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 maddie.morgan@fells.org

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 maddie.morgan@fells.org.

Thank you to our 2023 partners and volunteers!

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

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!

Keeping up with the physical changes that occur in the Fells is a daunting task!  With over 100 miles of trails and more than 2,200 acres of space to monitor, the task of identifying issues, hazards, and maintenance needs is a constant challenge at the best of times!  And limited staff and time (for both the Friends and DCR) means that we rely nearly completely on the efforts of our volunteers and Trail Adopters to accomplish these scouting duties.

While the scouting need of the Fells is always a major undertaking, the inclement weather of the past few weeks has made this a critical need for our community to take on right away.  Trail damage and erosion, downed trees, limbs, or other blockages, missing trail markers and signs, or any dangerous/ potentially dangerous situations new to the forest need to be identified and reported in order for us and DCR to add these issues to our “to-do lists” as soon as possible!  In just a few weeks, winter weather will set in and many of these issues cannot be addressed until the spring.

How can you help?

Scouting in the Fells is easy:  take a hike, and report back to us what you see and where!  There are two easy ways to report a scouting trip to us:

One of the most important details to include in a report of a trail issue is an accurate location for us to reference.  The most accurate location marker to use is the closest DCR “trail intersection marker” or markers, like this one:

Every trail intersection in the Fells has been assigned a 3-digit label (“E4-5” in the example above), and can be referenced on the DCR Fells map, found online here.  [Important note:  these intersection markers are not currently included on any of the printed Friends of the Fells maps.]

GPS coordinates, trail names, and location relative to a trailhead or fire gate can also be very useful details to record and share, too.

In addition to trail and tree damage that is a current priority, scouts are always on the lookout for regular issues like:

  • new invasive plant growth
  • graffiti
  • household waste or yard waste dumping
  • rogue trails and habitat fragmentation
  • unauthorized construction, damage, or misuse of the park

Trail scouting is a great way to get involved with our work, whether as someone new to the Fells and to outdoor volunteering, or a seasoned outdoor enthusiast with a keep eye for the forest!

If you have any questions, or to learn more about scouting in the Fells, contact maddie.morgan@fells.org.

In addition to our scouting needs, we are seeking the following volunteer assistance:

Seeking volunteer leaders to advance our communications and fundraising efforts

We’re looking for a communications professional to work directly with our staff to champion and help lead our communications work, including developing a strategic communications plan to better leverage our communications channels (email, social media, and new website presence) to engage our supporters, inspire volunteerism, and promote our programs and activities. If you have professional experience in communications and would like to learn more about this opportunity, contact Chris Redfern at chris.redfern@fells.org

If you’re a nonprofit fundraiser who loves the Fells and would like to help us grow in our ability to meet our mission, we’d love to hear from you. We’re looking for a development professional who can help us develop relationships with the regional philanthropic community and identify strategies to fund initiatives in our Action Plan. To learn more about this opportunity, contact Chris Redfern at chris.redfern@fells.org

Last month, in honor of both Earth Day 2021 and the return of group stewardship opportunities in the Fells, the Friends of the Fells hosted a series of volunteer-oriented events throughout the park.  Between Wednesday April 21st and Sunday April 26th individuals from 3 clubs and from across the community participated in one of six group events that were held in the Fells.

Volunteers joined in activities like trash cleanups, trail maintenance and repair, invasive plant clearing and meadow restoration, and solving some drainage and flooding issues by cleaning, repairing, and redirecting culverts and drainpipe outlets.

The Winchester HS Fells Club ready for work!

We would especially like to highlight the efforts of 3 organizations for their work this week:  Girl Scouts Junior Troop 62732 of Medford, the “Otters” of the BPSA 92nd Mystic Scout Troop (www.92mystic.org), and the Winchester High School Fells Club!

Below is a gallery of the great work accomplished during Earth Week 2021:

Thank you to all the volunteers that participated in this year’s Earth Week events!  Your efforts helped make this a successful week of stewardship for the Fells!

Missed out Earth Week volunteer opportunities?  Not to worry– we will be adding many more group volunteer events in 2021, so keep an eye on our Program and Events Calendar for updates.

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:

Interested in arranging a group service event in the Fells?  Contact Jesse at Jesse.Macdonald@fells.org.

