Star, a safe solar viewing program featuring some special activities ans NASA handouts.

The Atlantic Path, a three-hour trek along Rockport’s resplendent public coastline, is being offered on the Sundays of August 14 & 28 from 1-4:00pm.  Please be advised – this hike entails negotiating some challenging terrain.  Also consider not wearing shorts, bringing water and some insect repellent of choice.

On Sunday, August 21 at 8:00am Peter Van Demark is hosting the monthly Birding for Beginners at Halibut Point.  As usual, meet peter in the parking lot.

Shakespeare in the Park with the Rebel Shakespeare Company is returning to Halibut Point on Saturday, August 27 at 5:00pm with The Taming of the Shrew.  Bring a blanket or chair and a picnic for this  production overlooking the former Babson Farm quarry.

Standard programs at Halibut Point in August 2011 is the Quarry Tour on Saturdays at 10:00am.  The Military History of Halibut Point is offered on the Thursdays of August 4 & 18 at 12:00pm and Tidepools will be on Thursday, August 25 at 1:00pm and on Friday the 26th at 2:00pm.  Also in August, Reading the Granite Landscape, a natural history of granite told via geology, plant communities, environmental forces, human use and more is being offered on the Mondays of August 8, 15 & 22 at 10:00am.  For a flyer you can download describing Halibut Point’s Augsut 2011 schedule, click here.

July 2011 Programs & Events

Halibut Point State Park is featuring a large number of special events in July, beginning with The Atlantic Path on Sunday, July 3rd (and also on Sunday the 24th, both dates from 1-4:00pm).  This program, a three-hour trek along Rockport’s resplendent public coastline, entails negotiaiting some challenging terrain, including some bouldering, stretches of significant poison ivy, overgrown thicket and muddy spots but the payoff is great – interesting history, tidepools, a varies shoreline and very interesting geology.  Meet at the park’s Visitors Center, don’t wear shorts, and bring water and sunscreen.  Best for ages twelve and up.  On Friday, July 8th from 7-10pm Halibut Point is offering Stargazing in conjunction with the Gloucester Area Astronomy Club.  Bring your telescope and if you don’t have one there will be plenty on hand.  And on Saturday, July 9 at 2:00pm Terry Dutton of D & D Masonry will be at the park with a Modern Stonecutting program demonstrating today’s methods and equipment used in fashioning stonework.  This program takes place outside Halibut Point’s Visitors Center.  Saturday, July 16th at 2:00pm brings Snakes of Massachusetts and the World with Rick Roth and the Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team.  This very popular program features some thirty live snakes!  Sunday, July 17th at 3:00pm is a Sunday Sounds concert of classic hits with Midlife Crisis.  Both Snakes of Massachusetts and the World and Sunday Sounds are brought to you by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Friends of Halibut Point State Park.  And on Satruday, July 23rd at 5;00pm the third season of Shakespeare in the Park with the Rebel Shakespeare Company gets underway with Macbeth.

Standard park programs at Halibut Point in July are the Quarry Tour on the Saturdays of July 2nd, 9th, 16th and 23rd at 10:00am.  Meeting at the Visitors Center, this program features a video, granite-splitting demonstration and tour of the former Babson Farm Quarry.  The Military History of Halibut Point is offered on Mondays at 12:00pm.  Encompassing almost two centuries of military history at Halibut Point, the program also includes a climb to the top of the five-story artillery fire control tower.   It’ll be down to the rocky shore for some inter-tidal exploration with Tidepools on Thursday, July 7th at 10:00am, Thursday, July 21st at 10:00am, Friday, July 22nd at 10:00am and Thursday, July 28th at 3:00pm.  And July’s Birding for Beginners with Peter Van Demark will be on Sunday, July 17th at 8:00am – meet Peter in the parking lot.   A July schedule you can download is available here.

Coming Events – June 2009

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The June schedule at Halibut Point State Park is featuring several special programs.  On Saturday, June 6th at 2:00pm the DCR will undertake the first Atlantic Path program of the season.  The Atlantic Path, since beginning as a Halibut Point event three years ago, has grown to become a very popular program: a three-hour trek along Rockport’s resplendent public coastline featuring some birding, great tidepools, interesting history and what many come to the program for – the stunning geology of the blue quartz and amethyst pegmatites at Andrews Point, which is among the most significant geological areas in New England.  The Atlantic Path includes guest environmental educators and includes some caveats – this is not a “path” per se, but a rocky coastline that can be, in sections, due to bouldering somewhat challenging to negotiate; it’s best not to wear shorts due to poison ivy, hard rocks, thorny thicket, poison ivy and biting insects and please consider that  there are no amenities while we are out there.  If you can handle all that, you may find The Atlantic Path one of the most rewarding nature programs you’ll ever attend.   

