Nostalgia for the Fells

By Gabe Denton & Yianni Zavaliagkos

We regularly partner with local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops.  Check out this blog post from the Medford Girl Scouts for more on how you can get your troop or other service organization involved.  We’ve found the Scout volunteers we’ve worked with to be unfailingly hard-working, polite, enthusiastic, reliable, and willing to take initiative.  Lately, we’ve been working more closely with Gabe and Yianni from Lexington.  They decided to send us some thoughts about their experiences.  What struck me the most was how sharp and strong their sense of nostalgia for the Fells is.  Age-wise, they are younger teenagers, but their memories and connections are already so poignant.  

Yianni writes:

Before March 10th, 2016, it had been 9 years since I’d visited the Fells. In January of 2008 I moved to Lexington, Massachusetts from Woburn. I hadn’t been back until I joined the Boy Scouts and started the Citizenship of the Community merit badge. This Merit Badge requires 8 hours of community service with a source outside Boy Scouts and with one organization. My friend Gabe and I were both looking for an organization we would enjoy working for. When he first mentioned the Fells, I was eager to go back and visit. Gabe and I started emailing Mrs. Beal and we found a hike we could help out on.IMG_0684

As the day came I started to feel nostalgic. The memories of weekly walks, the bike rides, and the picnics we had in the Fells were all coming back. I could still remember thinking I was the king of the Fells, and I had to protect it from the “bad guys”: pieces of trash, invasive species, and other imaginary and not-so-imaginary attackers. My forest was the cleanest and best forest of all.

On the day of the hike, I got into my car with a smile on my face knowing that I was revisiting my childhood world, my kingdom. The entire way there, me and my mom were talking and chattering nonstop. Fells this, Fells that until we arrived. Once we arrived, we saw all the small scouts waiting for the hike to start. We meet Mrs. Beal and the adult leaders. When time came, Mrs. Beal gathered us around, and we introduced ourselves.  We took a three mile hike picking up trash, looking for animals, and clearing invasive species. Exactly what I did as a kid.

Gabe’s memories:

Before I moved to Lexington in 2011, I lived in Medford, and attended the Brooks School and St. Joseph’s School.   My mom, a former Philmont Ranger, loves to go hiking, so we would go for a short hike through the Fells almost every weekend. My sister and I always loved playing in Panther Cave. We always had so much fun climbing in between the rocks and jumping out to surprise my dad. When I got big enough, we would carry big trash bags to fill with litter. When I was in second grade, and switched schools, we took hikes less often but when we did, they were longer ones, and we each had a trash bag. We would pick up as much litter as possible on our way to Wright’s Tower and back. This turned into a monthly activity the whole family enjoyed. Sadly, when we started the move to Lexington this slowly vanished. However, in the last year, my mom has restarted this tradition. We have commonly gone on hikes in the Fells. This inspired me to do service for the “Friends of the Fells” when I needed service hours for Boy Scouts. I am glad to be helping the woods. I remember having so much fun in with my family, and look forward to pursuing more service.

Yianni’s accurate conclusion:

Now to talk about the Friends of the Fells: The Friends are an amazing non-profit organization that protects and maintains the Fells. They raise awareness for the forest, promising to keep it as clean as they can with community help. They host programs for young children to learn about the outdoor environment. The Friends are a special tight-knit community who I enjoyed working for, and hope to continue working for in the future.

Thank you to the close to 70 volunteers who came out to help for Park Serve Day 2016!  It is a state-wide event where the DCR works with local partners–like us!–to prep the parks for the season and to help take care of our lands, and we’re thankful so many of you came to assist.  Even Governor Baker helped at our sister park Breakheart!  A group at another neighbor park, Harold Parker, worked to prep to reopen Berry Pond Beach for the first time in nearly a decade.

We got so much done here in the Fells, too. Next weekend is Mother’s Day. Your mom is going to have to wait a few days. Fells volunteers gave a big present to Mother Earth this weekend with their nearly 200 hours of focus and effort (not counting prep days).

Tackling the project, quite literally.

Tackling the project, quite literally.

We had two main projects.  About half the volunteers worked on starting to remove the Glossy Buckthorn invasive tree from around Spot Pond.  This act of habitat restoration removes aggressive non-native species and allows our native species room to flourish.


Groups including the Boston Society of Civil Engineers and Beverly High School National Honor Society  joined forces with individual volunteers, DCR rangers, and Friends of the Fells leaders, including Laurie, Dennis, Diana, Jeff, and Neil,and got much accomplished.  People find it extra satisfying when their work has an immediate visual and environmental impact, and this particular project h20160430_111650ad been on our joint wish lists for a while.  Thanks, everyone!

