August Volunteer Spotlight

Learn more about one of our wonderful volunteers, Dan Bender, below!

Originally from Newton, MA, Dan has lived in Medford for 10 years. After working in the tech start up space for some time, he eventually found his way to professional scuba diving. Dan discovered his love for diving in the Caribbean where he became invested in reef conservation efforts. He now co-owns a dive boat in Gloucester and has been teaching others to dive for about six years.

After participating in reef conservation work in the Caribbean when he was able to, Dan decided he wanted to work on conservation projects closer to home, which is where his interest in the Trail Adopter program began. He stumbled upon the Trail Adopter program and Friends of the Fells through an online event posting during the early days of the pandemic. Dan dove into the volunteer activities straight away.

Dan’s passion is in the conservation of biodiversity and his focus is on invasive species management and education. Dan wants to educate the public about invasive plant species and help spread awareness about their impact on the ecosystems and native plants of the Fells.

In addition to volunteering with Friends of the Fells, Dan also spends time volunteering with Earthwise Aware (EwA). He uses his knowledge of invasive species and works with EwA with their invasive plant monitoring project, as well as participates in their rogue trail mapping project. Dan discovered EwA when a friend expressed interest in documenting vernal pool activity utilizing tools and skills from their experience with underwater photography. EwA has extensive ongoing initiatives to certify vernal pools and document the diverse organisms that they hold.

Dan discovered the Fells because of its mountain biking trails and he fell in love with the Fells for its walking trails. He moved close enough to spend every day in the Lawrence Woods walking his dog, Coco. Dan and Coco spend their time out in the Fells hiking, documenting, and exploring.

Some of Dan’s favorite spots in the Fells are the damp, verdant, and sun-dappled environments that are jeweled with a diversity of native ferns and carpeted with mosses. One of Dan’s favorite memories from walking with Coco is when she was investigating an old log on the side of the trail and a flying squirrel jumped out. “I knew they existed, but I had never encountered one in the wild, so that was really special that we have flying squirrels and they live right here in the Fells,” Dan said.

“Start somewhere,” is Dan’s advice to anyone interested in volunteering. “[Make] a decision about where you want to start and dive in. There are so many cool opportunities, it can seem overwhelming. Pick a trailhead that looks promising and meander along the paths until you find an initiative that you love. Like the Fells, everything is connected in one way or another so go out and participate.”

If you are interested in learning more about our volunteer opportunities, read about our volunteer program here or check out our calendar here.


Welcome to our Volunteer Spotlight series! Each month, we spotlight our fantastic volunteers so you can learn more about the great work our community does for the Fells.

Learn more about one of our wonderful volunteer groups, the Medford Boy Scout Troop 416, below!

Guided by Troop Leader Julie Lambert and Scout Master Jim Austin, the Medford Boy Scout Troop 416 participates in a variety of projects and volunteer activities for the community. The 30 members of the troop range from the sixth through twelfth grade and represent multiple levels of Scout rankings.

This year, Troop 416 has volunteered at food pantries, participated in a cardboard canoe race, and volunteered on multiple occasions with Friends of the Fells (FOF). Troop members also attend monthly camping trips and help fellow Scouts complete their Eagle projects.

Jack Germain, Lucas Pabst, Noby Ashihara, and Declan Flaherty are four dedicated Scouts who have volunteered with Friends of the Fells this year to remove invasive species from the park. Learn more about them below!

Jack Germain

Jack Germain is a first year Boy Scout in the sixth grade, and he holds the Scout ranking. One of Jack’s favorite parts of being a Scout is their monthly camping trips. He enjoys “[interacting] with everyone more than [he does] in a normal meeting.”

Lucas Pabst

Lucas Pabst is in the seventh grade and is a second year Scout with the Tenderfoot ranking. The camping trips have been his favorite activity of this year. “I enjoy being outdoors… and being active,” Lucas says.

Noby Ashihara

A fourth year Scout, Noby Ashihara holds a Star ranking and is a freshman in high school. In addition to the camping trips, Noby enjoys the sense of community that the group fosters. “[Scouts] has let me meet a lot of people and whenever I go to Scouts I feel like it’s sort of my second home,” Noby says.

Declan Flaherty

Declan Flaherty has been a Boy Scout for eight years and a part of Troop 416 for six years. He is a rising junior who currently holds a Star ranking and is working towards achieving the Life ranking. Declan’s favorite activity is also the camping trips and getting to be in nature.

Some members of the troop achieved the hiking merit badge which requires Scouts to complete a series of hikes, ranging from five to 20 miles. They were able to complete some of these hikes in the Fells.

