Support Our Work with a Gift This Winter

THIS JUST IN: A generous donor has agreed to match all gifts to our winter appeal, up to $15,000! This means your gift will be doubled, if received by January 31.

Please help us earn this match with a gift today!

Thank you!

Thanks to your support, the Friends of the Fells has seen tremendous growth in our ability to protect the Fells’ valuable habitats, flora, and fauna, and to make the Fells a safe and welcoming space for everyone.

A few highlights of our work in 2022 include:

    • A new “Fells Kids” after-school nature program is being piloted this fall in collaboration with the Stoneham Boys and Girls Club, providing middle-school students with fun, exploration, and nature learning in the Fells.
    • In collaboration with DCR, we began a multi-year invasive plant management initiative that will defend the Fells’ rich biodiversity by protecting sensitive habitat areas from being overtaken by invasives.
    • Our tremendously expanded hiking program offered more than 120 free guided hikes in the past nine months, including themed educational walks, and social hikes for women, LGBTQ+ communities, “Hike N Seek” outings for families with toddlers, and more.

Our plans for the future are bold. They must be, to meet the pressing needs of our beloved “people’s forest.” We hope you’ll join us in advancing this work.

Please make a gift today.

With gratitude,

Chris Redfern
Executive Director

Photo by Mary H. New

The Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation (FOF) seeks individuals with diverse backgrounds and life experiences to join its Board of Directors.  We are a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization promoting the conservation, appreciation, and sustainable enjoyment of the Middlesex Fells Reservation. We envision a Middlesex Fells Reservation where nature and people thrive in harmony, supported by a diverse and caring community conserving it for future generations. 

Our 2021-2024 Strategic Plan outlines five strategies to address our mission and vision:

  • Build a community that shares an appreciation for the Fells and comes together to enjoy, protect, and advocate for it.
  • Develop initiatives to protect and enhance the ecology of the Fells.
  • Provide opportunities for people to learn, enjoy, and care for the Fells.
  • Support DCR in the sustainable management of the Fells.
  • Grow our capacity to fulfill our mission.

Our imperative is to plan and execute our work through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Application Process

Interested? Please fill out this application form. We will review applicants on a rolling basis and follow up to schedule a time to get to know each other. We appreciate you taking the time to tell us a bit about yourself. 

 

What does joining the board mean?

The board is our governing body and the legal voice of the Friends. We work on strategy, set goals and objectives, oversee programs and activities, and oversee finances. Core expectations are listed below, with further details in our Board Member Agreement.

      • Support the mission, values, and vision of FoF. Candidates must show a willingness and commitment to get to know the organization, its volunteer base, and the community it serves and act as ambassadors for FoF in a knowledgeable and professional manner.
      • Prepare for and attend one board meeting per month. Board meetings are usually 90 minutes long with occasional exceptions. Preparation involves reading agenda materials in advance. Meetings are currently the second Tuesday of each month, from 7:00 to 8:30 PM, with optional social time starting at 6:45 PM. Through the COVID era, all meetings have been virtual. Henceforth, some meetings may be virtual and some in person, or may be hybrid.
      • Serve on at least one committee. Current committees include Finance, Advocacy, Conservation, and Communications. This involves attending meetings–which typically are every month or two depending on the committee–and volunteering to do tasks that emerge from the committee meetings.
      • Minimum board participation is about 4 hours per month. Depending on your personal circumstances, we welcome additional participation, but recognize that people lead busy lives. We strive for a board culture that welcomes people in all phases of life and appreciate the time people dedicate to board service.
      • Attend special planning meetings/retreats as needed, including the Annual Meeting.
      • Give, what is for the individual, a significant monetary donation each year.
      • Commit to a two-year renewable term.

We aim to make serving on our board a rich experience for board members, providing an opportunity to collaborate with others who value the Middlesex Fells and make a difference. Please reach out to chris.redfern@fells.org if you have any questions.

Guided by our team of nature-loving camp counselors, more than 500 children joined Fells Forest Camp this summer to seek out insects and bugs, dig and sift through dirt, climb trees, build fairy houses and forts, and explore areas of the Fells they might not otherwise get to experience.

