Plymouth: Red Brook – Deer Pond Wetlands & More

  Katherine Harrelson  AD Makepeace

Unique and historic Deer Pond area threatened by A.D. Makepeace Red Brook expansion

CLWC seeks state review of Plymouth wetlands permit, investigation of possible wetland violations by sand mining operation near Deer Pond

 A.D. Makepeace Cranberry Co. is the state’s largest landowner. The company’s businesses include sand and gravel mining, and operation of Read Custom Soils of Carver, residential development, and industrial solar.  In about 2014, Makepeace launched its Red Brook development on 2,000 acres of pristine forest for about 1,500 residential units. To make this dense development possible, Makepeace got Plymouth to change its zoning in exchange for many promises that Red Brook would be “green” and “sustainable” and Makepeace would conserve over 1,000 acres of land – just for Red Brook. There are many concerns about how Makepeace is developing Red Brook and about its other industrial and commercial operations on its 10,000 acres in Plymouth, Carver and Wareham. Watch drone video of land clearing and mining at Red Brook here.

Wetlands Impacts from Proposed Garden Road around Deer Pond in Red Brook

At Red Brook, Makepeace requires a wetlands permit to pave and extend the road around Deer Pond to build the next phase of the Red Brook development.  Makepeace obtained a wetlands permit that was rubber-stamped by the Plymouth Conservation Commission on November 1, 2023. See the Town’s permit and Makepeace’s application here.

Makepeace Wetlands Application and Permit, 2023

The law provides a right to appeal the permit by asking the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to overturn the permit and issue a more protective permit. On November 13, 2023, Save the Pine Barrens – CLWC filed an appeal that is here:

Save the Pine Barrens Nov. 13, 2023 appeal to MassDEP for Deer Pond

The key grounds for the appeal are that the Conservation Commission violated the state wetlands law and local bylaw. Save the Pine Barrens has two wetlands scientists advising on the appeal. The grounds for the appeal include that the Conservation Commission:

  • Granted illegal waivers
  • Allowed Makepeace to improperly segment the road from the residential development and did not disclose where the residential units will be built
  • Failed to require Makepeace to submit a complete permit application (Notice of Intent)
  • Allowed Makepeace to get by with an inadequate stormwater plan
  • Issued a permit that fails to protect water supply, water quality, wildlife and endangered species

The appeal also identifies potential illegal altering of wetlands by Makepeace’s sand and gravel mining and cranberry bog expansion north of Deer Pond.

Under the appeal process, MassDEP conducted a site visit in early January 2024.

At the site visit, Foley and Lardner handed in these comments.

Foley Lardner Re SOOC Garden Road Plymouth 01.03.24

After the site visit, Save the Pine Barrens submitted these comments:

01.19.24 Additional Comments STPB re SE 57-3332

It will issue its decision within a few weeks on whether it will overturn the Town permit. Save the Pine Barrens and a Ten Residents Group can appeal that decision to an administrative hearing at DEP. Read more about the state wetlands program here.

Below: Map showing wooded area around Deer Pond, 2015

Below: Map from 2023 showing AD Makepeace Red Brook residential build out and cranberry bog and sand and gravel mining expansion around Deer Pond


Below: AD Makepeace build out plan, 2021. Build out to the west of Deer Pond shown as “Year 8” 


Endangered Species Impacts

Deer Pond is Priority Habitat for Protected Species. The Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP) BioMap 3 map shows the “Priority Habitats” 501 and 601.

Makepeace’s Red Brook expansion around Deer Pond will obliterate at least 25 acres of pristine forest.  Is this necessary? Is this the type of “green” and “sustainable” development that AD Makepeace promised Plymouth and surrounding towns in the early 2000s when it announced plans to develop its vast landholdings  – about 10,000 acres? Has Makepeace met its obligations for conservation of land?

Native American Site Should Be Protected

The Deer Pond area contains evidence of Native American use and occupation of the land during the Late Archaic Laurentian period, about 5,000 to 4,000 years before present time.  A archeological study done as part of the “MEPA” environmental study process for Red Brook included an archeological study done by a consultant paid by AD Makepeace. The Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) is the state agency responsible for deciding whether archeological sites like this can be destroyed or must be preserved when a development is proposed.  This is one of the many sites that MHC signed off on allowing Makepeace to destroy the archeological evidence here. MHC operates in secret with developers like Makepeace.  The Deer Pond archeological   review process should be reopened to comply with today’s expectations for social justice and environmental justice. All Wampanoag tribes should be given a full and fair opportunity to have input on whether this site can be destroyed. The MHC protects archeological sites containing the history of the colonists – but does not treat Native American sites equally.

Below: Excerpt from the MHC Form D, Archeological Survey form for “Prehistoric Sites”, November 7, 2005

Why didn’t Plymouth’s Selectboard purchase this land in 2023 when it had the chance?

Under another special deal, the Town of Plymouth is allowing Makepeace to keep its undeveloped land at Red Brook in “Chapter 61” so Makepeace can save on real estate taxes.  When a landowner benefits from Chapter 61, the law says that if the landowner wants to remove the land from this preferential tax category and develop it, the Town has the right of first refusal to buy the land. In August, 2023, AD Makepeace gave the Town the “right of first refusal” on the Deer Pond area as required by law. What did the Selectboard do? Basically, behind closed doors waived the right of first refusal.   In order to keep this decision out of the public view, the Board lists “map and lots” on its agenda, without fully informing the public of what the agenda topic really is — giving  up the public’s right to buy open space. In this way, the Selectboard goes along with preferential treatment for Makepeace, without full public disclosure. Is the Selectboard fully informing the public and providing an opportunity for public input?

Here is Makepeace’s right of first refusal letter dated August 25, 2023.

Makepeace Right of First Refusal Deer Pond


5 thoughts on “Plymouth: Red Brook – Deer Pond Wetlands & More

  1. How do the residents of Wareham rd get involved !

  2. save deer pond

  3. I understand you are looking for assistance from Redbrook residents? Please provide more details. Thanks

    1. Thanks for reaching out! Just want you to know we got this message. Meg

  4. Yes, Save Deer Pond

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