Magnificent Monarchs: Summer StoryWalk® 2019

Middlesex Fells StoryWalk®

Saturday, July 20 – Sunday August 18

“Magnificent Monarchs” by Linda Glaser is our next StoryWalk®. What a great way to combine literature, exercise, and family fun! This title contains colorful illustrations that keep step with the, simple, sometimes rhyming text. Learn about these fascinating beauties and their complex lives!

The StoryWalk® is a collaboration of the Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation, MA Department of Conservation and Recreation, Mass in Motion, Medford Family Network and the North Suburban Child and Family Resource Network.

The self-guided, sunrise-to-sunset walking tour begins at the DCR Botume House Visitor Center at 4 Woodland Rd. in Stoneham and continues along the Spot Pond shoreline path.

Foster your child’s connection with nature as well as their literacy skills by participating in our StoryWalk® in the Fells!

The StoryWalk™ Project was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, VT and developed in collaboration with the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition and the Kellogg Hubbard Library.


We’re Making a Film!

It is easy to take the Fells for granted.  It is just there, nearby, ready for us to enjoy nature minutes from our homes.  Elsewhere in the Boston area there are other nature reservations, such as the Blue Hills, Beaver Brook, Breakheart, and attractive parkways that connect these special places.

None of this was a sure-thing.  Over the course of 25 years, passionate people such as Elizur Wright conceived of and agitated for setting aside the Fells as a nature preserve for generations to enjoy.  They used the social media of the day–newspaper articles, pamphlets, lectures, and letters–to promote the cause and create the critical mass that led to the creation of the Fells, the Metropolitan Park System and the parkways in 1894–125 years ago.

It’s a compelling story that has resonance today as we try to maintain what others created so long ago, and protect it from encroachment.  So we decided to make a documentary film to tell the story. The more we look into it, the more we learn about the people, the connections, the obstacles, and the perseverance.  We learn about how skills learned during the abolitionist movement were used to convince people to create these first-of-their kind parks in urban settings.


“We” is Friends of the Fells board chair Jeff Buxbaum, with former FOF Executive Director Mike Ryan, FOF board member Anita Brewer Siljeholm,  authors Alison Simcox and Doug Heath, and recent Melrose High School grads Nicholas Hoffman and Thomas Michaels.  We’ve got a good start — take a look! Maybe you’d like to join us? Do you have skills in camera work, video editing, sound, music, photography, storytelling? Have you been wanting to learn?  Get in touch!

We are expanding our inventory of Fells- related items, and have just added two new products to our merchandise page:


“MIDDLESEX FELLS” by Alison Simcox and Douglas Heath

"Middlesex Fells"


Comprised of more than 200 images spanning 4 centuries of local history, Middlesex Fells depicts the story of “the People’s Forest” in pictures.

Published by Arcadia Publishing as a part of the ‘Images of America’ series.

          Regular Price:  $22

          Member Price:  $20







Out new weatherproof map in action!

Explore the Fells in any weather with our deluxe map! Contains the same trail data as our basic map, but on water-resistant stock meant to last.

Regular Price:  $12

          Member Price:  $10





And finally, our 2018 Fall for the Fells T-shirts are on sale, while supplies last:


  Sizes M, L, and XL still available

          Regular Price:  $12 (from $20)

          Member Price:  $10 (from $17)




Just a quick reminder about our Summer Youth Programs in the Fells, now entering our 6th year of experiential learning in the People’s Forest Park!

“Forest Kindergarten and other youth programs in the Fells provide children ages 4-12 with nature-based learning opportunities, including self-guided exploration with dedicated instructors helping develop curiosity, critical thinking, and a sense of connection with nature.”

Forest Kindergarten and Forest Explorers are geared for children ages 4-7 (click for all program details or PDF LINK for flyer). Programs are based out of the DCR Botume House.

