At the end of our seventh year, members of Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation can look back on an impressive list of accomplishments in 2008. In addition to our established activities, we have expanded our scope with a variety of new programs for the public, field trips for members, and planting projects on the Reservation.
The Cambridge Water Department has been exceedingly generous in supporting our efforts. They recognize our mutual commitment to the well-being of the Reservation, and they provide us with resources that we could not otherwise afford. We in turn work with them to improve the condition of the Reservation's natural areas, educate people, and encourage community stewardship.
There are several spots in the woods near the Pond where you can look around and see no signs of human activity. With some imagination (if you ignore the noise of traffic) you might feel as if you are in a wilderness. But in fact, there is nothing left of the original wilderness that once surrounded Fresh Pond. The land and the shoreline have been modified repeatedly since the beginning of the Pond's industrial period in the1800's. After the Pond became a reservoir at the end of the 19th century, earlier efforts to create park-like conditions on the adjacent land were abandoned, and nature was allowed to take its course. Left on their own for many years, the woods, fields and shoreline became overrun with invasive non-native plant species that began crowding out native plants and degrading animal habitat.
The publication of the Fresh Pond Master Plan in 1998 alerted officials and the public to the deteriorating condition of the Reservation's natural areas. The initiation of the Northeast Sector Project in 2006, as envisioned in the Master Plan, was the beginning of what will be a long-term effort to restore to some degree the natural habitats that were lost so long ago. Two beautiful meadows and woods carpeted with native wildflowers, ferns and shrubs are the welcomed products of that initial undertaking. The areas that were and will be restored, however, cannot be self-sustaining: They will stay healthy only if we commit to an ongoing maintenance program for removing invasive plants. In Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince, the fox points out, "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." As a result of several centuries of heavy use, the land that is now Fresh Pond Reservation has been tamed. Now, at last, we are taking responsibility; and we must be vigilant on its behalf forever.
A hardy crew of Friends group members and other concerned citizens has taken that challenge to heart. Throughout the summer and fall of 2007 and 2008, as volunteer "Fresh Pond Reservation Stewards" we weeded and planted, focusing mainly on the woods adjacent to Beech Path, an area near the Bike Path that we call Suzanna's Corner, and the Kingsley Bioswale (a vegetated drainage system designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water). By limiting our range, we were able to see real progress in invasives removal and native plant restoration. In the woods where black swallowwort blankets the understory, several areas have been cleared. Suzanna's corner now has more than 50 species of native shrubs, ferns and wildflowers where before there was only mugwort, buckthorns, garlic mustard, and other weeds. For those who wish to visit the area, it also has a circular path bordered by logs and several log benches. In the Kingsley Bioswale the rampant proliferation of burdock and mugwort has been addressed. Emily Tansey, who assumed the role of Stewardship Coordinator for the Water Department in July of 2008, quickly caught the weeding bug and offered regular weeding sessions for volunteers right up to the end of October. We look forward to working with her again in the spring.
Emily's predecessor Hannah Wilbur also took weeding to heart, and helped organize a "Garlic Mustard Weedout" on May 10 as part of the city's first Fresh Pond Day celebration. Several dozen people jumped at the opportunity to tackle and remove an enormous number of these devastating weeds. We are planning for an even bigger "Weedout" and for other large-scale weeding events this coming spring.
The Friends also collaborated with the Water Department on a planting project in front of the Water Purification Facility. We asked Vince Falcione, Reservation Site Supervisor, to order about 80 perennial wildflowers of 16 different species from New England Wildflower Society. When the plants arrived, we worked with two of the summer interns to plant them in the island in the middle of the parking lot. We now eagerly await the growing season to see how well our plants survived the winter.
We continued to monitor the growth of purple loosestrife in the Little Fresh Pond wetland this year, although we were not able to add any more Galerucella beetles as we had planned. A lost record at the company where we purchased beetles the previous year doomed our hopes of raising more beetles in 'beetle nurseries' but it did not scuttle the project. We recorded considerable damage from beetles that were probably the progeny of the beetles released in May of 2007. We hope to make more nurseries and add more beetles to the wetland in the spring.
Thanks to the help of the Water Department carpenter, Jose Silva, the Nesting Box Program for tree swallows this year expanded from four boxes to fifteen. At least nine of the boxes successfully produced fledglings. We also moved our four previously uninhabited chickadee boxes to the woods at the edge of the Lusitania Meadow where they attracted two pairs of black-capped chickadees, both of which fledged young.