“My children came home from camp joyful, proud, and covered in dirt,” said one parent. “They loved the freedom to explore, the connections with fellow campers, and the experience of seeing the Fells through a fresh lens each day.”

During eight one-week sessions, campers experienced the Fells in a way that helps nurture their sense of wonder and curiosity about the forest and encourages children to form meaningful connections with nature. 

Another parent shared: “This was my son’s first year at the Fells camp and he thoroughly enjoyed it. The counselors were warm and engaging while still giving the kids space to explore, play freely, and have fun without [an] agenda. They were curious along with the kids, promoted both safety and independence, and my son was excited to return each day!”

“This is the type of camp that harkens back to a simpler time,” said Liz Cohen, Friends of the Fells Camp and Youth Development Director. “Campers do not have access to any form of technology while at camp. The woods act as a playground, classroom, and inspiration for curiosity and discovery.”

We hope nurturing these connections and deepening children’s understanding of the role humans play in either protecting or harming the forest will encourage children to become future leaders and stewards of the environment.

Friends of the Fells looks forward to hosting next year’s camp and welcoming back our campers! Registration will open in March of 2023. Please subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on Facebook to receive timely updates and information.

We’re excited to re-launch our Volunteer Spotlight series! We could not do what we do without the incredible work of our devoted volunteers.

Learn more about one of our wonderful volunteers, Mac, below!

Name: Mac Doucette

Town: Reading, MA

A Melrose native, Mac Doucette grew up with the Fells in his backyard. Just a five minute walk from Crystal Springs, Mac spent the first 13 years of his life exploring the rocky outcrops and water features of the Fells.

Now a senior in high school, Mac still enjoys hiking and being outdoors to enjoy the beautiful scenery that our local environment offers. This year marks the first year Mac has volunteered with Friends of the Fells, but his impact is already notable.

Previously, Mac volunteered with Mass Audubon on their invasive plant removal and trail maintenance projects. Now, Mac volunteers with our Babes in the Woods program and takes beautiful photos of the Fells, FOF programs and hikes, and our wildlife (including the photos you see below!).

Mac spent even more time in 2020 in the Fells, which further inspired him to find out how he could give back. “There’s nothing around here like [the Fells] that is so close to Boston,” Mac says. “It’s just my favorite.” Some of Mac’s favorite spots in the Fells include Black Rock on a fall day, the Cascade, and exploring the rocky outcrops of the eastern portion of the forest.

A fond memory of Mac’s is when he and his friend did the entire Rock Circuit trail in the rain. Guided by white blazes, the Rock Circuit trail is a relatively technical trail that reaches many of the boulders that host views of the Boston skyline.

Mac recommends not hesitating and to jump right into volunteering. “Everyone is so friendly, nice, and approachable. It’s really easy to get involved and start right away.”

Thank you, Mac, for all your time and hard work to capture the beauty of the Fells and making it accessible to folks of all ages!

Interested in volunteering? Learn more here.

 

 

The Tudor Barn needs your ideas! How should the historic 700 square foot structure be used? Do we need electricity there? Let us know how you think the public can enjoy this restored, unique stone building that once was a carriage house (never an ice house). Send your ideas to the friends at friends@fells.org.

Image by Mike Ryan

by Mike Ryan and Anita Brewer-Siljeholm

If you stroll south along Spot Pond from the Botume House on the broad woodland path, a mysterious little stone building will soon appear on your left. Facing the pond, with blank, boarded-up windows and locked wooden doors, no name or sign visible, the structure looks like it is awaiting new inhabitants. In some sense, it is.

The story of the Tudor Barn – which is not yet over – is a narrative of Boston’s search for drinking water, tragedy in a prominent Boston family, failed real estate speculation, a dose of good fortune – and above all, determined persistence of the Friends of the Fells to save a fascinating part of the Fells’ early history.

Photo by Massachusetts Archives

Built in the 1840’s as a carriage barn, and once attached to a nearby mansion now gone, the barn curiously survived the demolition of most nearby dwellings when they were razed around 1912 as part of securing the watershed to protect Spot Pond’s drinking water. Under one government agency after another, the beautifully hand chiseled stone walls held up — until they no longer could.

By the late 1990’s the roof had suffered a fire, and in 2003 a wall collapsed and the massive lintel over the door crashed down (see photo).

