A Reminder from the MWRA: Don’t Swim in the Fells!

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, Ria.Convery@mwra.com

On Saturday September 21st, volunteers from across the area braved the balmy end-of-summer weather to participate in the 2019 COASTSWEEP shoreline cleanup event in the Fells, joining like-minded individuals across the globe for the annual International Coastal Cleanup day of service.

Participants of all ages spent the morning gathering trash along the shores of Quarter Mile Pond and Spot Pond in Medford and Stoneham.  Trash was gathered and sorted by the bagful, and the data carefully recorded on what exactly was collected from the Fells.  This data will be collated and analyzed by the Ocean Conservancy in Washington D.C. along with other cleanup reports from across the globe, and will help in creating effective environmental education and policy initiatives in the future.

In just one morning, volunteers were able to collect 22 bags of trash, weighing in at nearly 150 lbs! Hundreds of bottles, food wrappers, cigarette butts, and plastic pieces were the bulk of the collected garbage, but many yards of fishing line, styrofoam bait containers, filled dog waste bags, and discarded clothing were also common finds.  One piece of unique local litter to be found were lost hockey pucks (although not surprising considering the location of the cleanup!).

Volunteer service projects such as COASTSWEEP are crucial to the health of our wild spaces, and this is especially true of the water ecosystems that exist in close proximity to dense urban areas and roadways, where garbage collects extremely quickly.  But beyond the immediate impacts, public events such as this also demonstrate the communal benefits that can grow ‘organically’ out of conservation work:  a number of COASTSWEEP participants this year were just walkers and hikers that happened to be passing by, had not heard about the cleanup project, but were motivated to pitch in just by seeing the work that the other volunteers were doing!

Below is a gallery of the great work accomplished at COASTSWEEP ’19!

Thank you to all the volunteers that participated in this year’s COASTSWEEP!  Your efforts helped make this another successful cleanup event!


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:


Volunteer with the Friends of the Fells

Or contact Jesse at Jesse.Macdonald@fells.org.


COASTSWEEP is sponsored by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM), and is part of Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup, where volunteers worldwide collect marine debris and record data to help identify its sources and develop education and policy initiatives to reduce it…

COASTSWEEP is more than a beach cleanup. As part of COASTSWEEP, volunteers help address future problems by filling out data cards to show what they’ve collected. These cards are sent to Ocean Conservancy in Washington, DC, where the information is entered into a massive database. The data are then used to analyze the local and international trends in marine debris and identify its sources to help reduce the problem in the future.

For more information:


Middlesex Fells StoryWalk®

Saturday, July 20 – Sunday August 18

“Magnificent Monarchs” by Linda Glaser is our next StoryWalk®. What a great way to combine literature, exercise, and family fun! This title contains colorful illustrations that keep step with the, simple, sometimes rhyming text. Learn about these fascinating beauties and their complex lives!

The StoryWalk® is a collaboration of the Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation, MA Department of Conservation and Recreation, Mass in Motion, Medford Family Network and the North Suburban Child and Family Resource Network.

The self-guided, sunrise-to-sunset walking tour begins at the DCR Botume House Visitor Center at 4 Woodland Rd. in Stoneham and continues along the Spot Pond shoreline path.

Foster your child’s connection with nature as well as their literacy skills by participating in our StoryWalk® in the Fells!

The StoryWalk™ Project was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, VT and developed in collaboration with the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition and the Kellogg Hubbard Library.


Many of you probably recognize the view in the photo above.  That is, of course, the view of the Boston skyline as seen from the cliffs near Wright’s Tower.  It was taken just the other day on a beautiful evening with a spectacular sunset.  Still, I walked away a little disappointed.  Without being able to actually climb Wright’s Tower, I felt like I was in the best spot to actually enjoy the setting sun.  Though I could capture the beautiful evening light on the city, I missed the real action off to the west.

There are so many great views in the Fells, and plenty of places to watch the sunrise or sunset.  Spot Pond is one of my favorites.  No matter where the sun is rising or setting, you can always position yourself somewhere around Spot Pond to get the best view.  Plus, the reflections in the water just add to the spectacular nature of a colorful sunset.  Here’s a photo of the sun setting behind Spot Pond.

Spot Pond Sunset

Sometimes it’s not about being in a place that has an amazing view.  Especially for a sunrise, just being any place in the Fells is a great experience.  Most of us get to experience some aspect of the sunset every day, but sunrise is special moment that takes some effort to enjoy.  It’s easy to enjoy that unique morning light, no matter where you find yourself.  Here’s shot from a sunrise hike around the Fells Reservoir a while back.

Purple Flowers, Purple SkyI know that many of you get to spend a lot more time out on the trails than I do, and I’m sure you’ve found some great spots that you find yourself going back to again and again to catch a sunrise or sunset.  I hope you’ll consider sharing those spots in the comments below, so others can find them and enjoy them as much as you have.

What are your favorite sunrise/sunset spots in the Fells?

Write a comment below to share!