Preserving valuable and sensitive habitats in the Fells – A request to DCR
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.
Spring has returned to the Fells, and with it the vibrant green that we all love! There is no better way to appreciate the beauty of the season than to learn more about the plant species that contribute to the vibrancy that is occurring in the forest.
Our YouTube channel, started in spring 2020, was inspired by a desire to continue our programming, even though we couldn’t do it with our usual guided walks. Spring has come around again, so if you missed them last time, or just want to watch again, explore with some experts in botany, ecology, and natural science. Enjoy!
Our first set of videos is the “Spring Ephemeral” series, featuring BU professor of biology (and prior Friends board member) Dr. Randi Rotjan discussing a few of the interesting plant species that are beginning to bloom in the Fells:
Next, local expert and long-time hike leader Boot Boutwell discusses some of his favorite plants to observe in the spring forests of New England:
Next, Dr. Lucy Zipf, Lecturer at the Wellesley College Environmental Studies Department, explains the strategies of different trees in the forest when it comes time to “leaf out” in spring:
Finally, Claire O’Neill discusses an important aspect of the work her organization Earthwise Aware (EwA) focuses on in the spring months– documenting and certifying new vernal pools in the Fells.
Claire is the founder of EwA, and a Friends of the Fells board member:
If you have an idea for a video topic that you would like to share, or have any interest/experience in videography or video editing and would like to volunteer those skills, please contact us!
We have many more topics of interest to explore on the channel, so check back often for updates!
Back in December of 2020, guest blogger and board member Steven Engel highlighted the work of Prof. Jack Ridge, a geologist in the Earth and Ocean Sciences Department at Tufts University. Since 2007, Prof. Ridge has focused a large portion of his research on the geology of the Fells, and made much of his findings available for the public to view at his website, “The Geology of the Middlesex Fells.”
Prof. Ridge has recently updated his website to include a series of self-guided geology hikes throughout the Fells. He explains:
The compilation of self-guided geologic hikes in the Fells is an outgrowth of my interest in informing the public about the exciting field of geology. The geologic hikes in the Fells introduce the fundamental geology of the Fells along with some of their details. They are an excellent way to introduce natural science. I am especially interested in informing middle through high school students and their teachers about local geology, but anyone can learn Fells geology. Really curious younger students may also find the geology of the Fells interesting. I have also been struck by the curiosity that many hikers in the Fells exhibited, when they saw me in the field.
There are currently five self-guided geology hikes available on the site, all in pdf format, and some in multiple parts:
The Skyline Trail (in a 7 part series) – west of Rt. 93
The Rock Circuit Trail (in 3 parts) – east of Woodland Road and across southeast Fells
The Crystal Spring Trail – north of Pond Street to Whip Hill
Virginia Wood – south of Pond Street in Virginia Wood
Lawrence Woods – loop from Medford High School
Per Prof. Ridge:
At the beginning of each download document (PDF format) is useful information about what to expect while hiking in the Fells and also some fundamental geology to get started. Each hike route is on DCR trails and they are marked on geologic maps in the guides. Take advantage of the special geologic explanations linked below.
To download these hikes, and to explore the additional geology resources and references produced by Prof. Ridge to expand on the topics discussed in the hike documents, visit the hikes homepage:
Prof. Ridge welcomes questions on these hikes, or feedback on ways to make them more clear and accessible. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Our YouTube channel started last spring, inspired by continuing our programming during lockdown since we couldn’t offer our usual guided walks, volunteer projects, and other in-person opportunities. Over the past months, we have continued to produce informative and educational video content for the community through this platform.
The latest addition to our YouTube offerings is “Introduction to the Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation.” This video discusses our mission, the value of the Fells, and gives a brief overview of our programs and offerings. The video also features excerpts from Executive Director Chris Redfern and ‘Babes in the Woods’ program leader Diana Lomakin.
And just a reminder: our “My Middlesex Fells” video feature series is still seeking participants:
We want to hear about your unique relationship to the Fells! If you’re interested in sharing your own personal experiences with our community, contact us. We also welcome your own submissions to the My Fells Project we launched last year, featuring your own artistic interpretations of the Fells.
Click the icon below to visit our YouTube channel for much more content!
The Friends of the Fells are pleased to welcome our 2021 Video Production Interns Dexter Fadness and Paige Colley to our staff this summer. Dexter and Paige both bring media production experience and a love of the outdoors to the positions, and we are very excited to work with them over the next few months!