If you are interested in volunteering, Troop 416 has some advice for you. Jack and Lucas recommend going to all volunteer events prepared and making sure you have everything you need, including water or work gloves. Noby advocates for speaking up and making your ideas heard. He says this is an important part of being a leader and making sure you don’t miss out on any volunteer opportunities. Declan recommends that anyone interested in volunteering take as many opportunities that are presented to them. Declan says that volunteering “helps you connect with others that, in the future, you may need or want to connect back with.”

Thank you so much to the Medford Boy Scout Troop 416 for all the amazing work that you do to help protect the Fells!

If you are interested in learning more about our volunteer opportunities, read about our volunteer program here or check out our calendar here.

Welcome to our Volunteer Spotlight series! Each month, we spotlight one of our fantastic volunteers so you can learn more about the great work our community does for the Fells.

Learn more about one of our wonderful volunteers, Linda, below!

Name: Linda Williams

Town: Malden, MA

Linda has been a volunteer with Friends of the Fells for a year and a half. She is an active Trail Adopter and began her FOF volunteer journey by participating in invasive species removal events. Linda is also an active volunteer with our partner organization Earthwise Aware (EwA). She leads EwA phenology monitoring at the Bellevue Pond site as a citizen scientist and collects usage and bio-pollution data in the Fells.

The data collected through EwA’s projects helps inform and support advocacy efforts that work to preserve the Fells. Linda says she enjoys collecting data and phenology monitoring because it allows her to slow down and look at the Fells through a naturalist and phenology lens versus a user lens. This volunteer work gives her the opportunity to recognize and appreciate the ecology and fragility of the Fells to better understand the work that can be done to protect it.

Born and raised in the west end of Malden, Linda has been exploring the Fells most of her life. Before retiring, she worked in financial services and has a background in marketing communications. After leaving the financial services field, Linda decided to look for local organizations and volunteer opportunities that support causes she is passionate about.

One of Linda’s favorite memories in the Fells was when she first introduced her grandson to the park. The first time she brought him to hike in the woods she could see the calming influence that being immersed in the woods had on him. Today they enjoy sitting by the water and listening for birds together. Multiple generations of her family have been able to enjoy the park. Linda’s father took her and her brother to the Fells when she was a child, she was able to bring her kids, and now she takes her grandson to the Fells. The Fells is an important part of her family, and it is a resource she is passionate about protecting.

When asked for her advice on how to get involved, Linda shared, “Start going to programs that are of interest to you. This will help you see where you want to get involved and what activities will be the best fit for you!”

You can visit our volunteering page and learn more about getting involved or reach out to Maddie Morgan at

We’re excited to re-launch our Volunteer Spotlight series! We could not do what we do without the incredible work of our devoted volunteers.

Learn more about one of our wonderful volunteers, Al, below!

Name: Al Coons

Town: Winchester, MA

Originally from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Al Coons has spent most of his life in New England, specifically Massachusetts. He spent 43 years as a high school math and statistics teacher and coach of seven sports, many involving outdoor education. Al knew he wanted to be a teacher since high school. He found his passion in experiential education, which involves classroom and outdoor learning by engaging students through hands-on experiences rather than lectures.

Al enjoys sea kayaking, mountain climbing, hiking, and camping whenever and wherever he can, but he especially enjoys being in the Fells, which is only a few doors down from where he resides in Winchester.

Since January 2023, Al has been volunteering with Friends of the Fells as an active Trail Adopter. Before discovering the Trail Adopter program, Al would pick up trash and work to keep trails clean and clear whenever he was out in the Fells or at Horn Pond in Woburn, another area that he visits frequently. When he found the Trail Adopter program, he signed up to help give back to the Fells in a more structured and communal way.

In addition to giving back to the Fells, Al enjoys exploring new areas of the park through his work as a Trail Adopter. He has found a new favorite spot on the eastern Fells, which is by the MWRA reservoir. His current favorite memory of the Fells is when he and a deer met face-to-face on the Rock Circuit trail and found a compromise so she could continue snacking nearby.

Al likes to say that at times the Fells is “just like New England!” In other words, even an urban reservation just miles from Boston can feel like a secluded area of New Hampshire or Vermont.

If you are interested in volunteering, Al recommends finding what you are excited about and taking advantage of all the opportunities and events that are available.

You can visit our website and learn more about getting involved or reach out to Maddie Morgan at

Photo by Jess Garton

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.

To learn more, read our full comments here.

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!