Summer Semi-annual Meeting and Potluck Picnic
July 16, 2007

Eleven members attended this year's summer meeting and picnic. After everyone enjoyed a potluck meal eaten outside on the Neville Place patio, Elizabeth Wylde summarized some of the Friends group projects and programs in 2007. Each person was given an opportunity to describe his or her experience of working with the group.

Participants were asked if they had suggestions for future programs. Among the ideas for program topics were astronomy, weather, geology and identifying birds in flight,.


A Half-Year Report from Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation

July 16, 2007

Since its inception in January of 2002, Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation has grown and evolved in sometimes-unexpected ways. We continue this tradition in 2007. This year we formed a Planning Committee, held a Twig Identification Contest, started a Reading Group, launched a project for controlling purple loosestrife, and initiated a volunteer weeding program, in addition to offering our regular educational programs for the public.

We have been successful at fulfilling the education part of our mission to "protect and enhance the natural environment of Fresh Pond Reservation through education and community participation," planning an average of about 50 free programs every year. Attracting members of the community to become involved in a more committed way has been a challenge. Modest numbers of people have participated in spring and fall cleanup days, work days for laying down wood chips on the paths, leaf-raking events, and workshops for building bird nesting boxes, but very few have shown up regularly or offered to help in other ways. Thus I did not have high expectations when in early June I sent an email to everyone on our list asking for volunteers to weed the planted areas of the Reservation that are being overgrown with invasive plants. I was elated to receive 20 responses. In conjunction with Hannah Wilbur at the Cambridge Water Department, I have set up a weeding schedule that varies week-to-week with the goal of accommodating people's availability. Three volunteers have also "adopted" planted areas that are in need of attention. The Water Department has offered to buy a tool shed (probably on wheels), and gardening equipment for us to use and store in it. Anyone-member or nonmember, Cambridge resident or not-who cares about the Reservation and likes pulling weeds is invited to participate in this program. See Elizabeth or email .

As the scope of the Friends group's activities has expanded, I have increasingly found it a challenge to keep up with my job as coordinator. At the semi-annual meeting in January 2007 I asked for volunteers to form a planning committee to help me with decision-making, organizing, and paper work. Seven people offered to participate. I then requested that committee members learn the various clerical jobs that I do (database, treasury, publicity, mailings) as a backup in case I became unavailable for some reason. To my delight, all members were willing to immediately take on these tasks, and now everyone is mastering their jobs. The Planning Committee has met once a month since March, and has contributed significantly toward making the Friends group a bona fide organization. All FFPR members are invited to come to and participate in these meetings. The next meeting will be on Wednesday, July 25 from 3:30 to 5 pm.

The idea of forming a Reading Group came from the Planning Committee. On April 4 we had our first potluck supper and discussion of Reading the Landscape of America by May Thielgaard Watts. For our second meeting on June 5 we read E.O. Wilson's The Future of Life, and we will read The Wilderness World of John Muir edited by Edwin Way Teale for our October 2 meeting. These gatherings have been both enjoyable and inspiring. Please join us!

In January Ranger Jean and I set up a Twig Identification Contest for which we offered a "Winter Tree Finder" guide to anyone who could identify 7 of the 32 real twigs on a chart in the Ranger Station. Five people won a guide, and one person who identified all 32 species also won a free year's membership in the Friends group. Many people who came into the Ranger Station enjoyed looking at the twigs and many took home photocopies of the twig chart and "answer sheet" with the tree names included.

This spring we updated and added details to our ever-popular Fresh Pond Reservation map. We continue to give out hundreds of copies every month. We also created a poster and flyer of butterflies one might see at Fresh Pond Reservation, using beautiful photos donated by member Tom Murray. We offer the butterfly posters to our volunteers as a way of saying thank you, and the flyers are available to the public at the Ranger Station.

