Thank you to our 2023 Volunteers!

Our volunteers are incredible!

This year, we saw a massive increase in volunteers helping out at the Fells. Over 600 volunteers participated in our Trail Adopter program, led hikes, removed invasive species, picked up trash, collected data, conducted trail maintenance, assisted in communications efforts, and helped with community outreach. We also worked with 24 generous businesses, schools, and organizations on a variety of projects throughout the Fells.

In total, volunteers donated over 1,100 hours of their time to support the Friends and the Fells. In Massachusetts, that’s $43,109 in dedicated work at the Fells. We cannot thank our volunteers enough for all their hard work and dedication to keeping our Fells beautiful and safe for years to come!

Read more about the amazing work our volunteers have done below:

Volunteer and Trail Adopter, Mike, helps paint new trail blazes.

Our Trail Adopters submitted over 200 reports this year to keep the trails looking sharp. They covered more than 285 miles and contributed over 350 hours to clearing trails, removing and reporting downed tree limbs, picking up trash, clearing culverts, and other special projects. They removed 34 bags of trash, cleared 23 culverts and waterbars, and addressed issues with seven trail blazes or markers. Three volunteers helped paint dozens of new trail blazes to keep the trails well marked.

Interested in becoming a Trail Adopter? Complete the application here!

Laurie leads a Hike ‘n’ Seek for toddlers and their families.

Our volunteer hike leaders offered a wide variety of guided routes throughout the Fells. There were a total of 119 social and educational hikes, over 50 Babes in the Woods hikes, and seven Hike ‘n’ Seeks. More than 700 people attended FOF community hikes this year.

Want to join a hike? Check out our calendar here! Want to lead a hike? Let us know by contacting Community Engagement Manager, Maddie Morgan, at

Thank you DCR!

A huge shoutout and thank you go to the Department of Conservation and Recreation and the DCR Fells team. We could not do these volunteer events without the generous support, guidance, time, and tools of the Fells team. Join us in thanking the DCR Fells team for keeping our park safe, clean, and enjoyable for years to come!

Community volunteers cut and removed bittersweet and multiflora rose.

Friends of the Fells offered 11 open volunteer days in 2023 and our dedicated volunteers showed up ready to make a difference. We worked with 324 volunteers to remove 161 bags and 13 big piles of invasives from the Fells. We tackled black swallowwort, bittersweet, garlic mustard, multiflora rose, Japanese knotweed, buckthorn, and porcelain berry. Volunteers also removed 56 bags of trash at these events.

2023 was an incredible year thanks to the hard work of our wonderful volunteers. We look forward to working with you all again in 2024!

If your company, school, or organization is interested in partnering with Friends of the Fells in 2024, please contact Maddie Morgan at

Thank you to our 2023 partners and volunteers!

Acera School
Alexion Pharmaceuticals
American Tower
Analog Devices
Cambridge Running Club
Eastern Bank
Farrington Nature Linc
Fortis Life
Gay for Good
Idle Hands Craft Ales
Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation
Medford Boy Scouts Troop 416
National Grid
New England Mountain Bike Association
New Ecology
Sana Biotech
Sublime Systems
Tufts Leonard Carmichael Society
Winchester Girl Scouts
Winchester High School Fells Club

Help Our Parks Get the Resources They Need – Contact Your Senator Today

Last month, we cheered the new Healey-Driscol Administration’s strong commitment to parks, demonstrated by their $107.6 million dollar allocation to the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) operations in its budget request (H.1).

Unfortunately, the Senate Ways and Means’ recently released budget set DCR’s operations allocation at $2.75 million less than the Administration’s allocation (to $104.9 million).

Senator Mike Rush, chair of the Legislative Parks Caucus, and Senator Becca Rausch, chair of the Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, have filed amendments 76 and 37, respectively, to increase the Senate Ways and Means’ proposed budget by $2.75 million, which would restore DCR’s operations allocation to the amount proposed by the Administration.

Not sure who your local representatives are? Find out here.