The other half of the volunteers home-based out of Flynn Rink and focused on trash clean-up.  Long-term Fells leaders were there to help, too, including Karen Johnson and also Linda Schwetz, our Hike-n-Carry guru.  Although we met at Flynn, groups spread out, and made it as far as North Reservoir in one direction and Greenwood Park in the other, where they also checked to make sure the Storybook Walk was ipark serve cleanupn fine form for its last few days being featured.

In addition to carrying out bags and bags of trash, volunteers wrangled with large items, as well, including the commonly found car tires and hubcaps, five gallon water and gas containers, an old computer, and, er…what appeared to be the former eave of a house.  We also found broken hockey sticks in the woods.  Celebrants or sore losers?  May we suggest you upcycle your broken sticks in a way such as this, and then check with us on how you may be able to have your bench installed in the park?  That’s a much better approach to just tossing them out there ;).

Inspired?  We generally offer two major drop-in field service events a year.  Stay tuned for news about our National Public Lands Day  event in the fall.  We also help support many other smaller events and field trips throughout the year.  Medford Girl Scouts just wrote a nice post about various ways we can work together, and that applies to all sorts of community groups, not just scouts.

Did you participate this weekend, at the Fells or another state park?  Feel free to share photos or stories in the comments or on our Facebook feed. Were you involved in any other projects during Earth Week? We’d love to hear!

It looks great, everyone!

It looks great, everyone!

We’ve got a bit of a theme going with our Spotlights this month.  Meet Lauren, who heads the community service program at Winchester High School.  Learn more about it here.  She’s yet another resident who works in the Fells both as a paid educator at a community partner, and as a volunteer on her own time.  Like many of us (including myself!) Lauren and her husband moved to the area primarily because of the Fells.  Read on to learn more about Lauren and Winchester High’s fabulous and long-standing program:

Name: Lauren Winterer
Town: Winchester, MA
Profession: Program Director of Connect & Commit
Involved Since: 2014
Lauren tells us:

On one of our very first dates, my now husband, Mark, brought me to the Middlesex Fells Reservation. He told me he chose to live in Winchester because of the nearby forested land. At the time he was planning on rescuing two puppies and he wanted a yard and a place to bring the dogs play. It wasn’t much later that Mark convinced me that I too should live in Winchester and tempted me with puppies, a house and of course, the Fells. Four years later and I am in the Fells every single day. I wake up to run with my dogs, take long walks with friends and pick-up trash with my students. Though I spend a lot of free time in the woods, I should say that my main connection has been getting high school students involved with Friends of the Fells and the lovely Lindsay Beal, and other leaders, members, and particpants. Over the past two years we have collaborated on many events like picking up trash, internship programs, helping to run fundraising events, including selling raffle tickets at a Celtics game.

I have always had a passion for the environment and I am so thankful for my connection with the Fells. Before I was a Program Director I was teaching Environmental Science & Technology at a vocational school and I love that I get to share my passion in my new position at Winchester High School.

What kinds of questions would you like us to ask our Spotlighters?  Do you have any nominations for future volunteers to feature?  Comment here, or email or message us on our Facebook feed.  Would you like to get more involved yourself?  Here’s the link:  Click here to let us know how you can help.  Are you representing a community service department, like Lauren? Are you looking to expand outdoor and environmental education in your schools?  Email and we’ll connect you to the right people.


Check out our newest Spotlight on Susan Tremonte!  Susan is with the SEEM Collaborative in Stoneham.  We’ve also placed their students as interns.  Although Susan is sometimes wearing a professional hat in the Fells, she serves us as a volunteer as well, such as when she helped make the Valentine’s Day event so successful.

Name: Susan Tremonte

Town: Salem, MA

Profession: I am the Recreation Specialist at SEEM Collaborative. SEEM’s recreational services assist youth in identifying and accessing community leisure and recreational opportunities. The Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation has been a valuable resource in programming, and encouraging our students to get outside and explore the beautiful natural world around them. Together, along with Mass DCR, we have created an iPhone Photography Program that encourages high school students to use their phones to capture natural photos, and memories they share in the woods together. The students’ responses to this program have been extremely positive, which makes future programming exciting to plan. For more information on the SEEM Collaborative, check out 

Involved Since: 2015

Susan tells us:

I love introducing new recreational opportunities to people of all ages. Volunteering with the Friends of the Fells has further opened up the world of recreation to me. Collaborating and sharing nature with like-minded people has brought a new level of happiness to my life, which I hope to share with others. My love, and respect for the outdoors was established at a very young age. My summers consisted of camping, fishing, puddle jumping, bike riding, swimming, and picnics in the woods. I spent a lot of time at an overnight camp called East Boston Camps. It was on Burges Pond where I learned that I was most happy in the woods. My dad taught me about knowing my surroundings, which has proven to be a useful skill to have in the woods, and in life in general. Navigating through the woods with my dog Luna, a trusty compass, a trail map, and the sun on my back is one of the most liberating experiences. Sharing my knowledge of the outdoors, and continuing to learn, and grow will be my lifelong mission.

