The Friends of the Fells (FOF) Sustainable Fells Campaign seeks to protect and enhance the habitats of the Middlesex Fells Reservation and improve the quality of visitors’ experiences of the “People’s Forest”.
The Campaign includes three elements: FOF-led conservation initiatives, partnership building and collaborative goal setting through the establishment of the Fells Alliance, and enhanced engagement with state legislators with a new Fells Caucus.
Reducing Rogue Trails for Wildlife
The 3,200-acre Fells Reservation is crisscrossed by more than 100 miles of trails, including an estimated 20+ miles of unauthorized, or “rogue” trails. Rogue trails compromise safety because they are unmarked and can lead to visitors getting lost. They also fragment habitat and decrease the size of undisturbed spaces where wildlife can thrive. Some rogue trails also occur in sensitive habitats and threaten endangered wildlife.
This project will:
- Map and document rogue trails;
- Analyze their relative impact on wildlife and sensitive habitats;
- Develop priorities for targeted trail closures to protect the Fells’ most vulnerable habitats and species;
- Analyze trail density throughout the Fells using DCR’s “area of impact” metric to identify opportunities to close trails in order to provide more and/or larger expanses of parkland for wildlife to exist free of human disturbance;
- Develop an action plan and budget for implementation of trail modifications;
- Carry out the plan.
Social Messaging for a Sustainable Fells
The Fells and its visitors suffer from pervasive disregard for rules intended to protect the forest and its users. The most impactful rules violations include dogs off-leash, dog waste left behind (bagged and unbagged), going off-trail (including hikers, bikers, and others), littering, graffiti, and swimming in reservoirs. Lack of enforcement presence contributes to this disregard for rules.
This project seeks to reform the “culture of non-compliance” with a new culture of care and community stewardship through an innovative communications strategy rooted in behavior change communication and marketing models. Given the history of antagonism among user groups, it is critical that this effort begin with engaging these groups in facilitated discussion to achieve agreement on common goals relating to conservation of the Fells as a shared resource. The project would have four planning components and two implementation components:
- Facilitation to build consensus among stakeholders on conservation principles and desired behavior changes;
- Developing a behavior change communication and marketing strategy;
- Developing a monitoring protocol and implementing monitoring to capture baseline data before implementation;
- Exploring avenues to increase DCR enforcement presence.
- Implementing the behavior change communication and marketing strategy;
- Implementing monitoring to capture data after implementation.
Weed Warriors: Invasive Species Management
The Fells suffers from the serious ecological impacts of non-native plant species that invade and degrade native habitats. This project will:
- Map rare and sensitive plant communities;
- Survey these communities for the prevalence of invasive species and document extent of spread;
- Identify up to five “hot spot” areas where invasives are threatening the health of sensitive habitats;
- Develop comprehensive plans to manage invasives in collaboration with the DCR state ecologist;
- Train and deploy volunteers to remove the invaders and restore habitats back to health;
- Periodically re-survey management areas to assess the effectiveness of management efforts.
The Fells Alliance would be a network of organizations that share a common understanding of the value the Fells brings to the region and commit to working together to protect, preserve, and enhance the Fells as an invaluable and irreplaceable biological and recreational asset. The Fells Alliance would engage in information-sharing and common goal-setting, and would act as an incubator for identifying and developing partner projects to support the Fells.
Established in March of 2021, the Fells Caucus engages elected officials whose districts fall within the influence area of the Fells. The Caucus meets quarterly with FOF and DCR staff, receives briefings on current Fells issues, and discusses opportunities for advancing Fells priorities through legislative action. State Senator Jason Lewis and Representative Paul Donato co-lead the Caucus.
Mayors and town managers/administrators will also be invited to Caucus meetings, including Mayors Paul Brodeur (Melrose), Gary Christenson (Malden), Breanna Lungo-Koehn (Medford) and Town Manager Lisa Wong (Winchester) and Town Administrator Dennis Sheehan (Stoneham).