The next special program at Halibut Point in June is Follow the Full Moon.  This program, which follows the full Moon over a period of months at Massachusetts northeast region state parks takes place at Halibut Point on Sunday, June 7th beginning at 8:00pm and offers evening activities related to scientific and cultural interpretations of the full Moon. 

On Friday, June 12th at 8:00pm the park will host a special event – Mars in 3-D.  Sponsored by the DCR and Gloucester Area Astronomy Club, this program is about Mars, a planet of mystery and imagination and in recent decades a series of robotic explorations have stripped away much of the unknown.  Sky & Telescope magazine Editor-in-Chief Robert Naeye will  present recent images of Mars in spectacular 3-dimensions and provide an update about ongoing Mars missions.  Red-and-blue 3-D anaglyph glasses will be provided for all attendees.  Besides his affiliation with Sky & Telescope magazine, Robert has worked on the editorial staffs of Discover and Astronomy  magazine as well as being senior science writer for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center’s Astrophysics Science Division.   He has written two books: Through the Eyes of Hubble: The Birth, Life and Violent Death of Stars and Signals from Space: The Chandra X-ray Observatory.  Following Robert’s presentation, there will be public stargazing (weather permitting) with telescopes provided by the Gloucester Area Astronomy Club.

Snakes of Massachusetts and the World is the next June special program at Halibut Point.  Licensed herpatologist Rick Roth of the Cape Ann Vernal Pond team will bring over twenty live snakes for viewing and handling on Saturday, June 27th at 2:00pm.  This is perenially one of the popular programs every season at the park and is sure to bring a crowd.  Bring the young ones and a camera!

Halibut Point’s monthly Birding for Beginners will be on Sunday, June 21st at 8:00am.  Meet Peter Van Demark in the parking lot.  In May, Peter and others reported an extraordinary amount of warblers in the park.  Bay-breasted, Blackburnian, Black-throated, Black & White, Yellow-rumped and Magnolia warblers were some of the ones spotted at Halibut Point in the later part of May. 

On Sunday, June 28th at 3:00pm the park will host its  second  Sunday Sounds concert with the original and well-known R &B, jazz and swing instrumentals of Alek Razdan and A-Train.  Sponsored by The Friends of Halibut Point State Park.

Besides the above schedule of special events and programs Halibut Point in June is also offering its standard Quarry Tour on Saturdays at 10:00am and Tower Tour on Sundays at Noon.  There are also two Tidepools programs, on Monday, June 15th at 11:00am and on Friday, June 19th at 2:00pm.

As always, every program and event at Halibut Point State Park is FREE.  For a flyer of June’s events you can download, click here.


Coming Events – May 2009







Programming for May 2009 at Halibut Point State Park begins on the weekend of May 2nd and 3rd with the premiere of an art installation created by students from the Montserrat College of Art.  The displays, situated inside the Visitors Center as well as out & about in the park, center around the interpretive themes of Halibut Point.  The installation will remain on view at the park until May 17th and all are invited to meet the students, who will be onsite from 1-4 p.m. on the 2nd & 3rd.

On Saturday, May 9th at 10:00 a.m. Halibut Point State Park’s Quarry Tour will begin and run every Saturday.  Meet at the Visitors Center and join us for this ever-popular program which entails a video, granite-splitting demonstration and tour of the former Rockport Granite Company’s Babson Farm Quarry.

Beginning Sunday, May 10th at 12:00 p.m. and continuing on every Sunday thereafter the park’s Tower Tour will commence for another season.  This program, taking place inside the Visitors Center, details the two centuries of military history at Halibut Point and features a trip to all five levels of the park’s artillery fire control tower, one of very few that are open to the public. 

Halibut Point’s Tidepools program will be featured twice in May 2009 – on Sunday, May 17th and Sunday May 31st at 9:30 a.m. meeting in the Visitors Center for a trip to the rocky shore and some inter-tidal exploration.

The park’s monthly Birding for Beginners program will be on May 17th at 8:00 a.m.  Meet Peter Van Demark in the parking lot for this two hour stroll around the trails & shore in search of the sights and sounds of local birds.  You can download a checklist of the species of birds one may see and/or hear around Halibut Point State Park by clicking here.

