A Reminder from the MWRA: Don’t Swim in the Fells!

With the summer’s return, the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority asks all residents–  please don’t swim in the Fells:

With the warm weather approaching, people head to the local swimming hole to beat the heat. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority wants to remind residents that swimming is not allowed at the High Fells Reservoir in Stoneham.

MWRA’s primary concern is public safety. The Fells has many rock outcroppings and swimmers who are tired or hit their heads while diving are a long way from emergency medical help. The facility is not staffed and there are no lifeguards on duty. There have been fatalities at this site in the past and at nearby Spot Pond.

Protection of the public water supply is also critical. The Fells covered storage tank was constructed in 1998. This facility provides drinking water for Melrose, Saugus, Stoneham and Wakefield. However, the open reservoir, constructed in 1899, still serves as an important component of the MWRA’s emergency water supply system. In an emergency situation, the reservoir could be used as a drinking water supply in a very short time. Swimmers and dogs in the water pose a real threat to water quality.

MWRA recognizes that the Fells is a valued recreational resource in the area. MWRA has worked closely with local communities over the years to maintain a balanced use of this beautiful site that allows accessibility while protecting the public water supply. In fact, MWRA’s new Spot Pond Covered Storage Tank, behind the former Boston Regional Medical Center, features an upland meadow and walking trails.

Illegal swimming has resulted in vandalism, damage to fencing, trash left at the reservoir and fires. The Massachusetts State Police routinely patrol this critical facility during the summer, but MWRA also needs the help of local residents to ensure public safety and protect public health.

Please call the MWRA’s 24-hour Security Hotline at (877) 697-6972 to report swimming or any other harmful behavior.

Swimming is also prohibited in the High, Middle, and Low Reservoirs located in Winchester.

The Friends would also like to remind our community that swimming in the Fells can have detrimental impacts beyond personal safety and contamination of the drinking water supply:  many of the ponds and pools in the Fells contain sensitive ecosystems and aquatic species that can be harmed by human presence in their habitat!

For more information, contact Ria Convery, Ria.Convery@mwra.com

Making sure that DCR has adequate resources to carry out its conservation mission for the Fells is at the top of our list when it comes to our advocacy efforts. As we’ve alerted you to before, this Special Commission is investigating many aspects of DCR’s operations, and it’s important that this Commission hear from you.

Some of you spoke up at the Special Commission’s virtual meeting last week–thank you!  You can read a summary of this past meeting prepared by Mass Conservation Voters here.

Signing on to Massachusetts Conservation Voters’ petition is an easy way to speak for the Fells — the Friends of the Fells is in general agreement with MCV’s position. You can also send in your own comment by emailing ma-dcr-commission@donahue.umass.edu.

Please note that all comments must be submitted by Tuesday, June 8th, when the public comments period will close!


In the meantime, the Friends of the Fells Advocacy Committee is developing a detailed response that addresses specific issues of concern for the Fells — we’ll share that with you when it is complete.


The increased popularity of the Middlesex Fells these past months has also brought more attention to the park from regional news outlets.  Here are some of the recent news articles about the Fells, and the Friends of the Fells.

In August, the Boston Globe opinion page featured a column by Joan Wickersham reflecting on the creation of the Fells– ‘A voyage of discovery about home:’

We decide to go for a drive. It’s aimless, like so much in this uneasy summer of the pandemic. We drive through Somerville, Medford, Malden.

And suddenly the road stops being suburban and starts looking like something you would find in Maine. Deep woods, lakes, no houses. It goes on for miles. We are in the Middlesex Fells.

Later in the month, the Globe printed a response from our own Jeff Buxbaum and Chris Redfern, titled ‘The vital public good of public lands:’

…As COVID-19 spurs historic visitation at the Middlesex Fells and other nature refuges in the region, we must protect the long-term investments in these nature spaces more than ever, as impacts to trails and fragile ecosystems take a toll.

DigBoston writer Caitlin Faulds writes about the state of Massachusetts parks and how the pandemic has impacted park upkeep and volunteer projects, and features an interview with Friends volunteer coordinator Jesse MacDonald:


Due to COVID-19 and strict health guidelines, MacDonald said Friends of the Fells have had to cancel all volunteer trail care events, which typically address some of these issues, while DCR itself is struggling to run with a “skeleton crew.”

Last, we are happy to share that the Friends of the Fells has been awarded two grants through the Tufts University Community Relations program:

In May, the Friends was one of the local organizations to be awarded a grant through the Tufts Community Grants program.