The Purple Loosestrife Biocontrol Project (PLBP) that the Cambridge Water Department and the Friends group initiated last fall is right on track. The project has two major components: the monitoring of loosestrife growth before and after release of purchased "Galerucella" beetles in the Little Fresh Pond wetland, and a pilot project to learn how to raise our own beetles. In April we offered a program during which loosestrife plants were potted in preparation for using them as beetle nurseries. When the beetles arrived at the end of May (5600 of them) we released 5400 of them in the wetland, and distributed the rest among the10 potted loosestrife plants that we had grown under protective netting to keep out other critters (like spiders) and keep in the beetles. We now await the emergence of the next generation of beetles so that we can release them on loosestrife plants in other areas of the Reservation. The loosestrife plants in the wetland currently show a significant reduction in flowering (as compared to last year) due to tip damage caused by the beetles we purchased.

In June we offered three Biodiversity Days programs, including a Biodiversity Walk with naturalist Peter Alden, founder of Biodiversity Days and author of numerous field guides that depict the flora and fauna of New England. Peter led an enthusiastic group of about 30 people around the Pond, identifying more than one hundred species of plants and animals as he went.

This year six of our nesting boxes have apparently housed broods of tree swallows. When we took the boxes down at the end of the nesting season in early July, we found ample evidence that young birds had been raised in them. In May we noticed that house sparrows were taking over one box located on the far side of Little Fresh Pond, so we moved it to the planting bed in front of the Water Department building. This produced a double success: Tree swallows moved in immediately and raised a family, and pond-walkers and Water Department employees whose windows faced the Pond enjoyed looking at the birds as they came and went.

New program topics this year included climate change, glaciers, pond weeds, and ferns. One member, Ileana Jones, gave a power point presentation called "The Reality of Climate Change," using slides from a workshop she attended that was led by Al Gore. To learn about the effects of the glacier, we walked around the Pond discussing how it and its surroundings were formed, and then at the Maynard Ecology Center we observed demonstrations of the way melting ice affects its surroundings. Michelle Robinson from the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation led a program during which we learned to use a guide to identify aquatic plants, including some from Black's Nook. Finally, Don Lubin talked with us about the identifying characteristics of ferns, then led a walk during which he introduced us to a dozen fern species and one horsetail that are growing on the Reservation.

This meeting/picnic is our 38th program in 2007. We currently have about 140 memberships, including 40 family memberships. On July 12 our bank account totaled $3492.01.

Participants in 2007

Members of the Planning Committee: Susan Agger, Suzanna Black, Susan Coolidge, Anne Guenzel, Janet Kovner, Barbara Strell, Rebecca Ramsay, and Elizabeth Wylde

Members and other folks who have led or co-led programs this year: Susan Agger, Peter Alden, Susan Coolidge, Lance Drane, Nancy Guppy, Janet Kovner, Ileana Jones, Don Lubin, Tim MacDonald, Larry Millman, Tom Murray, Herb Pearce, Mike Prague, Michelle Robinson, Jean Rogers, Barbara Strell, Hannah Wilbur, Elizabeth Wylde

Purple Loosestrife Project volunteers and CWD participants: Tracy Andersen, Susan Agger, Margaret Cain, Joanna Herlihy, Janet Kovner, Jan McCarter, Squizzle Plekavich, Kathy Reine, Barbara Strell, Karin Tate, Jake Stout, Jennifer Ulrich, Pete Varga, Jacob Walker, Hannah Wilbur, Elizabeth Wylde

Volunteer weeders: Suzanna Black, Janet Burns, Margaret Cain, Kevin Covey, Noa Hall, Susan Kaufman, Joan Krizack, Cynthia Purvis, Rebecca Ramsay, Margie Richardson, Grenelle Scott, Sarah Spotts, Elizabeth Wylde

Other folks who have helped us this year: Sue Bowdridge, Neville Place Activities Director; Paul Castellano, Neville Place Head Chef; Vince Falcione, Reservation Site Supervisor; Charlie McNeely, Fresh Pond Ranger; Chip Norton, Cambridge Watershed Manager.

If I have left off anyone's name, I apologize: Please let me know if you know of someone I forgot. Many other people have contributed in numerous ways; by coming to programs, sharing information, reporting observations, offering encouragement, and simply being interested. Many thanks to all of you.

Elizabeth Wylde
Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation Coordinator