By Danny Powers
The Middlesex Fells Reservation is home to a large variety of wildlife and plant species that rely on the Fells being conserved and protected. The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) protects and maintains the Middlesex Fells Reservation while also allowing the public to venture out and discover its natural beauty on designated trails. These trails provide a safe, optimal path for hikers, while also protecting the sensitive habitat around it. However, people often wander off-trail to explore – cyclists looking for more challenging terrain, or hikers unwittingly walking on deer trails, which are narrow paths created by deer to get from one place to another.
Then there’s the constant foot traffic creating unauthorized trails. Some unauthorized trails even have blazes that were put up by hikers without approval from DCR. These unauthorized trails are a huge issue because they destroy critical wildlife habitat and lead to forest destruction, erosion, and make it easier for hikers to become lost. Unauthorized trails are not monitored by DCR. These trails are usually brought to DCR’s attention by the Trail Adopter volunteers from the Friends of The Fells.
DCR staff, Medford Vocational Technical High School’s Environmental Science (ES) Program students, and Friends of the Fells/Students of the Fells leaders recently worked together to close two unauthorized trails in Lawrence Woods, which is located in the Middlesex Fells just outside the high school. The students removed a number of unauthorized trail blazes and covered up the trails with branches and leaves, while DCR staff cut down several dead trees with chainsaws. The trees were dropped onto the trails in order to prevent people from walking on them. Working together, DCR and the students were able to close down two unauthorized trail sites in a single day. They also posted signs to notify hikers and bikers that the trails are closed, to help restore this critical wildlife habitat. DCR and the ES students are both committed to monitoring and ensuring that the health of the Middlesex Fells Reservation is protected for both the wildlife and all the users who seek the solitude of these forests.
In the meantime, volunteers from Tufts Environmental Awareness Club have also helped with the initiative, and it will remain a continued focus. About park intern Danny Powers:
My internship with DCR has been a wonderful and thrilling experience. During my internship, I have had multiple hands-on assignments that have prepared me for my future career in environmental science, including cleaning up forest trails and monitoring multiple reservations to ensure everything is in order. I also have been paired with many compassionate leaders who have guided me throughout my internship, making my experience even more enjoyable. I am excited about the new opportunities regarding college and jobs that can come from this amazing internship. This is the best way anyone who is into environmental science can learn, and I am very satisfied with everything I have done with DCR.