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Fells Update: Enjoying and protecting our urban nature refuge

Quarter Mile Pond by Mike Ryan

We at Friends of the Fells hope you and your loved ones are healthy and safe. And, we hope you are finding solace being outside in nature as we all cope with a scary and uncertain time.

While many local businesses and community spaces have been forced to close, the forest remains open – and so the work of Friends of the Fells staff, board, and volunteers continues as we strive to protect this vibrant, biodiverse urban forest and provide a safe and enjoyable experience for the people who rely on it.

If you have been in the Fells recently, you already know that our beloved “people’s forest” has become a refuge for many in our community. The value of a healthy, intact forest so close to home has never been more apparent, and we’re grateful the Fells can help sustain the well-being of our community during a disorienting and stressful time.

Right now, nature is waking up from winter. Plants are uncurling new leaves and turtles are emerging from under wet stream edges. The forest ecosystem is more vulnerable at this time than any other season. To thank the forest for taking such good care of us, we invite you to join us in returning the favor. If your time in nature includes a trip to the Fells, please consider the following guidelines:

  • Leave everything as you find it, and do not pick or collect items.
  • Remain on the trails at all times to protect plants, animals, and yourself.
  • Park only in legal spaces or in an adjacent parking lot, and never block emergency access routes to the Fells.
  • Dogs should be on a leash at all times except in the Sheepfold Dog Park.
  • Bike only on permitted paths.
  • Remember to practice social distance norms during your forays into the forest.
  • If you encounter unsafe conditions, inappropriate behavior, unsightly or littered areas, or other concerns, please report them to Park Watch at (866-759-2824) or

Also, please note that as of this writing, all bathrooms, exercise stations, and playgrounds at Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) run properties are closed, so plan accordingly. We are in close communication with our colleagues at DCR and will share any changes to access or guidelines relating to use of the Fells with you.

We also recognize that community and connection are more important now than ever. In the coming weeks, we will be in touch, providing information on opportunities for you to share your experiences in the Fells and join us in the work caring for our urban forest.

If you have any questions, concerns, or ideas to share with us, you can reach out to me directly at

Best wishes to you  —

Chris Redfern
Executive Director


Forever the People’s Forest Park

In 1894, Medford’s George Davenport greeted the Fells becoming “a great natural park” with these words:

“For here we have a succession of well clad rocky hills, rising and falling like the billows of a great sea, within whose hollow troughs lie hidden pleasant vales, ponds, cascades, ferny brooks, sylvan retreats, wild swamps and fragrant groves.”

Elizur Wright’s experience of this wild rugged landscape inspired him to agitate in newspaper articles, pamphlets and speeches for the Fells to become “devoted to forest culture and preservation, science, education and rational recreation,” meanwhile forging alliances with others who shared this vision.

In 1892, journalist and city planner Sylvester Baxter and landscape architect Charles Eliot were appointed by the Metropolitan Park Commission to begin laying out the boundaries for the Commonwealth’s new park system. Eliot wrote these famous words:

“The life history of humanity has proved nothing more clearly than that 
crowded populations, if they would live in health and happiness, must 
have space for air, for light, for exercise, for rest, and for the enjoyment of that peaceful beauty of nature…”

Today the Fells endures as a destination where visitors can relish the peace and beauty of nature in the midst of exceptional protected landscape.  In 2018 Harvard Magazine featured the Middlesex Fells Reservation in its Explorations & Curiosities section.

Special features at the Fells include Bellevue Pond, Wright’s Tower, Lawrence Woods, Spot Pond, and over 100 miles of trails. Virginia Wood, the site of a vanished mill village called “Haywardville”, features a self-guided interpretive history trail. Lawrence Woods is an area of the Fells south of South Border Road with many wide “fire roads”, views and vernal pools. The Long Pond parking area offers access from Winchester to a nature trail and scenic areas. The Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Fells headquarters is located on the shore of Spot Pond at 4 Woodland Road, Stoneham, and houses the Middlesex Fells Visitor Center.

Mission Statement

The Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation is dedicated to the protection and harmonious use of the Fells, promoting awareness, policies and programs which honor and preserve the landscape and heritage of this public resource for current and future generations.


1. Instill awareness and appreciation of the Fells as a valuable natural and historical resource which will foster a sense of stewardship within the larger community.

2. Develop programs for recreation, enjoyment, and study of the Fells which are harmonious with landscape and habitat.

3. In cooperation with others, develop and advocate for policies designed to preserve and protect the Fells Reservation.

Wright's Tower

The Fells is the People’s forest park, and the Friends of the Fells strives to make sure there are programs and opportunities that will fit with the way anyone wants to enjoy what the Fells has to offer. Information about our diverse array of programs and events can be found throughout the pages of this site. Some of our most popular programming includes:


Nothing from April 2, 2020 to April 7, 2020.

View our full calendar of Programs and Events


How Do I Join The Friends?

We are thrilled that you want to know more about joining the Friends of the Fells. Membership in the Friends comes with some great benefits to you, and helps to support our activities and programs for everyone. To join, simply visit our Membership Information page and choose the membership option that’s right for you. You can pay your dues online with a credit card, and your membership packet will be headed your way in no time!

How Can I Volunteer My Time?

We are always on the lookout for those like ourselves who want to give their time and energy to the important cause of preserving our natural landscape for future generations. Whether you want to volunteer one-time or on an on-going basis, and whether you want to get your hands dirty or do your part from indoors, we have a volunteer opportunity waiting for you. Just head over to our Volunteer Opportunities page to find out more.

How Can I Make A Donation?

The Friends of the Fells could not exist with the generous support of our donors. There are many ways to make a contribution, and if you want to help us, we want to help you find the right one. One our Donate page, you can contribute online using your credit card. You will also find information about including the Friends in your will, contributing to our endowment fund, and other ways your support can help.

Can I Write Off My Donation On My Taxes?

The Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, which means that your donation to the Friends is tax-deductible. If you want to make your contribution go even further, make sure to check with your employer’s Human Resources Department to see if they will match your gift! Our EIN is 22-3278797.

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