September Volunteer Spotlight

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.

 

 

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

Charlie McCabe Headshot

Charlie McCabe

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, Charlie, below!

Name: Charlie McCabe

Town: Melrose, MA

Originally from the Boston area, Charlie McCabe has lived across the country in cities in Oklahoma, Texas, New York, and more. Now back east in Melrose, Charlie works as a consultant in the realm of parks, open space, and placemaking.

Charlie has volunteered with Friends of the Fells since 2016 and has worked in the parks and open spaces world for 17 years. As a long time Trail Adopter, Charlie loves seeing who is outside using the Fells and watching the forest change throughout the seasons while he volunteers.

Trail Adopters play an important role in identifying and reporting issues in the Fells and keeping trails clean, clear, and easily navigated so they can be enjoyed by all. As Adopters keep trails accessible by trimming branches and vegetation blocking the trail, they also improve visitor safety by reporting issues in the Fells such as trees blocking the trail, nearby deadfalls, drainage, and erosion problems.

“When you see a resource like the Fells that has been around for some time and you see a need for support to protect the space, you want to give back and see what you can do to help,” Charlie says about what first drew him to volunteer as a Trail Adopter. “[It’s] a good way to give back. You feel you’re doing a little part to help out.”

Charlie’s favorite part of the Fells is the Cascade. He remembers last July when we had fourteen inches of rain (a polar opposite July from this year’s!) and how the Cascade was rich with overflowing water. “That’s one of the amazing things about the Fells – its capacity to hold and contain water,” Charlie says.

Charlie recommends jumping right into any volunteer work. “If you’re interested in learning more about the park and learning more, don’t hold back. Just get out there and do it!”

Thank you, Charlie, for all your time and hard work to keep the Fells safe and clean for years to come!

Interested in volunteering? Learn more here.

Our staff and volunteers spend a considerable amount of time advocating for policies and practices that support our mission to promote the conservation, appreciation, and sustainable enjoyment of the Fells. We’re happy to report encouraging news on two issues we’ve been working on.

DCR’s new e-bike regulations aim to protect climate and nature

On June 10, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) clarified their regulations about the use of electric bicycles (e-bikes) on DCR properties and roadways. (Click on the “302 CMR 12.00 Park and Recreation Rules (AMEND)” link, which downloads a PDF. Then go to the “Trails” section 12.12 (2-5) for the new rules on e-bikes.) You can also view the “Trails” section specifically in a PDF here.

Their balanced approach allows Class 1 (pedal-assisted) e-bikes on long distance, paved or improved bike paths and rail trails, while prohibiting all classes of e-bikes on unimproved, natural surface trails. This plan encourages e-bike use as a climate-smart transportation option, while protecting sensitive natural ecosystems typically accessed via natural surface trails, including trails in the Middlesex Fells.

In the coming weeks, DCR will publish a map identifying which paved and/or improved paths are now open to Class 1 e-bikes. We’ll share this map when it is available.

Friends of the Fells played a significant advocacy role in this outcome, meeting with DCR and Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) staff and sharing research studies on the potential safety risks and environmental impacts of allowing e-bikes on natural surface trails. Our position was outlined in a letter to DCR Commissioner Jim Montgomery in April of 2021, and was signed by 18 DCR Friends groups and environmental nonprofits.

Friends of the Fells will continue to encourage DCR and EEA to conduct scientific studies to better understand how e-bike use may affect visitor safety, wildlife disturbance, habitat fragmentation, erosion, and degradation of habitat in DCR parkland, and use science-based evidence when considering any updates to e-bike rules in the future.

Many of our members followed up with letters to DCR, EEA, and the Governor’s office. If you spoke out in support of the Fells on this issue, thank you!

Massachusetts state parks set to receive significant budgetary boost

This week, the Massachusetts legislature forwarded a $52.7 billion state budget for the Governor’s consideration, including $85 million for Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) operations, a year-over-year increase of about 19%.

After more than a decade of neglect, state legislators who have championed our state parks for years were finally able to break through with House and Senate leadership and deliver a strong fiscal boost to DCR, the caretakers of our state parks.

Park advocates, including Friends of the Fells and many other nonprofit groups, have advocated for increased resources for our state parks for many years, with the past two years being particularly active. When a Special Commission was formed last year to evaluate DCR’s operations, advocates worked closely with Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) leadership to guide the process, ensure public involvement, and ultimately shape the content of the final report. The report’s recommendations provided solid research and benchmarking data for legislators to press for significant investments in our state parks in the current fiscal budget cycle.

Thank you to the advocates who worked with energy and resolve for this outcome. While much more needs to be accomplished in the coming years to fully support our state parks, this is a great first step in providing people with improved services in our parks – including access to the forests, beaches, and recreational parklands that are essential to mental and physical health and improve our quality of life.

Want to join our advocacy efforts? Your voice can make a difference. Learn about our current advocacy campaigns and join us in taking action by signing up for Advocacy News here. Also, if you have an issue you’d like us to address, or would like to know more about how to get involved, contact Chris Redfern at chris.redfern@fells.org

Two weeks ago, Friends of the Fells was excited to host our Pride Hike for the LGBTQ+ community. Seven folks joined hike leader, Maddie Morgan, to explore an eastern section of the Fells.

The hike started at Flynn Rink and traversed the Cross Fells trail before circling the Fells MWRA Reservoir and returning on the Rock Circuit Trail. A warm, beautiful, sunny day made for excellent hiking weather!

It was fun to explore a part of the Fells I haven’t seen before,” said one hike participant. “I had a great time meeting fellow hikers, and already feel like I have some new friends from the hike!”

Interested in joining or leading more hikes? Please reach out to Maddie Morgan at maddie.morgan@fells.org or check out our calendar!

Friends of the Middlesex Fells is excited to welcome its new team member, Maddie Morgan!

Maddie Morgan is our Community Engagement and Operations Manager. Prior to joining the Fells, Maddie worked at the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network (MNN) where she was the Director of Programs and Services, focusing on managing the events and programs for nonprofits across the state.

“We’re thrilled to have her join our team,” shared FOF Executive Director Chris Redfern. “Maddie leads our work to build a community of volunteers, partner organizations, and state and municipal officials, all pulling together to make the Fells a safer and more welcoming place for everyone. Since joining us in January, she has already proved to be a thoughtful and energetic force in advancing many of our partnering and outreach efforts.”

Maddie graduated from Kenyon College where she worked on the Brown Family Environmental Center’s programming and environmental education efforts.

“I am so excited to join the Fells community and work with the incredible partners, users, and members of the space,” says Maddie. “The passion of the network of organizations and individuals who support and protect the Fells and its role in the various communities it reaches is already so inspiring.”

If she’s not out running or hiking, you can find her volunteering at a local farm or enjoying the Somerville Community Growing Center, where she currently serves on the board.

Feel free to reach out to Maddie at maddie.morgan@fells.org to say hello!