Celebrate Spring’s Return to the Fells — Some Highlights from our YouTube Channel

Spring has returned to the Fells, and with it the vibrant green that we all love! There is no better way to appreciate the beauty of the season than to learn more about the plant species that contribute to the vibrancy that is occurring in the forest.

Our YouTube channel, started in spring 2020, was inspired by a desire to continue our programming, even though we couldn’t do it with our usual guided walks.  Spring has come around again, so if you missed them last time, or just want to watch again, explore with some experts in botany, ecology, and natural science. Enjoy!

Our first set of videos is the “Spring Ephemeral” series, featuring BU professor of biology (and prior Friends board member) Dr. Randi Rotjan discussing a few of the interesting plant species that are beginning to bloom in the Fells:

Next, local expert and long-time hike leader Boot Boutwell discusses some of his favorite plants to observe in the spring forests of New England:

Next, Dr. Lucy Zipf, Lecturer at the Wellesley College Environmental Studies Department, explains the strategies of different trees in the forest when it comes time to “leaf out” in spring:

Finally, Claire O’Neill discusses an important aspect of the work her organization Earthwise Aware (EwA) focuses on in the spring months– documenting and certifying new vernal pools in the Fells.

Claire is the founder of EwA, and a Friends of the Fells board member:

If you have an idea for a video topic that you would like to share, or have any interest/experience in videography or video editing and would like to volunteer those skills, please contact us!

We have many more topics of interest to explore on the channel, so check back often for updates!

Friends of the Middlesex Fells is excited to welcome its newest team member, Liz Cohen!

Liz Cohen is our Camp and Youth Development Director. Liz has over twenty years experience as an educator, teaching and directing summer camp and after-school programs. Liz started her career leading adventure-based outdoor programs for at-risk youth and has a Masters Degree in Experiential Education from Minnesota State University, Mankato.

“We’re so happy to have Liz join our team,” says Chris Redfern, Friends of the Fells Executive Director. “Her extensive leadership experience and skill in developing experiential learning opportunities will result in expanded and improved summer programming for our camp families.”

Having grown up in Brooklyn, Liz’s love of the outdoors was sparked by her own summer camp experiences where she developed a deep rooted connection to nature.

“I am thrilled to be working for Friends of the Fells and to have the opportunity to share my knowledge and love of the outdoors with our campers and staff,” says Liz. “I am particularly excited to work for an organization that fosters deep connections with nature in children in ways that are engaging and meaningful. Ultimately, I hope our campers will become future stewards of the earth (and the Fells), helping to care for and preserve natural habitats and environments.”

When not directing programs, Liz can be found kayaking, hiking, and happily tending to her vegetable garden with her dog, Silus.

Feel free to reach out to Liz at liz.cohen@fells.org to say hello!

Back in December of 2020, guest blogger and board member Steven Engel highlighted the work of Prof. Jack Ridge, a geologist in the Earth and Ocean Sciences Department at Tufts University.  Since 2007, Prof. Ridge has focused a large portion of his research on the geology of the Fells, and made much of his findings available for the public to view at his website, “The Geology of the Middlesex Fells.”

Prof. Ridge has recently updated his website to include a series of self-guided geology hikes throughout the Fells.  He explains:

The compilation of self-guided geologic hikes in the Fells is an outgrowth of my interest in informing the public about the exciting field of geology. The geologic hikes in the Fells introduce the fundamental geology of the Fells along with some of their details. They are an excellent way to introduce natural science. I am especially interested in informing middle through high school students and their teachers about local geology, but anyone can learn Fells geology. Really curious younger students may also find the geology of the Fells interesting. I have also been struck by the curiosity that many hikers in the Fells exhibited, when they saw me in the field.

There are currently five self-guided geology hikes available on the site, all in pdf format, and some in multiple parts:

  • The Skyline Trail (in a 7 part series) – west of Rt. 93

  • The Rock Circuit Trail (in 3 parts) – east of Woodland Road and across southeast Fells

  • The Crystal Spring Trail – north of Pond Street to Whip Hill

  • Virginia Wood – south of Pond Street in Virginia Wood

  • Lawrence Woods – loop from Medford High School

Per Prof. Ridge:

At the beginning of each download document (PDF format) is useful information about what to expect while hiking in the Fells and also some fundamental geology to get started. Each hike route is on DCR trails and they are marked on geologic maps in the guides. Take advantage of the special geologic explanations linked below.