This year, Forest Adventurers has been revamped and will now serve ages 8-12.  Sessions will launch at at Flynn Rink, where the children will access more trails, such as the one heading to the back (non-lifeguard) side of Wright’s Pond. It’s not a back-up reservoir, so they can wade there but not swim. Children will be able to engage in more “in-depth” nature study and exploration along the water’s edge.

There will also be an Earth Loom this year, supported by a grant from the Stoneham Business and Community Foundation (SBCEF) with help from the Medford Vocational and Technical High School’s carpentry department.


Earth Loom image from Earth Loom Foundation (

Image may contain: 3 people, text

Click here for full-sized flyer – [PDF LINK]


We look forward to seeing you in the Fells this summer!

Local citizen scientists in international City Nature Challenge (CNC) report great success in the Fells

Friends of the Fells Board Member and Earthwise Aware President/Founder, Claire O’Neill (front row below, 2nd from right), reports that the recent CNC project (April 2019) supplied about 5% of all the Boston-area observations!  [See LINK for details.]  She writes:

“Our top collector, who attempted to record all the distinct species we observed during our events, came in 5th out of those with the most diverse records (out of over 1,087 observers)!

And, worldwide, our top observer landed our team in the 1% top observers of different species — over about 33,000 observers.”

CNC Citizen Scientists in the Fells

Together, Earthwise Aware — along with the Friends of the Fells — perform a critical function in a turmoiled time sandwiched between what’s now referred to as “Climate Breakdown” and the “Biodiversity Crisis” (see the United Nations’s global assessment of the species loss worldwide that was released 2 weeks ago, and announced about a million species at risk of extinction.

See: “Climate Breakdown is a Crisis” (Global Justice Now, November 2018)

Image result for climate breakdown

See also: “U.N. Report – Humans Acceleration Extinction of Other Species

So, to help fight these new ecological realities, Earthwise Aware (EwA) and the Friends of the Fells are engaging in local citizen science initiatives at the Fells focused on informing climate and biodiversity sciences.

Climate Change “First Responders”

We invite Fells lovers to participate, because:

  • It’s empowering,

  • It’s stewardship at a whole new level!

  • It’s our kind of Citizen science — aka “co-creative” citizen science — because it goes beyond traditional citizen science boundaries.

Co-creative citizen science is a means for sharing skills, helping science, doing science together, democratizing science, and giving back science to the people, so that our stewardship here at the Fells is knowledge and science based, therefore built to last and more resilient to external pressures (political and others).

Plus, you get to discover beautiful local native species of flora and fauna and build a community of nature-lovers!

Read more about EwA Citizen Science Program at the Fells –

See some of the diversity of species found in the Fells during EwA’s CNC project below:

Wild lowbush blueberry – Vaccinium angustifolium


White-throated sparrow – Zonotrichia albicollis

(Click here for more information and to hear birdsong –


Round-lobed Hepatica – Anemone americana


Friends of the Fells Annual Meeting Highlights

On May 15, Friends of the Fells Board Vice Chair Sandra Pascal (below left) opened the meeting and later bestowed the prestigious Elizur Wright award to Medford Mayor Stephanie Burke (right) for her staunch support of the Friends’ 2018 efforts to block a hockey rink development in the 90mm meadow area of the Middlesex Fells, including writing an impactful letter to Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker [click here for PDF copy].

Next, former Executive Director Mike Ryan (below) spoke eloquently about the history and legacy of the Middlesex Fells Reservation, as did Heather Clish, Director of Conservation and Recreation Policy at the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC). Clish runs AMC’s conservation policy and advocacy work and long-distance trail planning as well as their land policy.  The intersection of the two groups’ histories and mission have blossomed into an upcoming dedicated day of AMC hikes in honor of the Fells. “On Sunday, June 2, 2019 from 1 to 4 pm the AMC will be offering four hikes celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Fells with co-leaders from the Friends who are experts on the history and nature of the Middlesex Fells Reservation.”

