In Memory of Celia Schulhoff, and With Our Gratitude

In late February, the Friends of the Fells office received a surprising letter in the mail. Celia L. Schulhoff, who died on February 1, 2019 at the age of 88, had left a substantial, unrestricted bequest to the Friends of the Fells. Though a resident of Stoneham for over forty years, Celia was previously known to the Friends only as an occasional past contributor. We are immensely grateful for her legacy, which allows us to strengthen our work in protecting the forest at a time when caring for the Fells is more needed than ever before.

While Celia was not well known to the group, she understood the value of living near the Middlesex Fells Reservation. According to her obituary, she moved to Boston to pursue a master’s and doctorate in clinical psychology at Boston University, following an undergraduate degree at Clark University. Once here she joined Community Boating, attended Red Sox games, and discovered the Fells.

Growing up in Gardner, MA Celia had developed a love for the outdoors through the Girl Scouts, pursuing the activities made possible through a connection to nature. She became a Mariner Scout, and started a children’s day camp on a lake when she was only a high school senior. She later led bicycle trips in Europe and America for youth hostelers, showing an intrepid passion for leadership before such trips were common.

“Although I never personally had the privilege of meeting Celia, I can’t help feeling that if we had known one another, we would certainly recognize each other as ‘kindred spirits’ in our love of the natural world, and our appreciation for the Middlesex Fells in particular,” said Chris Redfern, executive director of the Friends.

Long-time friend Renee Sack of Woburn, who was a trustee of Celia’s estate, recalls canoeing with Celia on Spot Pond after the boating program began, before a stroke limited Celia’s activities. While their friendship developed after Celia’s hiking days had waned, they shared a dedication to the Girl Scouts. Sack herself recalls leading a Girl Scout troop on overnights at a cabin near Long Pond in the Fells sometime in the 1970’s. Not many people can say they have camped in the Fells!

Celia was an independent minded person, according to Sack, “who could be stubborn” and loved to be active. They met in the Lexington Public School system where Celia was a psychologist and counselor for many years. Sack is sure that Celia would be glad to know her substantial bequest comes at a pivotal time for the Friends of the Fells. While we have adjusted as a non-profit group to operate within the restrictions of COVID-19, we are also planning new programs, strengthened by her bequest, that will help this extraordinary wild forest to remain a healthy sanctuary for both nature and humans.

[alert color=green]If you are considering plans to include the Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation in your will or estate plans, we’d love to hear about it. Being aware of your intent provides us with the opportunity to thank and acknowledge you and to better plan for the future.

To share your gift plans, please contact Chris Redfern at chris.redfern@fells.org.[/alert]

Since the announcement of our ‘My Fells’ community expression project last month, several members of the Fells family have shared their inspiring words, pictures, and videos with us.  In doing so, they have provided us with a way to “share our shared love for the Fells” with all of you, as well!

We are very appreciative of all the submissions that have been shared with us so far!  If you would like to share a ‘My Fells’ submission with us, here’s how:

Tell us how YOU experience the Fells!

In one minute or less, using whatever media you like, share your own version of My Fells with us.  Use photos, video, poetry, prose.  Post it to your choice of a YouTube or Vimeo account, Facebook page, blog, website, online photo album, Google Drive or Dropbox folder and send us a link.

Send your submission to myfells@fells.org.

 

Here is the first collection of our My Fells submissions.  We hope that you will take as much inspiration from them as we do:

 

First, we have two video submission from our own Board President, Jeff Buxbaum of Medford.  The first video was Jeff’s original inspiration for the project, created in 2015:

 

And here, another, more recent video submission created by Jeff:

 


Next, Lewis Dalven and Shelly Schou from Arlington shared their thoughts on the Fells in prose form:

I discovered the Middlesex Fells during this time of the pandemic.  It has served as a refuge and sanctuary on many mornings that I have been taking morning walks there.  I grew up in the middle of NH and was spoiled being around beauty so much of my life. I have been in the Boston area for the past 9 years and had not yet found the beauty like I discovered at the Fells. The discovery came at a much needed time.

— Shelley Schou

Since the CV pandemic began, my twice weekly visits to the Fells have been my main source of exercise, commune with nature time, and have helped to keep me balanced and hopeful.  Fellow visitors…families with kids, walkers, runners, and bikers alike, have shown consideration, good cheer, and courtesy without fail.  The greening of the foliage, the songs of birds and frogs, sounds of running streams all help to put worry at a remove.  Our Fells are a treasure always, and especially now.

