A campaign to create a parks culture that welcomes everyone and encourages a sense of responsibility for the environmental health of the Fells.
Are you in?
Friends of the Fells is leading an effort with DCR (Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation) and other partners on a new Be Kind! outreach and communications campaign to encourage awareness and acceptance of other people in the Fells and to develop a stronger culture of environmental stewardship.
The vast majority of people are attentive to others and tread lightly, but there are enough exceptions that we felt it needed serious attention. We’re confident that most people want to “do the right thing.” However, they may not know what that is or how seemingly innocuous actions can affect others or the ecology of the Fells.
A lot of people may not be aware that off-leash dogs disturb wildlife by interrupting their behaviors and causing them to avoid large habitat patches in the Fells. Dogs who relieve themselves in the woods create bio-pollution impacts that can alter soil ecology and harm native plants and animals. Dog poop that is bagged and left behind eventually enters the environment and harms natural processes. Even more concerning, people have been bitten by off-leash dogs in the Fells, and off-trail people and bikes contribute to habitat fragmentation.
Our Be Kind! outreach and communications campaign is aimed at encouraging people to make good choices while at the Fells.
The campaign is made possible by a grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, achieved by bringing these issues to the attention of the Fells Caucus–a group of elected and municipal officials with an interest in the Fells–chaired by Senator Jason Lewis and Representative Paul Donato. We’ve received additional funds from the R.J. Weggel Fund and the Friends of Blue Hills Reservation. These funds enabled us to hire a public relations and communications consultant–Denterlein. Bringing on a consultant was key: we were pretty sure we knew what behaviors we wanted to encourage, but we weren’t sure how to create the messaging that would resonate and create a response.
We began in the spring of 2022 and have:
- Fielded an online survey regarding activity in the Fells and Blue Hills, with more than 3,000 responses (thank you if you responded!), and followed up by four focus groups of different types of Fells and Blue Hills visitors, including hikers, bikers, and people with dogs;
- Investigated similar campaigns around the country; and
- Tested different messaging approaches through paid social media–you may have seen some of these messages yourself!
We’ve worked in close partnership with DCR staff and invited other partners–in particular New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA) and Fells Dog Owners Group (FellsDOG)–to the table to be part of the discovery phase and continue to help frame the messages. These activities identified three key campaign messages:
- Respect everyone’s right to visit the Fells and to feel safe and welcomed while there;
- Be aware of and honor people’s personal space; and
- Remember that people are directly responsible for the health of the ecosystem.
This winter, we will develop these messages further in partnership with a coalition of partners. Then, we will develop communications assets such as a campaign website, signage, and social media. We expect to launch the campaign in the spring of 2023 and then develop longer-term activities to build on the campaign launch going forward.
We also hope to be able to quantify the impact of this campaign. In partnership with Earthwise Aware (EwA), volunteers are collecting data in the Fells and Blue Hills relating to the location and quantity of dog waste in the Fells, and how people use the Fells (e.g., on foot or bike, with or without dogs, and whether dogs are on- or off-leash.)
Please contact Maddie Morgan (email@example.com), our Community Engagement and Operations Manager if you’d like to volunteer for either of these efforts.
Stay tuned as we hone our messages and launch our campaign in the coming months. For now we’re saying:
Show your love for the Fells by:
Staying on official trails
Being aware of your surroundings, acknowledging others, and making space for others to pass
Keeping dogs leashed except in the designated off leash area and removing dog waste
Leaving no trace of litter or waste