Dear Friends,

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. 

Best,

Chris Redfern
Executive Director

The Board of Directors of the Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation wishes to salute Dr. Bryan Hamlin, an extraordinary botanist and citizen, as he turns 80 years old on May 18, 2020.

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For many years, members of the Friends as well as local students and the general public have seen Bryan’s joyful and unreserved dedication to the forest, his ability to teach others how to love plants in their natural setting, and his leadership in protecting the unique Middlesex Fells.

After moving to Medford in 2003 with his wife, Anne, Bryan discovered in the nearby woods an astonishing number of plants that were indicative of a healthy ecosystem. Surprised to find such botanical vigor so close to Boston, he set about investigating what he saw. A native of England, Bryan had earned a doctorate in microbial biochemistry from Hull University, followed by a long career in international conflict resolution – where he met American Anne – yet never lost his love of wildflowers, the delicate and surprising plants he noticed and catalogued even as a young boy roaming about southwest England, first by foot and then on motorbike with a collecting box on the back.

Huckleberry flower by Bryan Hamlin

“When he moved to Medford, he re-found both his love of nature and his science expertise in the Fells, especially through the Friends of the Fells,” said Anne recently. “His interest in botany, the environment, and concern about climate change all found a new means of expression.”

But it was an unexpected discovery. As Bryan recalled in 2015, “I was very snooty on my first walk into the woods thinking that this close to downtown Boston the woods would be degraded with not much in the way of interesting native plants. Was I in for a surprise! For example – Striped Wintergreen! So I began to make a list of the plants I found on walks in the Fells.”

That list became a team effort organized by Bryan, ultimately resulting in the 2012 publication of an award-winning article in Rhodora, the publication of the New England Botanical Club, of which Bryan was vice-president. “Changes in the Vascular Flora of the Middlesex Fells Reservation, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, from 1895 To 2011” was based on an exhaustive survey by Bryan with Walter Kittredge and others over a seven-year period. Beautifully written, it describes the history of the Fells woodland and compares today’s plants with those recorded in unique historical data from as early as 1895. A total of 902 species of vascular plants were found.

“Such a high number is a measure both of the health of the Fells, and also its amazing ecological variety from the big reservoirs to vernal pools, swamps, marshes, streams, different types of woodlands and lots of rocky outcrops,” wrote Bryan in 2015. “We are so fortunate to have this amazing wild forest reservation right within the metropolitan area of Boston.” A digital file of the Rhodora article may be obtained by emailing the Friends office, jesse.macdonald@fells.org.

In addition to his extensive work in the field, Bryan was a member of the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Fells for fifteen years and chair of the Board from 2011-2015. He maintains an illustrated website, foundinthefells.com, that chronicles some of the wildflowers which might be discovered by a curious explorer in every season. In addition, he has led dozens of nature walks for the Friends, focused in recent years on the need to recognize and control invasive plants that have taken hold in the forest, including oriental bittersweet, black swallow-wort, and Japanese knotweed, among others.

From 2008-2010 Bryan also taught at Medford High School as a substitute teacher. Initially assigned wherever he was needed, his immense knowledge and gift for teaching were quickly recognized by the school, and he became a long-term substitute in the biology and history departments. Bryan even brought his students into the Fells near the school.

In the past few years, Bryan has been one of the leading voices on the issue of invasive plants in the Fells, and on the urgent threat that many of these species poses to the ecology of our forest.  His leadership, expertise, and passionate advocacy efforts have had meaningful impacts on both the attention given to this issue by the relevant policymakers, and directly on the volunteer work of the Friends of the Fells.  As a result, invasive control has become one of the primary focuses of our on-site volunteer efforts.

“Bryan now enjoys walking and exploring in the Fells whenever he can, and going with him is like doing visits to old friends he has known for years,” says his wife Anne. “He is delighted that our children and grandchildren, who live in central Massachusetts and coastal Maine, seem to be carrying on his love of the natural world.”


In recognition of Bryan’s 80th birthday and his immeasurable contributions to the Fells over the years, the Friends of the Fells Board of Directors has committed to making donations to the Friends’ operating fund in his name.  If you would like to join this effort, you can visit our Facebook page to make a donation.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Bryan Hamlin, and thank you from the muddy bottoms of all our hearts.