Virginia Wood. Photo by Mike Ryan.

TAKE ACTION: Please contact your state senator today and encourage them to sign on as a co-sponsor of amendments 76 and 37 and support the amendments on the Senate floor. The Senate will start its debate on Tuesday, May 23, so we encourage you to take action now. 

Not sure who your local representatives are? Find out here.

Also, please take a moment to thank Senator Rush and Senator Rausch for filing these amendments, which are critical to ensuring our state parks, including the Middlesex Fells, are properly resourced.

Want to stay up to date on Fells Advocacy updates?

Subscribe to our Action Alert newsletter here!

You’re the best!

This was an impressive year for volunteering in the Fells! Over 175 volunteers participated in our Trail Adopter program, led hikes, removed invasive species, picked up trash, collected data, and helped with community outreach. Our volunteers donated 737 hours of their time to support and engage with the Fells. We cannot thank our volunteers enough for all their hard work and dedication to keeping our Fells beautiful and safe for years to come!

Read more about the amazing work our volunteers have done below:

Boot Boutwell leads one of his famous hikes around Long Pond.

Our 34 Trail Adopters were busy out on the trails this year. They covered more than 72 miles of trails and contributed 134 hours to clearing trails, removing and reporting downed tree limbs, picking up trash, clearing culverts, and other special projects.

Our hike leaders lept into action this year to lead free public hikes for the community. There were a total of 183 social and educational hikes, 40 Babes in the Woods hikes, and seven Hike ‘n’ Seeks. Altogether, hike leaders donated 365 hours to lead hikes and build community in the Fells. A total of 1,111 people attended the community hikes this year.

The Cambridge Running Club helped us remove three bags of trash from around Spot Pond and Flynn Rink.

Friends of the Fells offered 11 open volunteer days in 2022 and our dedicated volunteers showed up ready to make a difference. 113 volunteers donated 245 hours of their time to participate in trash clean-ups, invasive species removals, and community outreach events.

We held three trash clean-ups at Sheepfold Dog Park and Flynn Rink. 50 volunteers came out to the Fells to pick up trash and help keep the forest clean and healthy.

Medford Boy Scout Troop 416 helped us remove two massive piles of multiflora rose and bittersweet.

Volunteers also tackled Asiatic bittersweet, multiflora rose, Japanese knotweed, black swallowwort, and garlic mustard at Crystal Springs, Virginia Wood, Medford High School, and the Botume House. The hard work that the 53 volunteers put into removing these invasive plants has a visible and tangible impact on the Fells ecosystem.

We attended the Stoneham Fair, Melrose Victorian Fair, Medford Farmers Market, Tufts University Community Day, and Malden Summer Festival in 2022 and had seven wonderful volunteers table with us to offer a friendly face and provide information about the Fells and FOF to community members.

This year was an exceptional year for volunteering, and we look forward to more fun volunteer events and hikes in the Fells in 2023!

Photo by Jess Garton

In a bid to better protect ecologically sensitive habitats and rare and endangered species, the Friends of the Fells has asked the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to designate portions of the Middlesex Fells as patch reserves. 

“The Fells is home to a remarkable diversity of life, including many unique and uncommon plant communities, dozens of vernal pools, and rare species that depend on these patches of habitat,” said Chris Redfern, Friends of the Fells Executive Director. “Establishing patch reserves to protect these sensitive resources is our best chance to ensure their survival.”

Patch Reserves are defined landscape areas that require special management practices for biodiversity conservation. Patch reserves reduce the potential for habitat fragmentation and degradation and increase ecological resilience by improving connectivity among habitats (for example, protecting the upland habitats of vernal pools for invertebrates and amphibians). These reserves could also reduce recreational impacts through management actions such as installation of educational signage, adding boardwalks, and rerouting and/or removing trails as needed.

