July Advocacy Round-Up

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