The Year in Review
Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation

Ten years ago, on January 12, 2002, Fresh Pond Ranger Jean Rogers and I organized the first Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation event, a winter tree identification program. We showed participants how to use the Winter Tree Finder by May Theilgaard Watts and Tom Watts, then helped them identify trees near Black's Nook. Jean and I spent weeks studying the Finder guide and designing a publicity flier and work sheets. The twelve people who attended (all friends of ours) were so enthusiastic that we offered the program again on February 9. This time 38 strangers showed up, and we knew we had found our niche.

Every January since that first event, the Friends group has offered one or more winter tree identification programs. We have also organized more than 600 other programs over the years, including120 plant identification programs and 140 bird walks. We have grown to 275 members and evolved into an organization that attracts many program leaders both volunteer and professional. In 2007 we formed a volunteer Planning Committee that now does the tasks of running the group. We are committed to sharing our love and knowledge of the natural environment: all of our programs are free and open to the public. A number of our members are also committed to helping keep Fresh Pond Reservation beautiful. They volunteer as Reservation Stewards, removing invasive weeds and cultivating native plant species.

Fresh Pond Reservation offers an excellent setting for learning about the natural world: it is easy to get to, safe, and well managed; it offers diverse habitats with plenty of wildlife such as birds and insects; it has two convenient venues, the Maynard Ecology Center at Neville Place and the Walter J. Sullivan Water Purification Facility. The Friends group is fortunate to have access to both of these facilities and to work with staff from the Cambridge Public Schools, the Cambridge Water Department, and Neville Place.

We continue to look for new ways of experiencing and learning about the natural world. For example, this year we offered these new programs: "Animal Tracking" with David Brown, "The Great Swamp" with Sheila Cook, "An Evening of Poetry about Birds" with our member Linda Bamber, "Tales of Outdoor Adventure and Misadventure" with storyteller Bruce Marcus, "Make a Home for Native Bees" with Gaynor Bigelbach, "Preserving Native Plant Knowledge" with Arthur Haines, "Celebrate the Summer (and Winter) Solstice (s)" with our member Boot Boutwell, "A History of Fresh Pond" with Charles Sullivan, "Introduction to Lichens" with Elizabeth Kneiper, "Spiders" with Charley Eiseman and Noah Charney, "The Moon, Fact, Fiction and Lore" with Joshua Roth, and a visit to the Charlestown Recycling Facility.

Other members led a variety of programs: Planning Committee members focused on plants on the reservation; Nancy Guppy capably led 12 bird walks; and Barbara Strell led four Fresh Pond Reading Group gatherings, bringing the total number of books and meetings to twenty over the past five years. Our favorite naturalists Larry Millman, Tom Murray, and Squizzle Plekavich helped us learn about fungi, insects, and pond plankton respectively. This year Squizzle was honored with the Fresh Pond Stewardship Award for his monthly surveys identifying algae and zooplankton from Black's Nook and Little Fresh Pond. His monthly plankton surveys are on our website.

In August the Friends group helped Grow Native Massachusetts to sponsor their "Evening with Experts " program with fern expert Don Lubin. Our publicity has also helped people learn about programs offered by the Water Department, including Monday evening walks with Watershed Manager Chip Norton, Monday evening tours of the Water Purification Facility, plant identification programs with staff from New England Wildflower Society and a variety of activities led by Deb Albenberg, Watershed Management Assistant and Stewardship Coordinator. Deb's programs this
year included tree inventories, efforts to control invasive purple loosestrife and black swallowwort, and weekly walks for parents with young children. In addition, she led volunteer Fresh Pond Stewards on numerous forays for removing invasive weeds from the reservation's woods and meadows. You can read her end-of-year 2011 Fresh Pond Reservation Stewardship Report.

Stewardship is an important component of the Friends group's mission. Our members created and now manage, the Woodland Restoration Project, a patch of woods located about 1/3 mile north of the Water Department. Before 2007 it was a tangle of vines dominated by invasive weeds. Under the loving care of three Friends group members, it is now a lush woodland, filled with Middlesex County native plant species. See the 2011 Woodland Restoration Project Report. Visitors are invited to walk its paths, and sit for a spell on its wooden bench. The nesting box program we started in 2004 currently consists of 25 boxes designed for 4 different species of birds. (tree swallows, chickadees, screech owls, and wood ducks) These boxes provide nesting sites for cavity-nesters that otherwise might not be able to raise their young on the reservation. Friends group volunteers and water department staff put the boxes up every spring, monitor them, take them down in the fall for cleaning, and keep a record of nesting success rate. See 2011 Nesting Box Report.

In recent years, Fresh Pond Reservation has become a popular destination for people who want to spend time outside in a natural setting. Friends group programs offer these visitors an opportunity to connect on a deeper level with the social history, the geology, the flora and fauna, and the complex ecology of the reservation. We believe that hands-on educational experiences will help Fresh Pond users to appreciate and become better stewards of the site. As the new year dawns, we look forward to further opportunities to share what we know, and to learn more ourselves, about this unique and fragile urban treasure.

Elizabeth Wylde for the FFPR Planning Committee
December 30, 2011

Members of the Planning Committee
: Susan Agger, Deb Albenberg, Suzanna Black, Susan Coolidge, Janet Kovner, Rebecca Ramsay, Susie Robillard (recently moved to Oregosn), Betsy Meyer, Barbara Strell, and Elizabeth Wylde (coordinator)

Fresh Pond Reading Group Moderator: Barbara Strell (See Reading Group Report)

Woodland Restoration Project Leaders: Suzanna Black, Betsy Meyer, Elizabeth Wylde

Photographers: Carol Collura, Jana Dublin, Miren Etchverry, Richard Gardner, Elizabeth Wylde

Program Leaders:
Professional Leaders: Gaynor Bigelbach, Boot Boutwell, David Brown, Noah Charney, Sheila Cook, Charley Eiseman, Ted Elliman, Arthur Haines, Elizabeth Kneiper, Jess Korecki, Don Lubin, Randi Mail, Bruce Marcus, Larry Millman, Tom Murray, Joshua Roth, Charles Sullivan

Volunteer Leaders: Linda Bamber, Suzanna Black, Susan Coolidge, Lance Drane, Nancy Guppy, Ileana Jones, Chris McKay, Betsy Meyer, Herb Pearce, Rebecca Ramsay, Susie Robillard, Barbara Strell, Elizabeth Wylde

Cambridge Water Department Staff: Deb Albenberg, Ed Dowling, Dave Kaplan, Tim MacDonald, Krystyna McNally, Chip Norton, Jean Rogers

Folks who helped in other ways: Sue Bowdridge (Neville Place Activities Director), Vince Falcione (CWD), Brian Mulrenan (CWD)