An opportunity to request the establishment of patch reserves in the Fells came about when DCR requested public comment on a 10-year review of their Landscape Designation Management Guidelines. Friends of the Fells submitted extensive comments, founded on more than a decade of field research by Fells advocates. Our advocates’ comprehensive understanding and documentation of the presence and location of sensitive habitats and rare and endangered species make the Middlesex Fells a particularly suitable and attractive park unit at which to pilot a new patch reserve designation.

To learn more, read our full comments here.

The Tudor Barn needs your ideas! How should the historic 700 square foot structure be used? Do we need electricity there? Let us know how you think the public can enjoy this restored, unique stone building that once was a carriage house (never an ice house). Send your ideas to the friends at

Image by Mike Ryan

by Mike Ryan and Anita Brewer-Siljeholm

If you stroll south along Spot Pond from the Botume House on the broad woodland path, a mysterious little stone building will soon appear on your left. Facing the pond, with blank, boarded-up windows and locked wooden doors, no name or sign visible, the structure looks like it is awaiting new inhabitants. In some sense, it is.

The story of the Tudor Barn – which is not yet over – is a narrative of Boston’s search for drinking water, tragedy in a prominent Boston family, failed real estate speculation, a dose of good fortune – and above all, determined persistence of the Friends of the Fells to save a fascinating part of the Fells’ early history.

Photo by Massachusetts Archives

Built in the 1840’s as a carriage barn, and once attached to a nearby mansion now gone, the barn curiously survived the demolition of most nearby dwellings when they were razed around 1912 as part of securing the watershed to protect Spot Pond’s drinking water. Under one government agency after another, the beautifully hand chiseled stone walls held up — until they no longer could.

By the late 1990’s the roof had suffered a fire, and in 2003 a wall collapsed and the massive lintel over the door crashed down (see photo).

By then, the Friends of the Fells were several years into a campaign petitioning the state to repair the endangered building. Early in 1999, while the area was still under the control of the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC), the Massachusetts Water Resource Agency (MWRA) had allocated $88,000 to restore the Tudor Barn. The money was put in escrow when MWRA turned over the Spot Pond watershed to the MDC for recreation access.

Image by Mike Ryan

Encouraged by the funding, the Friends put constant pressure on the MDC to begin restoration work. At a meeting with the MDC commissioner in May 1999, the Friends of the Fells even challenged the MDC to get started by offering a $2,000 grant. This was declined.

By 2003 it seemed as if time had run out for the historic structure. No work had begun, the walls and roof began to fully collapse, and a chain link fence was erected to keep people away from danger. The cost of restoration had soared beyond what MWRA had put in escrow. In the nick of time that year, good fortune at last arrived; the newly created Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) became manager of the Fells, and the Friends gained a partner to move the work forward.

Continuing careful watch over the barn, the Board of Directors of the Friends raised $15,000 in a public fund drive which was matched by the state’s Environmental Office of Public Private Partnerships. With more state funds added, and the escrow amount, in December 2004 restoration began at long last with a groundbreaking ceremony at the barn attended by representatives from the Friends of the Fells, DCR and the state environmental affairs office.

Stone masons assigned to the project began to reconstruct the barn using recovered granite blocks littering the site. Chisel marks on the stones
revealed, “how the craftsmen 150 years ago squared them off to make these walls so flat,” according to skilled stonemason Michael Johnson, general contractor for the project. A concrete floor was poured to tie the walls together and provide a better footing for future public use.

Image by Mike Ryan

At last, on August 10, 2006 the DCR and the Friends of the Fells shared a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the end of a remarkable collaborative effort. It is just one of several projects where the Friends have been an active steward partnering with both DCR and other groups. We do this to protect important but neglected natural and cultural features of the Fells. For the Tudor Barn, we hope that DCR will soon create a plaque explaining its historic status.

Next month: The Tudor Barn is named after the prominent Boston family who once owned the Spot Pond mansion to which it was connected. In our next installment we will write more about this family and their contribution of Virginia Wood, which was the first public land-trust donation in the world and proved instrumental in the formation of the Metropolitan Park System and the Fells Reservation.

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,