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About The Friends of the Middlesex Fells [Copy]

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 to honor and preserve the ecological, historical and recreational resources of this urban forest reservation.


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.


Chris Redfern, Executive Director

In 13 years at San Diego Audubon Chris Redfern grew a mostly all-volunteer organization to a dynamic and respected local conservation nonprofit. He developed partnerships with other nonprofits, local government, state agencies, federal agencies, and other funders to protect endangered species, improve and expand habitat for wildlife, and deliver outdoor science education programs.

He says: “Grassroots organizations like the Friends play a crucial role in protecting local nature spaces by inviting the community to participate in and benefit from their work. The Friends of the Middlesex Fells does great work, and I’m eager to begin working with the board and staff to further strengthen the unique role the Fells plays within a larger ecosystem of partner organizations and community volunteers making a difference for people and nature spaces in the Boston region.”


Jesse MacDonald, Operations Associate

Jesse MacDonald, a Malden native and a Brown University graduate with a degree in Education and Developmental studies, was promoted in 2019 to year-round Operations Associate with Friends of the Fells.  Jesse has over 15 years of experience in education- both in and out of the classroom.  As a teacher and tutor in both the Malden and Providence schools, Jesse has worked with individuals of all ages and backgrounds.  Jesse is also an experienced education researcher, having contributed to research projects at both Brown and Harvard.  Most recently, he has served as a Forest Instructor for the Friends of the Fells Summer Youth Programs.  In past years, Jesse developed programs focused on outdoor leadership and experiential education, environmental sciences, engineering and other STEM subjects.  Jesse has also led outdoor trips across the Northeast, was program manager for the Brown Outdoor Leadership Training program, and in his personal life is an avid camper, backpacker, and kayaker.


Diana Lomakin, Babes in the Woods & Hike ‘n’ Seek






Theresa Pluskey, Business Manager






Board of Directors

Jeff Buxbaum, Board Chair

As a transportation planning consultant for 34 years, Jeff Buxbaum specialized in how to fund highway and transit projects around the U.S. and the world. Leading multiple national and international projects, his work’s focus has ranged from analyzing ridership and revenue for a proposed High Speed Rail System to advising policy makers on whether to replace fuel taxes with road usage charges.

Since moving to Medford in 2009, Buxbaum discovered a big green splash on the map called the Middlesex Fells and regularly hike and ski in this unique urban forest refuge. Along with an interest in social service, sustainability and food-justice issues, and being active with local organizations such as WalkMedford and Arlington’s Food Link, Buxbaum became a Fells trail adopter in 2015 and in 2016 began coordinating that program and joined the board. Now as board chair, he says he is pleased to lead our board, staff and volunteers to preserve, protect and defend the Fells through innovative programming, networking and volunteer projects.

Sandra Pascal, Vice Chair

For the past 20 years of her 30-year tenure at Wentworth Institute of Technology, Pascal has held the role of Associate VP for Community Relations and External Affairs. Working to strengthen ties with area constituents, elected officials and City Hall, Pascal developed initiatives such as Wentworth’s Center for Community and Learning Partnerships (earning the distinction as a lead model for “town grown” relations), Pipe Line for Boston Youth (ensuring access for Boston youth to receive funded Wentworth educations), RAMP Program (a summer bridge program for incoming freshmen) and Community Service Work Study, along with being part of outside organizations such as the Mission Hill Neighborhood Housing Services Board of Directors. With a life-long dedication to community organizing and consensus building, Pascal’s work has given her a true appreciation of Boston’s urban neighborhoods, the struggles faced and the tireless commitment of the local leaders she fells privileged to work with—and this is also what calls her to remain active in her home community of Melrose where she serves as Vice Chair for the Friends of the Middlesex Fells board. Among her pastimes, the natural landscape offers artistic inspiration through which she pursues the joys (and frustrations) of one of her hobbies: landscape painting at her weekend getaway on the North Shore.


Jill Geisler Treasurer

Born in New York and growing up in California, Jill came to Boston for college, later working in insurance, special education and raising two daughters. After 15 years in Stoneham, she has lived in Melrose for the past 20—with the Fells being one of the core attractions!

Believing in the importance of hands-on stewardship for our planet, Jill has served as a docent for the Stone Zoo, trail guide with the Winchester Trails and Outdoor Coordinator for the Stoneham Girl Scouts. Additionally, she has been active with the Stoneham Solid Waste Advisory Committee, Melrose Recycling Committee, and is a member of multiple environmental protection organizations. Her love of nature has brought her out hiking or walking in the Fells six out of seven days a week since 1981. Jill’s favorite involvement, however, is being a front-line advocate for undeveloped, clean, and accessible land for all. Look for her at local town and Fells events!