Thirty-four local organizations in Tufts’ four host communities have been awarded $28,000 in grants from the Tufts Community Grants (TCG) program. The grants, which are fully funded by donations from Tufts University faculty and staff, are awarded each year to community-based charitable organizations in Boston, Grafton, Medford and Somerville.

These funds have been allocated towards the purchase of graffiti removal equipment and supplies which will be used this fall.

And in August, the Friends of the Fells was a recipient of a $1,000 COVID-19 emergency response grant, awarded to local nonprofits “in an effort to help its neighbors impacted by COVID-19.”

“During these trying times, it’s more important than ever for us to support our neighbors and the non-profits that do such important work in our home communities,” said Rocco DiRico, director of the Office of Government and Community Relations at Tufts. “We always strive to be the best neighbor that we can be, so we’re pleased to be able to provide this essential support to local organizations that are assisting local residents with the challenges they face as a result of the pandemic.”

These funds were utilized by the Friends’ 2020 Fells Forest Camp program to directly defray the expenses for essential purchases of safety and sanitizing equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning services, and other COVID-prevention plans that were necessary to hold this summer’s programming safely.

On Saturday September 21st, volunteers from across the area braved the balmy end-of-summer weather to participate in the 2019 COASTSWEEP shoreline cleanup event in the Fells, joining like-minded individuals across the globe for the annual International Coastal Cleanup day of service.

Participants of all ages spent the morning gathering trash along the shores of Quarter Mile Pond and Spot Pond in Medford and Stoneham.  Trash was gathered and sorted by the bagful, and the data carefully recorded on what exactly was collected from the Fells.  This data will be collated and analyzed by the Ocean Conservancy in Washington D.C. along with other cleanup reports from across the globe, and will help in creating effective environmental education and policy initiatives in the future.

In just one morning, volunteers were able to collect 22 bags of trash, weighing in at nearly 150 lbs! Hundreds of bottles, food wrappers, cigarette butts, and plastic pieces were the bulk of the collected garbage, but many yards of fishing line, styrofoam bait containers, filled dog waste bags, and discarded clothing were also common finds.  One piece of unique local litter to be found were lost hockey pucks (although not surprising considering the location of the cleanup!).

Volunteer service projects such as COASTSWEEP are crucial to the health of our wild spaces, and this is especially true of the water ecosystems that exist in close proximity to dense urban areas and roadways, where garbage collects extremely quickly.  But beyond the immediate impacts, public events such as this also demonstrate the communal benefits that can grow ‘organically’ out of conservation work:  a number of COASTSWEEP participants this year were just walkers and hikers that happened to be passing by, had not heard about the cleanup project, but were motivated to pitch in just by seeing the work that the other volunteers were doing!

Below is a gallery of the great work accomplished at COASTSWEEP ’19!

Thank you to all the volunteers that participated in this year’s COASTSWEEP!  Your efforts helped make this another successful cleanup event!


The Friends of the Fells welcomes volunteers of all ages and experience levels!  Interested in volunteering, or have a service project to propose?  Fill out our volunteer questionnaire:


Volunteer with the Friends of the Fells

Or contact Jesse at Jesse.Macdonald@fells.org.


COASTSWEEP is sponsored by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM), and is part of Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup, where volunteers worldwide collect marine debris and record data to help identify its sources and develop education and policy initiatives to reduce it…

COASTSWEEP is more than a beach cleanup. As part of COASTSWEEP, volunteers help address future problems by filling out data cards to show what they’ve collected. These cards are sent to Ocean Conservancy in Washington, DC, where the information is entered into a massive database. The data are then used to analyze the local and international trends in marine debris and identify its sources to help reduce the problem in the future.

For more information:


A notice to all hikers in the Bellevue Pond area:  due to significant erosion issues that have developed on the Skyline Trail/Wrights Tower Path between Quarry Road Path and Wright’s Tower proper, DCR staff have diverted and re-routed a section of the trail in order to prevent further erosion damage to this hillside and the surrounding area.

DCR rangers ask that all visitors using this route to please remain on the new trail section (follow the updated trail blazes in white!) and allow the area to recover naturally.


Friends of the Fells would also like to take this opportunity to recognize the contribution to this trail project by the volunteer group from American Well.  It was primarily due to their very hard work on their company’s service day that this trail re-route was completed– in only a few hours, no less!

Thank you Erin, Ben, Daniel, Leon, David D., David K., and Keith!  Your volunteer efforts for the Fells are sincerely appreciated!

Are you a part of a group that is interested in a service project in the Fells?  We always welcome volunteer interest and requests!

Become a Volunteer


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.