As involved as we were with stewardship projects, we did not slack off on our interest in learning about the natural and cultural history of the Reservation. This year we offered 76 free programs for the public, with new topics including "Composting with Worms," "Birds of Prey at Fresh Pond," "Native Plants for your Garden," "Kids Take Pix: Nature Photography for Children," "Red-Tailed Hawk! A Live Animal Program," and "Why this Crazy Weather?" Other popular programs included mushroom identification with Larry Millman, star gazing from the top of the covered Cambridge Reservoir in Belmont with Joshua Roth, and monthly bird walks and tours of the water treatment plant.
Led by Watershed manager Chip Norton, we ventured off the Reservation for four evening walks in lovely Cambridge-owned parcels of land in Lexington, Lincoln and Weston. Chip also offered four "Walkabouts" for people interested in learning about the Northeast Sector Restoration Project. His appreciation and knowledge of the Reservation and the rest of the Cambridge watershed have made his walks especially gratifying.
Most Friends group programs are open to the public, but our Fresh Pond Reading Group is a members-only activity. Each of our four meetings in 2008, all capably organized by our member Barbara Strell, began with a sumptuous potluck meal followed by a lively discussion of the current book. In conjunction with two of our book topics, we took members-only field trips: a geology walk in Groton, Mass, and a tour of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University in Cambridge.
This year, in November, Susan Agger, coordinator of the Maynard Ecology Center, and I were honored to be co-recipients of the Fresh Pond Stewardship Award. Both of us care deeply about the Reservation and are committed to helping people learn about and appreciate the natural world. The award ceremony gave us both an opportunity to share our experiences and hopes for the Reservation with members of the community.
Our Planning Committee, which now has eight members, has proven to be a source of thoughtful decisions and many new ideas for activities. We seek additional input from our members at our Annual Meetings in January, and we always are open to suggestions and offers to participate. We invite members to join the Planning Committee, assist with programs, lead or co-lead a program, become a Reservation Steward, send photos from the Reservation for our website, report any unusual birds or other animals you see there, or simply come to our programs and enjoy learning about Fresh Pond and the natural world.
Below is a list of the people who made it all happen in 2008. Our heartfelt thanks to everyone!
and Members of the FFPR Planning Committee
Members of the Planning Committee: Susan Agger, Suzanna Black, Susan Coolidge, Janet Kovner, Rebecca Ramsay, Susie Robillard, Barbara Strell, and Elizabeth Wylde
Fresh Pond Reading Group Coordinator: Barbara Strell
Members and other folks who have led or co-led programs: Susan Agger, Peter Alden, Claude Benoit, Boot Boutwell, Susan Coolidge, Henrietta Davis, Ed Dowling, Lance Drane, Bob Gamlin, Nancy Guppy, Natasha Hawke, Janet Kovner, Chris Leahy, Lore and David Levitt, Tim MacDonald, Randi Mail, Larry Millman, Tom Murray, Ed Myskowski, Chip Norton, Herb Pearce, Bob Pine, Squizzle Plekavich, Rebecca Ramsay, Joshua Roth, Brian Rogan, Jean Rogers, Barbara Strell, Emily Tansey, Jeff and Sam Talarigo, Judy Vollmer, Hannah Wilbur, Elizabeth Wylde
Volunteer weeders: Suzanna Black, Janet Burns, Margaret Cain, Carol Collura, Jodi Dowling, Noa Hall, Susan Kaufman, Joan Krizack, Howard Levaux, Rebecca Ramsay, Margie Richardson, Grenelle Scott, Reed Snyder, Barbara Strell, Emily Tansey, Elizabeth Wylde
Plant Donors, Gardeners and Advisors: Claude Benoit, Bill Brumback, Suzanna Black, Janet Burns, John Burns, Sophronia Camp, Vince Falcione, Ted Elliman, Bob Gamlin, Don Lubin, Rolf Schilling, Thomas Southworth, Gray Wexelblatt, Betty Wright, Elizabeth Wylde
Folks who have helped us in other ways this year: Chip Norton, Cambridge Watershed Manager; Vince Falcione, Reservation Site Supervisor; Hannah Wilbur and Emily Tansey, Watershed Management Assistants; Sue Bowdridge, Neville Place Activities Director; Paul Castellano, Neville Place Head Chef, Joyce Kuzmin of BBN Technologies