1.) Nature Walk with naturalist Bryan Hamlin. 2 miles, 2.) Family Nature Walk with naturalist Clay Hobart. 2 miles, 3.) History Hike, Cross-Fells trail to Wright’s Tower and back, with Fells historian Anita Brewer-Siljeholm. 4 miles, 4.) Young Members Hike & Litter Cleanup. 4 miles — See for overview on all 4 hikes and to register.


(Below) Mike Ryan speaking on 1893 Metropolitan Parks Act

Next up was current Executive Director Ron Morin who linked the tradition of the founders Mike Ryan presented — explaining that when the Friends of the Fells stood up to oppose the construction of the hockey rink in 90 mm meadow, we too started with Educational Agitation.  Here is how he detailed the organizational outreach:

  • First, we wrote a position paper and distributed it to the media asking for help.  It was published in five newspapers, our newsletter, and our Facebook blast got over 3,000 engagements.
  • We received over 200 personal contacts and responded to all.  Many people took different roles.  Some wrote letters, mostly to their representatives.  Others wrote to newspapers, and some wrote to DCR.  Out of those 200 contacts, we formed an ad hoc committee of 15 very skilled people.  I am deliberately not thanking specific people because there are simply too many of you.  Just know we all worked hard and to good purpose.  Our reward is our success.
  • And we continued—in Wright’s words—“to agitate the subject”.  Two stories appeared in the Boston Globe, WBZ radio did a sound bite, and two more stories came out in several local newspapers.
  • Next, we published our briefing book, The Butterfly Effect.  It was a 15-page concise graphic and bulleted description of our defense of the 90mm meadow.  Showcased on Wicked Local. this document was distributed to neighbors and interested parties, and would serve as the centerpiece of our community organizing.
  • Then, one young Fells-loving Winchester family contacted to create an electronic petition which eventually gathered 7,000 signatures opposing the hockey rink.  Over 1,000 of those signatures came from the City of Medford, where the 90mm site located.

In Wright’s words again: “The purpose of this land was to devote it to the uses of the public as a place of education in nature and recreation”.  People got that.  The outcry was clear.  As one 84-year-old resident of Winchester wrote to me: “I have never had a kid who played hockey except on the pond . . . and yes, we need a hockey rink, but I don’t think the area proposed is the place for this rink . . . We need the bees and butterflies to pollinate our crops, flowers, trees  . . . don’t want to see that land dug up to put a hockey rink there.”

(Photo credit: Laura Costello from 90mm pollinators blog)

  • The tipping point came when Mayor Burke, expressing her opposition to the rink, wrote on October 23, 2018 to Governor Charlie Baker.
  • A strong letter from the Trustees of Reservations, the Appalachian Mountain Club, Audubon Society, and Environmental League of Massachusetts followed.
  • Our “educational agitation” was working.
  • Once again in Wright’s words: “All over the territory within 10 miles of the Fells, till we have established what is called a public ‘craze’, and it will turn out to be the sanest craze that ever took possession of this hub”.
  • Wright passed away a year after that statement, but a 134 years later, the hockey rink proposal went down in defeat.  His legacy lives on.
  • But what lessons have we learned?
  • What if the proponents had succeeded to push their effort all the way to the general courts, making our legislature invoke article 97?
  • There are already 42 hockey rinks on DCR property!  Clearly a precedent has been set. We know our legislative delegation almost unanimously opposed the hockey rink. Would that have been enough to stop this proposal?

What if the proponents had pushed their proposal to litigation?

  • We reviewed the case law of 10 large litigations since Article 97 was amended to the Massachusetts Constitution in 1972.  In every case the courts made very narrow decisions.  In no case could we perceive a predictable outcome.  It’s clear to me that the courts have no appetite to make law.
  • The fact is Article 97 is a two-paragraph statement that—legally speaking—is very vague, subject to a wide variety of interpretations.
  • Creative lawyers can get their way with Article 97.

