In May, the Friends of the Fells (FOF) said farewell to an outstanding leader as Jeff Buxbaum stepped down from his role as chair of the Board of Directors following his move to Vermont last year.
At a gathering held on May 2 at one of his favorite haunts in Medford (Snappy Pattys), Jeff was presented with a stunning framed photo by Mike Ryan of the “Great Island” in Spot Pond in thanks for his years of successful leadership. “Visionary, thoughtful, consistent, and informed” were some of the words used to describe his time on the Board. Sandy Pascal of Melrose has stepped up as chair to follow Jeff.
“Jeff has been an exceptional leader – fully engaged in our work, committed to growth and progress, and generous in sharing his many talents,” said Chris Redfern, Friends of the Fells’s executive director.
A transportation planner by vocation, Jeff and his wife Susan Fairchild moved to Medford in 2009. “We didn’t quite know that the Fells was here,” Jeff recounts in his three-minute video for the “My Middlesex Fells” series on the Friends’ YouTube channel. But he soon began walking in the Lawrence Woods section near his home, while observing over time that “everyone has their own special way of interacting with the Fells.”
Jeff first volunteered as a Trail Adopter, eventually leading the program that trains and encourages stewardship of trails in the Fells. In 2017 after retiring from full-time work he increased his commitment by becoming Board chair. Since then, with a naturally calm demeanor and ready smile that belie a determined mind, Jeff has guided the Friends through significant growth.
During Jeff’s tenure a new executive director was recruited and the budget grew to sustain a number of key full-time staff positions. We undertook a successful campaign against a new hockey rink sports complex inside the Fells, and more recently we partnered with Earthwise Aware to develop a strong participatory science program in the Fells. New Board members also joined us through an open process that Jeff shepherded.
During every Covid-19 summer while Jeff was chair, the Forest Camp was kept safely open for hundreds of children. And encouraged by Jeff, our executive director is now a leader statewide among park groups to advocate for better policies, and meets regularly with elected officials to press for what the Fells needs. None of this would have been achieved without the strategic planning process which Jeff led the Board to undertake, a plan that is now guiding the daily work of our staff and volunteers. We can all agree that hiking is a lot more fun than reviewing plans, but to protect the Fells, Jeff has done both.
We are grateful for his years on the Board and hope that we’ll see him visiting from the woodlands of Vermont. “You can get lost in the Fells,” says Jeff. “I think that’s what I love most about it.”