Phil Cappello, Secretary

As a Foundation Assistant at GMA Foundations (an advisory firm that helps foundations, families and giving programs achieve transformative philanthropy) Phil Cappello provides technical assistance to nonprofit applicants who, in turn, offer invaluable services in a multitude of venues.

Growing up in Woburn, a straight mile shot to the Fells, Phil started going there from a young age. During high school Phil says he would go every day in the summers to train for cross country—and says: “Let me tell you, no course was as difficult as running the Skyline trail!” Having returned to Massachusetts after college in Maryland, he still delights in trying to explore every trail the Fells has to offer, as well as checking out different fishing spots in the state. In addition to serving as secretary for the Friends of the Fells board, Phil serves as a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club and Trout Unlimited. A firm believer that environmental conservation requires multiple stakeholders to take up the cause, he believes that with strong advocacy we can continue to protect the Fells and enjoy its distinctive beauty.

Anita Brewer-Siljeholm

Anita Brewer-Siljeholm became acquainted with the Middlesex Fells Reservation after she moved to Melrose in 1981, finding herself close to the Crystal Spring and Whip Hill area. Within a couple of years she discovered the beautiful high service reservoirs and later the entire Reservation, hiking and cross-country skiing with her family when her children were young. Over the years, she has observed considerable change.

Anita received her B.A. from Brandeis University followed by an M.A. in environmental planning from Tufts University and a paralegal certificate from North Shore Community College. She did her graduate thesis on the conversion of Basin 3 of the High Service Reservoir into buried storage. Professionally she has worked in the transportation, planning and health care fields as a writer and editor. Currently on the Stewardship Committee, in past years Anita participated in creating maps of the reservation, in the first Virginia Wood trail, in restoring Tudor Barn and other projects. Her focus now, as the Fells becomes more popular and climate induced change becomes apparent, is on stewardship of the plants and wildlife which sustain the wild and diverse nature of the Fells.

Stephen Engel, Esq.

Steve Engel is an attorney by profession and historian and outdoors enthusiast by avocation. He is grateful for the opportunity to serve on the Board of Directors for Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation. Steve and his family moved to Medford from western Pennsylvania in the summer of 1993 and immediately appreciated the opportunities for outdoor activity near their new home. They enjoyed kayaking on the Mystic River, which flowed through the park that was effectively their backyard. Relocating 2 years later to Winchester’s East Hill neighborhood meant having easy access to the Middlesex Fells Reservation trails only a few steps away, where walking their corgis (always with poop bags handy), mountain-biking, hiking, picnicking, boating on Spot Pond (where his daughter was a summer employee), snow-shoeing, an occasional off-trail exploration, and “guiding” friends and extended family from out-of-town, all became frequent activities for Steve and his family. Since taking an active role in the Friends of the Fells’ public awareness campaign in response to the recent proposal to develop a hockey arena and associated parking lot in the meadow known as the “90-mm site,” Steve has grown even more interested in preserving and sensibly improving awareness of and access to the unique resource for eastern Massachusetts which is The Fells.

Heidi Kelf
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Heidi worked in newspaper, television, radio, public affairs program production and event organization for WCRB, held leadership roles with American Women in Radio & Television and became P.R. Manager for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston.

Her introduction to the Fells was in 1992 when she and her husband bought a Stoneham home abutting it. Simultaneously, Heidi embarked on a new career in supply chain and since 2012 she has been a Senior Buyer at Cytonome (a biotech company) where she manages vendor relationships and negotiates pricing in an industry that helps people. In 2004 she joined the Friends of the Fells board and served as Secretary for 13 years. Both Heidi’s professional and Fells board work call on her favorite things—building community partnerships, negotiating and writing. Additionally, she loves traveling, attending concerts, and continually learning.

Carol McKinley
Carol began her career as a lab technician at MIT’s Cell Culture Center researching and producing mammalian cells through a NSF grant. She later moved to immunology where she worked on T-cell immune response in mice with faculty and students. Though intending to retire, Carol was recruited by the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in 2011 and worked as a lab manager for the next 5 years.

