YouTube Update: “Introduction to the Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation”

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.

This project was produced by Paige Colley, one of our 2021 video production interns.

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!

Friends of the Fells launches new “My Middlesex Fells” video feature

Each of us has our own distinctive relationship to the Fells, and every experience we have visiting the Fells can be completely unique from the last.  This new video project from our intern Dexter Fadness attempts to capture some of the diversity of those experiences.  

The first video in the series features Friends of the Fells board Chair Jeff Buxbaum, who talks about his own realization of this diversity and the joy of getting lost in the Fells.

 

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 Dexter at dexterfadness@gmail.com.  We also welcome your own submissions to the My Fells project we launched last year, featuring your own artistic interpretations of the Fells.

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!

Dexter Fadness

Dexter Fadness

“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 Colley

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 dexterfadness@gmail.com.

We look forward to seeing this project come together, and to all the new content that they produce this summer!

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

A guest post by Anita Brewer-Siljeholm

Did you visit the Fells in 2020 to flee the confinements of Covid-19? If so, you likely saw more people, pets and cars than ever before, and you might have wondered how Nature is holding up in the reservation.  

A major citizen science research program has begun to collect the data to answer this question and others. Partnering with the Friends of the Fells, Earthwise Aware (EwA) naturalists and citizen scientists have just completed their second full year of field work in the Fells. The result is summarized in several wonderful digital reports now available online. 

For a colorful summary of the year’s work, see the 2020 EwA Conservation Highlights. For a deeper dive, see the full 2020 EwA Conservation Report here. Vernal pools are a special focus of EwA research in the Fells, so a 2020 EwA Vernal Pool Report describes EwA research to successfully document a number of overlooked vernal pools, which is the first step toward better protection for these exceptional habitats. 

Historically, having a place to study natural history in a rugged and varied landscape so close to Boston was one reason why citizens in the late 1800’s argued to set aside the woodland. They recognized too that a growing urban population badly needed the tranquility of Nature, with its deep woods, secluded ponds and stony hilltops, just as people today seek the Fells. Fortunately for us, their 25-year campaign succeeded in protecting from development the woods they loved.

2020 was a busy year for citizen science research! Despite pandemic-related constraints, EwA naturalists and volunteers logged over 1,100 hours at multiple research sites. These covered individual trees and patches including red maple, oak, American chestnut, sassafras and witch hazel species; flowering plants such as Indian cucumber; shrubs such as sweet pepperbush; and vernal pools. 

EwA citizen scientists return throughout the year to monitor phenological changes, arthropod activity, bird movements, plant communities and general biodiversity. The goal is to document, photograph, record and upload data to the National Phenology Network and other local and national studies. EwA uses online data platforms including Nature’s Notebook, Caterpillars Count, iNaturalist, and Massachusetts-specific databases. 

Earthwise Aware also launched a new research project in 2020: to document bio-pollution in the Fells, aka dog poop! Whether bagged or not, dog poop has contaminants that can harm wildlife. By creating maps through photo records of dog poop left in the Fells, EwA assembles data that will help assess the effects of this contamination. That data is updated monthly and publicly accessible in Google Map. By late December over 1,200 visual records of abandoned dog feces had been submitted! Anyone can do this – just be sure your smart phone’s photo app is GPS-enabled. Click here to find out how to submit your photos. 

In 2020, EwA also piloted a study to document habitat fragmentation in the Fells. This study will map the vast network of “rogue trails” which are often shortcuts through the woods. They are usually made by hikers and bikers going off trail, and the problem is that these unmarked trails damage sensitive habitat and reduce the amount of undisturbed forest floor that wildlife needs to survive in the Fells. These maps will guide conservation work in the reservation.

Citizens scientists have fun. In their spare time, on weekends or after hours, they learn to recognize and record the cycles of nature across the Fells, and share their own knowledge with their team. EwA helps people learn how to enter the woods as guests, with a clear ethic to not disturb nature while taking a very close look. For instance, an egg mass specimen in a vernal pool is photographed underwater, rather than lifting it out from the water column as researchers typically do.   

Earthwise Aware is a non-profit group started in 2018 by Claire O’Neill, a former high tech data whiz and naturalist who saw the loss of biodiversity as the greatest planetary threat. Starting locally, she has focused on developing a growing band of volunteer citizen scientists and interns who collaborate on research and reporting. In 2019, Claire joined the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Fells. 

To learn more about becoming a volunteer citizen scientist, click here. To join naturalists on their monthly public walks in the Fells, click here. You may be astonished at what you learn to see.  

A recent analysis of management actions over the past decade by Friends of the Fells indicates that while recreational amenities have been advanced, unfortunately the natural resources of the Fells have been largely neglected. A Briefing Book issued by the Friends in late 2020 outlines the Friends’ initiative to focus on conservation in the Fells in light of its obvious attraction as a wonderful destination for tens of thousands of visitors.
Photos provided by Claire O’Neil, EwA President

Our YouTube channel continues to be a source for engaging educational content related to the natural history of the Fells.

Over the past months, more members of our community have offered to share their expertise with us to create informative and entertaining videos for you!

Here are the newest updates to our growing video collection:

This month, we are pleased to present the “Rocking in the Middlesex Fells” series, featuring geologist and professor Jack Ridge of the Earth and Ocean Sciences Department at Tufts University.

 

To learn more about Prof. Ridge’s work, you can view details of his recent project “The Geology of the Middlesex Fells” at his websiteor read our recent blog post profiling this project here.

Many additional videos are available now on our channel, with more in the queue! To see all our videos, or to subscribe to our channel, click on the YouTube icon below.YouTube Channel Link

Special thanks to Board President Jeff Buxbaum for his continued curation of the YouTube page.

If you have an idea for 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!