“When I was younger, I spent countless hours wandering the Fells with my Great Dane, Thea. Living in Winchester, just minutes from the reservation, we were in there every day, and when she died we scattered her ashes along her favorite trail. It is that connection and intimacy that I bring as the Friends of Fells’ new video intern. As a recent graduate from Bard College with a degree in Film and Electronic Arts, I have cultivated knowledge of writing, directing, editing, and producing video content. Those skills, and my experience working with veteran filmmakers such as Kelly Reichardt and Charles Burnett, will be put into action developing the Friends of the Fells video presence and sharing what makes the Fells so special.”
Paige during the 2019 Concord Cheese parade posing in front of a 1,000 pound wheel of cheese.
“Hi everyone! My name is Paige and I’m looking forward to working with Friends of the Fells this summer. I’m originally from Anchorage, Alaska, where I enjoyed all sorts of outdoor activities from hiking to kayaking to skiing. I did my undergrad at NYU studying physics, although I have an appreciation for all things science, from astronomy to biology. I recently finished my journalism MS at BU, and am looking forward to staying in Massachusetts for a while and getting to know the Fells better.”
The first project that the interns will focus on this summer is a “Community Highlight” series featuring personal narratives from individuals with a love for the Fells. And for this video series, we need your participation:
What does the Fells mean to you? COVID mental health walks? Pet exercise? Fun with friends? A biological laboratory? Whatever your answer, we need YOU for a new video series. We are seeking on-camera participants who highlight the diversity of the Fells community, both in demographics (age, race, ethnicity, ability, sexual and gender orientation) and activity (biking, research, hiking, boating, restraining your dog from jumping in the reservoir). 😊 The Friends of the Fells welcomes everyone to this special natural resource.
We’re looking for an hour or two of your time to explore your Fells experience, filming content that will be edited into short videos.
If you would like to participate, or you know someone who would be perfect for this project, you can contact Dexter Fadness at 845-399-6662, or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to seeing this project come together, and to all the new content that they produce this summer!
The Friends of the Fells (FOF) is excited to announce a significant expansion of our conservation work with the establishment of the Sustainable Fells Campaign.
The Campaign includes FOF-led conservation initiatives, partnership building through a new Fells Alliance, and enhanced engagement with state legislators with a new Fells Caucus. We look forward to inviting you to join us in these efforts as projects get underway in the coming months.
This campaign is the result of two concurrent efforts.
First, I spent hundreds of hours meeting with members, volunteers, partner organizations, and elected officials to ask them a simple question: How do we balance our enjoyment of the Fells with efforts to protect its natural resources? I also read your advice from our 4,000-supporter survey last fall.
At the same time, Friends of the Fells volunteers got to wondering how well DCR has been carrying out the “conservation” element of its portfolio, versus the “recreation” element in the Fells. We discovered that DCR’s decimated budget hasn’t been able to accomplish much. But, we did find that as recreation opportunities have expanded in the Fells, the natural resources of the Fells have unfortunately not been taken care of very well.
As we considered the advice we received and recognized the lack of care of nature in the Fells, it became crystal clear that we urgently need to increase our capacity to meet the needs of the Fells — to protect its biodiversity, enhance the health of its natural resources, and promote sustainable enjoyment of the forest.
The Sustainable Fells Campaign is our answer to that call.
Here’s a brief summary of the Campaign.
photo by Jeff Buxbaum
Sustainable Fells Campaign – At a Glance
Friends of the Fells has developed three multi-year Conservation Initiatives:
Our Reduce Rogue Trails for People and Wildlife initiative will identify illegal trails in sensitive habitat areas and develop and implement plans to close, and keep closed, these trails.
Our Invasive Species Management initiative will identify priority habitat impacted by invasive plant species, develop management plans to control the invasive plant populations, and bring habitats back to health.
Our Social Messaging for a Sustainable Fells initiative seeks to reform a “culture of non-compliance” in the Fells with a new culture of care and community stewardship through an innovative communications strategy rooted in behavior change communication and marketing models.
The Fells Alliance is 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 Caucus engages elected officials whose districts fall within the influence area of the Fells, briefs officials on current Fells issues, and explores opportunities for advancing Fells priorities through legislative action.
If the Sustainable Fells Campaign is to be successful, we’ll need to expand our capacity on a number of fronts.
As a grassroots organization, volunteers play an essential role in implementing our work. We’ll need more financial support from our members so we can build a stronger volunteer program to support our volunteers and cultivate volunteer leaders able to help guide these initiatives.
And, we’ll also need to develop funding relationships with foundations, government agencies, and others to sustain these multi-year initiatives. This work is already underway.
We look forward to your continued input and support of our work. Together we will achieve a better future for the Fells, and in the years to come, we’ll enjoy a deeper sense of joy and satisfaction in our time in the Fells, knowing we have made it a better space for people and nature.