The Fells: Advocating for Our Backyard State Park

By Ellen Curren

Ellen Curren, from Winchester, is Outreach Director at Women Working for Oceans (W2O).  Read on for her guest blog inspired by her experiences at Parks and Water Lobby Day on November 2:

The Fells are magical, deceiving us for a few moments into thinking that we must be somewhere else, somewhere rural and unpopulated. The Middlesex Fells Reservation, “The Fells” to most of us, covers 2,200 acres across Winchester, Malden, Medford, Melrose and Stoneham. Most of us take this fabulous resource for granted. The Fells will always be in our backyard, easily accessible and ready for us to enjoy. Residents of each of the towns bordering the park will brag and tell you that it is “their” Fells. Not everyone realizes that this haven for hundreds of botanical species and wildlife, a stone’s throw from Boston, with 100 miles of trails for walking, hiking, birding and relaxing with family and friends, is a Massachusetts State Park. 

Like all State Parks in Massachusetts, the Fells is managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and according to the Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM), funding has been slashed for the agency’s full time park employees by 30% in the last seven years. Recently, ELM and other organizations, including Friends of the Fells, lobbied at the State House for Parks and Water Day to celebrate our parks, natural resources and send a message to our legislators that funding for these precious places makes good economic sense for the Commonwealth. Employees of parks across the State are often granted a furlough and are required to re-apply for their jobs each season because of these budget cuts, making it difficult to retain employees. In its recommendation for increased funding, ELM states that “State parks are often the most easily accessible place for people of all income levels to access the natural treasures and beauty of Massachusetts. DCR’s work supports $16.2 billion in annual recreation spending and contributes to the quality of life, public health and the economy.”

Diana (r) with Representative Sean Garballey

Numerous studies have shown that being in nature decreases stress, depression, and is good for your overall health. The Fells provides an outdoor workout benefitting our mind and body. Nature is our preventative medicine. Diana Lomakin, a resident of Arlington, is a member of Friends of the Fells and volunteers for the Fells “Babes in the Woods” program. She took time out from work last month for Parks and Water Lobby Day to show support for increasing funding for our State Parks. “Babes in the Woods” is just one of the educational programs jointly run by Friends of the Fells and DCR. “I participate because nature brings joy to new parents and their children. We are so lucky to live so close the the Fells,”  says Diana. “I’ve noticed the cuts in funding are affecting the programs that already exist and the amount of time the staff can spend on them. I would like to see an increase in the park services for elderly and disabled participants, and a broader population of children.”  One of her favorite trails is Rock Circuit Trail. “I hike this with my husband,” notes Diana. “On a clear day, it has spectacular views of Boston and Nahant. “ Dr. Randi Rotjan, a coral reef biologist who travels the world studying fragile underwater ecosystems, also wants to protect what is right here in her Medford backyard. “I joined the board of Friends of the Fells because the Fells is the lungs and kidneys of the Mystic River Watershed and the rivers, ponds and hundreds of species of plant life filter nutrients and protect our watershed from toxic runoff,” says Rotjan. “Protecting what is upstream, what flows into our waterways down to the harbor, is also protecting our oceans.”

Caring for the Middlesex Fells Reservation is important to our community, your well being, and the planet.  Contact your legislator and let them know you want increased fundings for Massachusetts state parks, and for the Green Budget as a whole.  You can also help by joining and volunteering for the Friends of the Fells. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us or the Environmental League of Massachusetts. 

Feature Photo: Ann and other constituents with Representative Michael Day