— Lewis Dalven

Next, we have a series of black and white photographs of the Fells shared with us by Joel Moses:
  
[Click on the thumbnails to enlarge]
These photographs are a just a small sample of his collection that he has amassed from across the Middlesex Fells over the past several years.

And last, here is another video submission by long time Friends member Bob Ghika.  This video also features Friends of the Fells volunteer, botanist, and hike leader Walter Kittredge leading a group on the trails near Bear Hill.  Also taking part in the video are former Fells Executive Director Mike Ryan and Dr. Bryan Hamlin, both longtime board members and Fells experts.
Bob’s video was created nearly a decade ago (give or take), and is well over our one-minute threshold, but we felt it entirely appropriate to include here with these submissions:
[Click the picture below to open the video in a new tab.  Note: the link brings you to an external site.]
Bear Hill by Bob G.

Bear Hill by Bob G.


For more videos like this one, visit our new YouTube channel, where new content is being added weekly!

The Board of Directors of the Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation wishes to salute Dr. Bryan Hamlin, an extraordinary botanist and citizen, as he turns 80 years old on May 18, 2020.

[alert color=yellow]Update 5/25Upon reaching a cumulative total of $10,000 in gifts to this fundraiser (see here), a generous donor will match dollar for dollar all additional gifts. Please help us reach this challenge match by giving today![/alert]

For many years, members of the Friends as well as local students and the general public have seen Bryan’s joyful and unreserved dedication to the forest, his ability to teach others how to love plants in their natural setting, and his leadership in protecting the unique Middlesex Fells.

After moving to Medford in 2003 with his wife, Anne, Bryan discovered in the nearby woods an astonishing number of plants that were indicative of a healthy ecosystem. Surprised to find such botanical vigor so close to Boston, he set about investigating what he saw. A native of England, Bryan had earned a doctorate in microbial biochemistry from Hull University, followed by a long career in international conflict resolution – where he met American Anne – yet never lost his love of wildflowers, the delicate and surprising plants he noticed and catalogued even as a young boy roaming about southwest England, first by foot and then on motorbike with a collecting box on the back.

Huckleberry flower by Bryan Hamlin

“When he moved to Medford, he re-found both his love of nature and his science expertise in the Fells, especially through the Friends of the Fells,” said Anne recently. “His interest in botany, the environment, and concern about climate change all found a new means of expression.”

But it was an unexpected discovery. As Bryan recalled in 2015, “I was very snooty on my first walk into the woods thinking that this close to downtown Boston the woods would be degraded with not much in the way of interesting native plants. Was I in for a surprise! For example – Striped Wintergreen! So I began to make a list of the plants I found on walks in the Fells.”

That list became a team effort organized by Bryan, ultimately resulting in the 2012 publication of an award-winning article in Rhodora, the publication of the New England Botanical Club, of which Bryan was vice-president. “Changes in the Vascular Flora of the Middlesex Fells Reservation, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, from 1895 To 2011” was based on an exhaustive survey by Bryan with Walter Kittredge and others over a seven-year period. Beautifully written, it describes the history of the Fells woodland and compares today’s plants with those recorded in unique historical data from as early as 1895. A total of 902 species of vascular plants were found.

“Such a high number is a measure both of the health of the Fells, and also its amazing ecological variety from the big reservoirs to vernal pools, swamps, marshes, streams, different types of woodlands and lots of rocky outcrops,” wrote Bryan in 2015. “We are so fortunate to have this amazing wild forest reservation right within the metropolitan area of Boston.” A digital file of the Rhodora article may be obtained by emailing the Friends office, jesse.macdonald@fells.org.

In addition to his extensive work in the field, Bryan was a member of the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Fells for fifteen years and chair of the Board from 2011-2015. He maintains an illustrated website, foundinthefells.com, that chronicles some of the wildflowers which might be discovered by a curious explorer in every season. In addition, he has led dozens of nature walks for the Friends, focused in recent years on the need to recognize and control invasive plants that have taken hold in the forest, including oriental bittersweet, black swallow-wort, and Japanese knotweed, among others.

From 2008-2010 Bryan also taught at Medford High School as a substitute teacher. Initially assigned wherever he was needed, his immense knowledge and gift for teaching were quickly recognized by the school, and he became a long-term substitute in the biology and history departments. Bryan even brought his students into the Fells near the school.