By then, the Friends of the Fells were several years into a campaign petitioning the state to repair the endangered building. Early in 1999, while the area was still under the control of the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC), the Massachusetts Water Resource Agency (MWRA) had allocated $88,000 to restore the Tudor Barn. The money was put in escrow when MWRA turned over the Spot Pond watershed to the MDC for recreation access.

Image by Mike Ryan

Encouraged by the funding, the Friends put constant pressure on the MDC to begin restoration work. At a meeting with the MDC commissioner in May 1999, the Friends of the Fells even challenged the MDC to get started by offering a $2,000 grant. This was declined.

By 2003 it seemed as if time had run out for the historic structure. No work had begun, the walls and roof began to fully collapse, and a chain link fence was erected to keep people away from danger. The cost of restoration had soared beyond what MWRA had put in escrow. In the nick of time that year, good fortune at last arrived; the newly created Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) became manager of the Fells, and the Friends gained a partner to move the work forward.

Continuing careful watch over the barn, the Board of Directors of the Friends raised $15,000 in a public fund drive which was matched by the state’s Environmental Office of Public Private Partnerships. With more state funds added, and the escrow amount, in December 2004 restoration began at long last with a groundbreaking ceremony at the barn attended by representatives from the Friends of the Fells, DCR and the state environmental affairs office.

Stone masons assigned to the project began to reconstruct the barn using recovered granite blocks littering the site. Chisel marks on the stones
revealed, “how the craftsmen 150 years ago squared them off to make these walls so flat,” according to skilled stonemason Michael Johnson, general contractor for the project. A concrete floor was poured to tie the walls together and provide a better footing for future public use.

Image by Mike Ryan

At last, on August 10, 2006 the DCR and the Friends of the Fells shared a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the end of a remarkable collaborative effort. It is just one of several projects where the Friends have been an active steward partnering with both DCR and other groups. We do this to protect important but neglected natural and cultural features of the Fells. For the Tudor Barn, we hope that DCR will soon create a plaque explaining its historic status.

Next month: The Tudor Barn is named after the prominent Boston family who once owned the Spot Pond mansion to which it was connected. In our next installment we will write more about this family and their contribution of Virginia Wood, which was the first public land-trust donation in the world and proved instrumental in the formation of the Metropolitan Park System and the Fells Reservation.

Photo by Mac Doucette

Donate today!

This spring, Friends of the Fells launched our Inspiring Care and Stewardship campaign with the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Friends of Blue Hills, and a consulting firm to learn how we can encourage and support a culture of care and community stewardship in our beloved Fells.

After receiving more than 3,500 survey responses and conducting focus groups composed of a variety of Fells users, we learned a lot about how folks interact with the forest and their fellow trail explorers. We’re excited to begin our communications campaign to grow a welcoming and caring culture based on what we learned.

Our plans for the future are bold. They must be, to meet the pressing needs of our beloved “people’s forest.” To activate our plan, we need to grow our financial capacity. We hope you’ll join us in advancing this work.

We’re stepping up to protect the Fells.

  • In collaboration with DCR, we began a multi-year invasive plant management initiative that will defend the Fells’ rich biodiversity by protecting sensitive habitat areas from being overtaken by invasives.
  • We helped lead the charge in advocating for more funding to Massachusetts state parks, resulting in the legislature proposing an $85 million dollar operating budget for DCR, a year-over-year increase of about 19%.
  • In partnership with Earthwise Aware, we expanded volunteer opportunities to include more participatory science programs, including collecting valuable data on wildlife, plants, and human impacts so we can be better stewards and conservationists.
  • Our tremendously expanded hiking program offered more than 90 free guided hikes in the past six months, including themed walks on birds and animals, geology, history, trees, wildflowers, and more.

Thanks to your support . . .

We expanded our staff to make a bigger impact. This winter, our staff doubled in size to advance the initiatives outlined in our Action Plan. Liz Cohen joined as our Camp and Youth Development Director, and Maddie Morgan joined as our Community Engagement and Operations Manager.

We are thrilled to have Liz and Maddie on the team and look forward to expanding our service to the Fells community!

We can’t advance our work without your help.

Please make a gift today.

With gratitude,

Chris Redfern
Executive Director