To download these hikes, and to explore the additional geology resources and references produced by Prof. Ridge to expand on the topics discussed in the hike documents, visit the hikes homepage:

Prof. Ridge welcomes questions on these hikes, or feedback on ways to make them more clear and accessible.  He can be reached at  jack.ridge@tufts.edu.

Keeping up with the physical changes that occur in the Fells is a daunting task!  With over 100 miles of trails and more than 2,200 acres of space to monitor, the task of identifying issues, hazards, and maintenance needs is a constant challenge at the best of times!  And limited staff and time (for both the Friends and DCR) means that we rely nearly completely on the efforts of our volunteers and Trail Adopters to accomplish these scouting duties.

While the scouting need of the Fells is always a major undertaking, the inclement weather of the past few weeks has made this a critical need for our community to take on right away.  Trail damage and erosion, downed trees, limbs, or other blockages, missing trail markers and signs, or any dangerous/ potentially dangerous situations new to the forest need to be identified and reported in order for us and DCR to add these issues to our “to-do lists” as soon as possible!  In just a few weeks, winter weather will set in and many of these issues cannot be addressed until the spring.

How can you help?

Scouting in the Fells is easy:  take a hike, and report back to us what you see and where!  There are two easy ways to report a scouting trip to us:

One of the most important details to include in a report of a trail issue is an accurate location for us to reference.  The most accurate location marker to use is the closest DCR “trail intersection marker” or markers, like this one:

Every trail intersection in the Fells has been assigned a 3-digit label (“E4-5” in the example above), and can be referenced on the DCR Fells map, found online here.  [Important note:  these intersection markers are not currently included on any of the printed Friends of the Fells maps.]

GPS coordinates, trail names, and location relative to a trailhead or fire gate can also be very useful details to record and share, too.

In addition to trail and tree damage that is a current priority, scouts are always on the lookout for regular issues like:

  • new invasive plant growth
  • graffiti
  • household waste or yard waste dumping
  • rogue trails and habitat fragmentation
  • unauthorized construction, damage, or misuse of the park

Trail scouting is a great way to get involved with our work, whether as someone new to the Fells and to outdoor volunteering, or a seasoned outdoor enthusiast with a keep eye for the forest!

If you have any questions, or to learn more about scouting in the Fells, contact maddie.morgan@fells.org.

In addition to our scouting needs, we are seeking the following volunteer assistance:

Seeking volunteer leaders to advance our communications and fundraising efforts

We’re looking for a communications professional to work directly with our staff to champion and help lead our communications work, including developing a strategic communications plan to better leverage our communications channels (email, social media, and new website presence) to engage our supporters, inspire volunteerism, and promote our programs and activities. If you have professional experience in communications and would like to learn more about this opportunity, contact Chris Redfern at chris.redfern@fells.org

If you’re a nonprofit fundraiser who loves the Fells and would like to help us grow in our ability to meet our mission, we’d love to hear from you. We’re looking for a development professional who can help us develop relationships with the regional philanthropic community and identify strategies to fund initiatives in our Action Plan. To learn more about this opportunity, contact Chris Redfern at chris.redfern@fells.org

Our YouTube channel started last spring, inspired by continuing our programming during lockdown since we couldn’t offer our usual guided walks, volunteer projects, and other in-person opportunities.  Over the past months, we have continued to produce informative and educational video content for the community through this platform.

The latest addition to our YouTube offerings is “Introduction to the Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation.”  This video discusses our mission, the value of the Fells, and gives a brief overview of our programs and offerings.  The video also features excerpts from Executive Director Chris Redfern and ‘Babes in the Woods’ program leader Diana Lomakin.

This project was produced by Paige Colley, one of our 2021 video production interns.

And just a reminder:  our “My Middlesex Fells” video feature series is still seeking participants:

We want to hear about your unique relationship to the Fells!  If you’re interested in sharing your own personal experiences with our community, contact us.  We also welcome your own submissions to the My Fells Project we launched last year, featuring your own artistic interpretations of the Fells.

Click the icon below to visit our YouTube channel for much more content!

Promoting the conservation, appreciation, and sustainable enjoyment of the Fells has never been more important.

To meet this urgent need, we recently released our 2021-2024 Action Plan, an ambitious effort to dramatically expand our work to protect habitats, build the next generation of stewards by introducing hundreds of kids to the Fells, and create a better visitor experience for everyone.

To build on this momentum and activate key elements of our plan, we need to dramatically grow our financial capacity over the next year, starting with our winter appeal. 

Help us meet our goal to raise $40,000 this winter to activate our Action Plan.