In the past few years, Bryan has been one of the leading voices on the issue of invasive plants in the Fells, and on the urgent threat that many of these species poses to the ecology of our forest.  His leadership, expertise, and passionate advocacy efforts have had meaningful impacts on both the attention given to this issue by the relevant policymakers, and directly on the volunteer work of the Friends of the Fells.  As a result, invasive control has become one of the primary focuses of our on-site volunteer efforts.

“Bryan now enjoys walking and exploring in the Fells whenever he can, and going with him is like doing visits to old friends he has known for years,” says his wife Anne. “He is delighted that our children and grandchildren, who live in central Massachusetts and coastal Maine, seem to be carrying on his love of the natural world.”


In recognition of Bryan’s 80th birthday and his immeasurable contributions to the Fells over the years, the Friends of the Fells Board of Directors has committed to making donations to the Friends’ operating fund in his name.  If you would like to join this effort, you can visit our Facebook page to make a donation.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Bryan Hamlin, and thank you from the muddy bottoms of all our hearts.

The Friends of the Fells had a lot of programs and events planned for this spring, but COVID-19 is keeping us all away from each other.  We’ve launched our new Youtube channel to pique your interest in the Fells and enhance your experience when you visit.  We will be using this platform to highlight plants, animals, history, geology and events related to the Middlesex Fells.

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

 

If you have an idea for 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!

If you would like to share your own relationship with the Fells, please participate in our My Fells project.  We’re looking forward to seeing the different ways we experience this shared resource.

We have a full queue of videos already planned for the channel, so check back often for updates!

Update:  Inspired by our new YouTube channel, videographer Fritz Bosch offered this video he produced featuring former board chair and botanist Bryan Hamlin, talking about the Fells. It is as relevant today as it was eight years ago. Have a look:

https://vimeo.com/37862345

We are very pleased to announce the three winners of our “Keep It Clean” poster contest!

One winning design was selected in three age categories (under 12 years old, 13-39 years old, and 40+ years old). Winners will receive a free one-year Friends membership (family or individual), including a free Fells map.

Here are the winners of each of the age categories:

Irene, 6, Malden:  “My” Hundred Acre Wood

Alison, under 40, Melrose:  Hike Like Your Kids Live Here

Dorothy, over 40, Malden:  Please, Don’t Trash Our Forest!!

These posters, along with three runner-up posters, have been printed and posted at several trailheads in the Fells.

For more of these wonderful posters, view our complete collection of “Keep It Clean” submissions!

Photo Credit:  Mike Ryan

 

March 23. 2020

We at Friends of the Fells hope you and your loved ones are healthy and safe. And, we hope you are finding solace being outside in nature as we all cope with a scary and uncertain time.

While many local businesses and community spaces have been forced to close, the forest remains open – and so the work of Friends of the Fells staff, board, and volunteers continues as we strive to protect this vibrant, biodiverse urban forest and provide a safe and enjoyable experience for the people who rely on it.

If you have been in the Fells recently, you already know that our beloved “people’s forest” has become a refuge for many in our community. The value of a healthy, intact forest so close to home has never been more apparent, and we’re grateful the Fells can help sustain the well-being of our community during a disorienting and stressful time.

Right now, nature is waking up from winter. Plants are uncurling new leaves and turtles are emerging from under wet stream edges. The forest ecosystem is more vulnerable at this time than any other season. To thank the forest for taking such good care of us, we invite you to join us in returning the favor. If your time in nature includes a trip to the Fells, please consider the following guidelines:

  • Leave everything as you find it, and do not pick or collect items.
  • Remain on the trails at all times to protect plants, animals, and yourself.
  • Park only in legal spaces or in an adjacent parking lot, and never block emergency access routes to the Fells.
  • Dogs should be on a leash at all times except in the Sheepfold Dog Park.
  • Bike only on permitted paths.
  • Remember to practice social distance norms during your forays into the forest.
  • If you encounter unsafe conditions, inappropriate behavior, unsightly or littered areas, or other concerns, please report them to Park Watch at (866-759-2824) or Mass.Parks@mass.gov.

Also, please note that as of this writing, all bathrooms, exercise stations, and playgrounds at Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) run properties are closed, so plan accordingly. We are in close communication with our colleagues at DCR and will share any changes to access or guidelines relating to use of the Fells with you.

We also recognize that community and connection are more important now than ever. In the coming weeks, we will be in touch, providing information on opportunities for you to share your experiences in the Fells and join us in the work caring for our urban forest.

If you have any questions, concerns, or ideas to share with us, you can reach out to me directly at chris.redfern@fells.org.

Best wishes to you  —


Chris Redfern
Executive Director