Volunteering Update: Let’s Get Out and Scout!

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. A more detailed description of the Campaign can be found here

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.

In spite of the rainy weather, over 50 volunteers came out to the Fells on Saturday, April 26 to participate in Park Serve Day.  Friends of the Fells Board Members and volunteers, including Rich Sanford, Mike Ryan, Walter Kittredge, Bob Weggel, Ginna Day, and Karen Johnson, were on hand to provide their experience in service of directing the many newer volunteers.  Some participants in the Friends of the Fells trail adoption program came out as well, giving them the opportunity to learn the identification and clean-up skills that will serve them well as Trail Adopters.  Volunteers included families from Malden, Melrose, Medford, and even as far away as Brookline.

Some of the volunteers were members of organized groups:

  • A large group of 20 students and 2 adults from CATS Academy in Boston were brought to us by Lindsey Hopkinson who also helped lead half of that group to Doleful Pond.
  • Elli Goeke led a small group of Winchester Girl Scouts to clean up around Long Pond, and also led a small group of Appalachian Mountain Club members to clean up around the Rock Circuit Trail

With such a large group of volunteers, plus the presence of more senior/leader volunteers than usual, we were able to cast a wide net.  The following park service activities were undertaken:

  • The Doleful Pond party site got a good scrubbing.  All the trash and even much of the broken glass removed (about 4 large trash bags) by the CATS Academy crew.
  • All of the invasive plant species targeted by Walter Kittredge were removed within the area he worked along the fire road behind gate 42.
  • Some cleanup was performed around the perimeter of Greenwood Park.
  • More than six trash bags full of litter was removed from the area surrounding Flynn Rink and the perimeter of Quarter-Mile Pond, including several large items (a tire, a large metal ring, some discarded sign posts, a broken trash barrel half-sunk in the pond) that were all recovered by the same small group.
  • One late-arriving family set off along the Cross-Fells Trail east from Flynn Rink to pick up trash.
  • The White Rock area was completely cleared by a very hard-working family of 4 (2 adults, kids 15 and 11) from Melrose with some help from Rich Sanford.
  • Trails around Bellevue Pond and Wright’s Tower were cleaned by a group of 4 volunteers who removed 2 large bags of recyclables, which they took home to recycle, and at least one very heavy bag of trash.
  • A cleanup was done around Long Pond by the Winchester Girl Scouts.
  • A cleanup was done around the Rock Circuit Trail by the AMC volunteers.

Park Serve Day

All in all it was quite the “spring cleaning” for the Fells!

A special thank you goes out to Lynn and Anthony for all the support.  The canopy was exceptionally helpful to keep us dry(ish) as we signed in the volunteers.  The tools and supplies, timely trash pickup, and offers to open the Botume House restrooms were all much appreciated by the volunteers and by the Friends of the Fells. It was a pleasure working with you yesterday.