In 1973 Robert Quinn, Attorney General of Massachusetts, saw the legal problems in Article 97 and addressed some of them in a letter to the then Speaker of the House, David M. Bartley.  For instance, does Article 97 protect public land acquired before 1972?  Or what do the words “natural resources” mean?  Or the word “park”?  Or the words “prior public use”?  The list goes on, but you get the gist.  Still, no action was taken by the legislature to codify Article 97.

In 1998, the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs issued a policy to deal with the vagaries of Article 97, but it doesn’t have the benefit of clearly stated statutes.  Only the legislature can do that.  Since 2004 the Public Lands Preservation Act (PLPA) has been put before the Legislature to solve many of the issues of Article 97, and every year since—15 years—it has not passed.

  • In 1957, as Flynn Rink was being built, Olga Huckins, who privately owned a bird sanctuary in Duxbury, wrote a letter to Rachel Carson. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts had just sprayed her sanctuary with DDT.
  • In 1962 Silent Spring was published. That year president Kennedy read Silent Spring and he created the Science Advisory Committee to study the misuse of pesticides.
  • The second wave of conservationism was born.
  • In 1963 Clean Air Act passed
  • In 1964 Wilderness Preservation Act passed
  • In 1966 Endangered Species Act passed as well as National Historic Preservation Act
  • In 1967 Environmental Defense Fund was formed
  • In 1968 Grand Canyon dams proposal was defeated
  • In 1969 Greenpeace was formed
  • In 1970 EPA was established
  • In 1972 DDT was banned and Article 97 was amended to Massachusetts Constitution.

We have lost ground—literally—since, and the Fells—what we are here tonight celebrating—is more imperiled now than it was 60 years ago!

We might be the third wave of conservationists.  The issues are large enough with climate change ferociously banging on our back door. Stocks of the iconic cod have collapsed.  Mega-fires are destroying larger and larger areas of forests, and invasive species are on the march.

To Massachusetts, we need to pass bills like Public Lands Preservation Act, Senator Jehlen’s bill for an invasive species fund, or an Act Relative to Forest Protection, and we need to fund DCR adequately so they can do the job!  As a Commonwealth, we need to stand up and show our love and respect for this planet—it’s all we have in common.

Thank you.

Now it is my pleasure to present Commissioner Leo Roy.  He’s a man whose conservationist credentials run very deep. But even a Commissioner will tell you it’s not easy to run a Department that represents both Conservation and Recreation.  Those two activities—while not as molecularly separate as water and oil—do not always mix harmoniously.  The request to use DCR land to build a hockey rink put this Commissioner over a barrel.  After all, 42 times before DCR had allowed the construction of hockey rinks on their land.  It is my pleasure to introduce the man who broke with that tradition.  Commissioner Leo Roy!

DCR Commissioner Roy then spoke eloquently about the Middlesex Fells Reservation, and then came the highlight of the evening — awarding Medford Girl Scout Brownie Troop #72103 a special prize for being the top #trashtag team on DCR Park Serve Day in the Fells — tickets to the Boston Harbor Islands.  Event organizer and DCR Middlesex Fells Reservation Supervisor Gillian Lay organized the cleanup event and nominated the troop for the award. Part of the Girl Scout Law is to “use resources wisely” and to “make the world a better place,” which this undertaking represented.  The Friends of the Fells also gave the troop a copy of the book The Curious Naturalist: A Handbook of Crafts, Games, Activities, and Ideas for Teaching Children about the Magical World of Nature.

If we truly are to be considered the next wave of conservationists, then we need to engage the minds of our youth in the outdoors.  The Friends of the Fells and its membership can rightfully be proud of our legacy of Babes in the Woods, Hike ‘n’ Seek, and our summer Youth Programs in the Fells, all of which are raising the next generation of environmental stewards.  We look to each and every one of you to find ways to act and to support these future environmental leaders as they grow in knowledge and appreciation of our shared earth.


All photos except featured image credited to David Mussina. Featured image by Debbie Steiner Hayes.

Additional image from 90mm pollinator meadow by Laura Costello – see also “When a Community Comes Together – 90mm Updates” blog