What kinds of questions would you like us to ask our Spotlighters?  Do you have any nominations for future volunteers to feature?  Comment here, or email or message us on our Facebook feed.  Would you like to get more involved yourself?  Here’s the link:  Click here to let us know how you can help.  Are you representing a school, like Susan?  Email and we’ll connect you to the right people.

Name:  Diana Lomakin

Town: Cambridge

Profession: Font designer

Involved Since: 2015

Diana tells us:

I have vivid memories of scrambling up to the top of Mount Monadnock when I was very young. My love of hiking has always been present, but it’s only been the last few years that I’ve made an effort to do it regularly. My husband and I typically go to the White Mountains once a month. We are very fortunate that a park as big as the Fells is so close, and have been going there for years, whenever we’re in the mood for a day hike. 

Recently, I went through a reflective phase, and realized that I wanted to do something more meaningful with my life. Thinking about how much I loved nature as a kid, and how I much have always valued the environment and sustainability, I decided to join the Fells as a member. I took a guided hike with Boot Boutwell, and was totally inspired by his enthusiasm. Next, I signed up as a volunteer, feeling I was on the right path (no pun intended).

I love exploring, finding the beauty in details, and learning about the forest. I feel so happy and free when I’m in the Fells, and I hope that I can help others to feel that same joy. If people experience why parks are so magnificent, maybe they will be inspired to live in better harmony with nature. 

The last few months, I have been assisting on the Babes in the Woods Hike. It’s been great catching moments with my camera: parents and their children sharing smiles, identifying animal tracks, and finding fascinating plant life. I’ve also been helping with the website, and am aiming to do more. Everything I do for the Friends of the Fells makes me feel like I’m making a difference, and for something that genuinely matters to me. 

 What kinds of questions would you like us to ask our Spotlighters?  Do you have any nominations for future volunteers to feature?  Comment here, or email or message us on our Facebook feed.  Would you like to get more involved yourself?  Here’s the link:  Click here to let us know how you can help. If you find yourself intrigued by Diana’s type of  youth role specifically (although she’s been a help with technology, photography, and more, as well), consider helping at our Valentine’s craft event, or shadowing at our special February vacation week Hike and Seek, to see what it is all about.  Comment or check the calendar for more details.

We post many links, articles, and opportunities for supporting conservation out in the field.  Of course, much of it begins at home, and occasionally people ask what steps they can take in their own backyard to support our conservation mission.  Volunteer Angelique Scarpa put together a blog post with some basic composting tips.  Composting helps the environment in more ways than simply keeping food waste out of landfills and helping  you grow your own food at home.  It also helps reduce the needs for fertilizer, helps prevent erosion, and helps conserve water (a layer of compost helps soil retain moisture).  Read on for Angelique’s tips on getting started:

By Angelique Scarpa


This picture was taken a week or so ago when we still had snow sitting on top of everything. I have become a somewhat recent convert of composting. I love it. It makes me feel less wasteful. I love knowing I can throw food scraps in there all year long and in a few month’s time it will turn into rich, nourishing nutrients for any garden.  The book “The Green Gardener: Working With Nature, Not Against It” by Brenda Little helped get me started on  my composting journey.

This compost bin was in my yard when I moved in a few years ago, and I have made good use of it. I believe it is called an Earth Machine. You can look up your town and the composters that are available for purchase here:

Once you have a compost bin, what do you put in it? Avoid putting any meat or animal products in there (including cheese, milk, or pet litter), although egg shells are fine. I put in tea bags, unused herbs, coffee grounds, egg shells, banana peels, apple cores, rotten fruit, and cooked pasta, rice and bread that I never got around to eating! Try to remember to remove the stickers from fruit peels as they do not compost very well. I learned that the hard way. Shredded newspapers also work well as a contribution to compost, as long as you do not include glossy magazine paper. You should stir the compost somewhat periodically with a shovel or a rake to avoid fly infestation. If you are living in a cold area during a frigid winter, don’t worry about stirring the compost. It will be frozen solid, and you will have to wait until the spring to stir it-and that’s okay!

What my compost looks like now: 


If you enjoyed Angelique’s post she has a nature blog over at The Nature of Things but she hopes to become a more regular contributor here, too.  We’re looking forward to it!