Sunday, May 31st at 3:00 p.m. is the kickoff to Halibut Point State Park’s Summer Sounds concert series.   Our opening show features a return prerformance of classic hits unplugged by Livin’ on Luck.  The concert takes place outside the Visitors Center and is sponsored by The Friends of Halibut Point State Park.

All programs and events at Halibut Point State Park are FREE.  To download a flyer with the park’s May schedule of programs & events, use this link.

2007 Programs – July

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July features a crammed calendar of programs and events at Halibut Point State Park, getting underway on the 1st at 3:00 pm with a Sunday Sounds concert featuring the Squatcho Bondo Band.  Other special events in July are Stargazing with the Gloucester Area Astronomy Club on July 7th, another Birding for Beginners on July 15th, and more Sunday Sounds on the 29th with Midlife Crisis.  Standard programs in July are our Quarry Tour, Geology Rocks!, The Mineral Club (our geology program for kids), Tidepools, Reading the Landscape and our new program, Ceremonial Time: The Fifteen Thousand Years of Fifty Acres.  See below for the dates and times of July’s programs and events.  Coming in August Halibut Point will have natural light photographer Leslie D. Bartlett hosting the program Halibut Point in Winter (August 4th) featuring his extraodinary images of the park, some of which can be seen here as well at this website about Halibut Point State Park.  August will also have the live animal program Snakes of Massachusetts and the World, as well as Dragonflies in the Park and the Essex National Heritage Photo SafariIn September Halibut Point will feature The Atlantic Path, a trek along Rockport’s resplendent public coastline with The Trustees of Reservations interpreter Ramona Latham.  September will also feature a very special event at Halibut Point that will be announced in the near future.  And please remember, all programs and events at Halibut Point State Park are FREE.  You can download a flyer with the Halibut Point July schedule here.

Quarry Tour                                                   Saturdays  10:00am  

Attend our weekly granite walk around the former Babson Farm Quarry.  Beginning with the showing of a short film, this program features a stone-cutting demonstration, explains how rock is quarried, details the unique geology of Cape Ann and presents the history of building with natural stone in America.  Later, the Visitors Center will be open for a climb to its five-story World War II observation tower.  This program lasts approximately 90 minutes and entails a one mile moderately paced stroll around the quarry.  The Babson Farm Quarry, in operation from the 1840’s until 1929 (though stone was cut at the site from the 1790’s, perhaps even earlier), is an excellent place to view evidence of progression in stone-cutting techniques and learn about the role stone harvesting, transporation and building played in the development of technology that led to the Industrial Revolution.  

Geology Rocks!                                               Sundays  11:00am 

A rock is not a thing, but a drama!  It refelcts the universal axiom: “As above, so below.”  Geology is the great unifying science of the world.  Cape Ann is one of the most geologically active areas in the United States.   Learn about all this and more during this trek to some of the fascinating geological regions of Halibut Point.  90 minutes.  Moderate two mile walk

The Mineral Club                                           Mondays  11:00am

Build a volcano … create a sedimentary rock … construct a seismograph … play mineral tic-tac-toe and more.  Geological activities for kids 8-12.

Reading the Landscape                                  Wednesday, July 11  6:00pm

This program is an examination of the natural history of a landscape.  Using the life and land of Halibut Point as an example, participants will learn how to read the clues that determine palnt and tree composition as well as the topographic, substrate and social factors that shape a landscape.  This program meets at the Visitors Center and entails about two miles of walking over 1 1/2 to 2 hours. 

Ceremonial Time: The Fifteen Thousand Years of Fifty Acres             

July 18 & 25  6:00pm

A “psychological” history and the “spirit” – past, present and possible future of a place gleaned via history, anthropology, architecture, geology, intuition and more.  Inspired by John Hanson Mitchell’s book. 

Tidepools                July 8 @ 2:00pm; July 9 @ 3:00pm; July  26 @ 3:00pm

Halibut Point has wonderful tidepools.  Come explore its intertidal life and learn about coastal splash zones.  This program lasts about 90 minutes and there is some climbing about on rocks that may be slippery.  You have to watch your step but the trip is worth it! 


Sunday Sounds                         

Squatcho Bondo Band                                     July 1          3:00pm

Bluegrass and folk renditions of popular music from the 60’s thru today.

Stargazing                                               Saturday, July 7   8:00pm – ?

No telescope necessary!  Members of the Gloucester Area Astronomy Club will provide the equipment for our popular star party. 

Birding for Beginners                              Sunday, July 15   8:00am

Meet Peter Van Demark in the parking lot.   

Sunday Sounds                         

Midlife Crisis                                                    July 29         3:00pm

Oldies but goodies.