Living in Melrose for over 40 years, she enjoys hiking and walking her dog in the Fells. She has volunteered with the Girl Scouts, American Association of University Women, and Melrose Historical Society. In 2001, when the proposed Stoneham Executive Center threatened the peace and tranquility of the Fells, Carol joined the Friends of the Fells and currently serve on the board.

Regarding the Fells, my motto has been and will always be “Preserve, Protect, and Defend.”

Claire O’Neill

Claire was born in France and spent a few years in Canada in the 90s before moving to the US where she has been living since. She is a conservationist and naturalist, a scientist trained in mathematical statistics, probabilities, and computer sciences.

Claire is the founder of Earthwise Aware (EwA), a Nature Conservation nonprofit focused on the protection of Biodiversity. Her work specifically is centered on bringing biodiversity and climate sciences, ecological ethics, and environmental leadership at the heart of communities and organizations.

Prior to EwA, and for most of her corporate career, Claire ran an Artificial Intelligence R&D organization at an international information technology company. Her leadership skills and science background in domains of expertise reliably used in ecology and conservation fields, along with her commitment to nature and wildlife conservation, give her the vision and the tools for fostering vibrant ecologically-centered communities.

Claire promotes climate and biodiversity citizen science in the region. About 60% of the EwA community-based conservation programs happen right at the Middlesex Fells Reservation, documenting phenology, biodiversity, pollinators, and vernal pools. The Fells is at the core of her work and has a truly special place in her heart!

Chester Osborne

Chester Osborne works in the field of Transportation Operations & Emergency Management, where he strives to reduce environmental impacts and increase safety through improved planning and operations. He is also a U.S. Army Veteran; he first became involved in the field of emergency management while on deployment to Central America, where he found that lack of recovery and resiliency capacity from natural disasters in many cases posed greater threats to nations than terrorism. Mr. Osborne holds a Masters of Public Administration, a certificate of Enterprise Management from the Joint Special Operations University and has studied at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center. He is also an Eagle Scout and recipient of the Bronze Star Medal.

He enjoys being active in the White Mountains of New Hampshire where he volunteers with the Appalachian Mountain Club as a trail adopter and region leader. Closer to home in Medford he enjoys hiking, running and paddling in the Middlesex Fellsway and Mystic River Watershed. Working to protect and conserve these areas thru good stewardship are cornerstones of his ethos. He considers himself to have a partner for these efforts in his wife Becca who joins him in these endeavors often at a rate faster than he can keep up!

Randi Rotjan, Ph.D.

As an Assistant Professor of Biology at Boston University, Randi’s primary work is in coral biology with a focus on coral resilience, symbiosis and conservation in various ocean ecosystems. After a BA at Cornell, she embarked on doctoral work at Tufts followed by postdoc work at Harvard, joined the New England Aquarium in 2008 as an Associate Research Scientist and transitioned to B.U. in 2016. Along with many peer-reviewed publications, Randi has had the privilege and honor to share her research with the public through platforms such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, BBC, Discovery Channel, National Geographic and NPR.

Participating with organizations including the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, Explorers Club, Smithsonian and W2O (Women Working for Oceans), and and her husband, Jeff, are parents of two sweet children (ages three and six). She loves to cook, sing and is obsessed with growing her garden as a wildlife habitat to improve watershed health and produce veggies in the summer. Smitten with the forest, and dedicated to doing what she can to serve its needs, Randi serves on the Friends of the Fells board as a way of bringing my science and conservation interests “home” for family, friends, and the larger community.

Robert Weggel

After growing up in Arlington, receiving a BS in Physics from MIT and MS in Applied Mathematics from Harvard, Weggel worked for the next 35 years as a magnet-design engineer and co-authored numerous peer-reviewed articles in the field. With interests in hiking, rockwork, nature photography, flora & fauna, conservation philanthropy, earth sciences and history, Weggel says he has been fortunate to trek 200 miles in Nepal , summit Kala Patar, Mt. Whitney, 44 of Colorado’s 53 “fourteeners” (peaks higher than 14,000′) and to unearth a circa 1595 shilling at Fort St. George near Jamestown.

Having been involved with the Friends of the Fells for several decades, Weggel has improved trails during week-long “volunteer vacations” and have had the opportunity to establish the Friends’ first endowment fund (an impactful experience which led me to establish similar funds for the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust and the Rocky Mountain Field Institute). As a Friends’ board member, he seeks to support the Friends of the Fells in its ardor for, and effective defense of, this precious jewel of biodiversity.