Year in Review
In 2012, Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation continued to seek creative ways to fulfill our mission of providing public education and stewardship opportunities for the benefit of Fresh Pond Reservation. We presented several new programs, such as a virtual Fresh Pond walkabout, online birding, bats, and urban ecology. As we have since 2005, we offered programs led by professionals, including this year's "Animal Tracks" with David Brown, "Lichens are Everywhere" with Elizabeth Kneiper, "Drawing from Nature" with Janet Hobbs, "A Summer Solstice Celebration" with Boot Boutwell, and "Fascinating Fungi" with Larry Millman. We maintained our recent collaboration with Grow Native Massachusetts, co-sponsoring a lecture by Seth Wilkinson titled "Invasive Plants, Just Too Overwhelming?" that was held at the Cambridge Public Library. We also took a members-only field trip to the Deer Island Treatment Plant, and we had five members' reading group meetings. Although we have changed considerably since our start in 2002, at least a quarter of our programs are very similar to the ones we offered that first year - tree, wildflower, and weed identification programs; as well as monthly bird walks. We repeat these programs annually because they continue to provide newcomers and people who wish to sharpen their skills with the basic knowledge they need for an understanding of the natural and social history of the Reservation.
change in our educational programs in recent years is a result of our
developing partnership with the Cambridge Water Department. In 2012
almost half of our programs were led by Water Department staff, including
Watershed Manager Chip Norton, Manager of Water Operations Tim MacDonald,
Fresh Pond Chief Ranger Jean Rogers, and Watershed Manager's Assistant
Deb Albenberg. We also publicized five plant identification walks, led
by New England Wild Flower Society botanists, that the Water Department
Hands-on stewardship is a key component of the Friends group's mission. Our evolution as stewards of the land has been even more dramatic than our development as an educational organization. This progress is also very much a result of our relationship with the Water Department.
During our first year in 2002, our stewardship consisted of picking up trash on the Reservation and planting a garden on the Neville Place patio. The next year we helped build woodland trails, we raked leaves, and we mulched footpaths. In 2004 we built the first four of our tree swallow nesting boxes, began inventorying plants and animals, and made printed copies of Reservation maps for the public. In 2005 we had our first garlic mustard pull and made chickadee boxes; in 2006 we started the Purple Loosestrife Bio-control Project; and in 2007 we started our Volunteer Stewardship program. That summer and fall the stewards logged more than 400 hours of invasive weed removal. In addition that year, Suzanna Black was given permission by the Water Department to "adopt" and begin weeding the piece of land that became the Woodland Restoration Project. In 2008 the Friends also "adopted" the Kingsley Park Bioswale, and have continued to weed it ever since. By 2009 we also were maintaining and monitoring 23 bird nesting boxes on the Reservation.
The Water Department took over the Volunteer Stewardship Program in 2008. Under the leadership of successive Assistants to the Watershed Manager, Hanna Wilbur, Emily Tansey, and Deb Albenberg - and with Fresh Pond Ranger Jean Rogers - the program has grown into a strong and effective presence on the Reservation. Every year volunteers spend as many as 700 hours removing invasive weeds from restored areas and woods, allowing native plants to thrive. Many Friends group members participate in these sessions. This year Betsy Meyer and Rebecca Ramsay, two Friends group Planning Committee members, received the Fresh Pond Stewardship Award for their enormous contributions to both the Volunteer Stewardship Program and the Friends group.
The Woodland Restoration Project, which we nicknamed the "The Corner," has become the focus of a small group of women who love gardening and nature. Although our original goal was simply to remove weeds so that some previously planted trilliums and geraniums could grow, the project expanded as we observed that ground bare of weeds seemed to need something growing in it. The Water Department gave us some plants; we purchased others, accepted plant donations, and scattered seeds, while being careful to limit our choices to species that historically were found in this part of the state. We also made a circular mulch path so that visitors could enjoy and learn about native woodland species and their potential as garden plants.
By autumn of 2011, The Corner was in such good condition we had time to look around for other work to do. Like the early pioneers, we looked west and saw a degraded woodland full of buckthorns and other weeds. With weed wrenches, saws, and pruners, we began clearing out the woods along the Pond Road between The Corner and the service road at Lusitania Meadow - and once again were faced with the desire to plant in the empty spaces we created. We decided we would like to try to restore the strip of land that is visible from the road with native species; and we wanted to see if we could do it on a small budget as a model for volunteers elsewhere who might wish to restore woodland habitats. We also felt that, unlike The Corner where we invite visitors, this land should be set aside exclusively as a safe refuge for wildlife.
We presented our proposal to Chip Norton, who liked the idea and named it the Lusitania Woodland Habitat Restoration Project. He helped us navigate the process of submitting to the Cambridge Conservation Commission a request for permission to plant in the area, which is designated as a wetland. As soon as permission was granted in early September 2012, Chip gave Reservation Supervisor Vince Falcione the go-ahead to have arborists remove the larger non-native mulberries, buckthorns, and dying ash trees. Vince also purchased potting mixes and soil amendments and put up a fence. In October we began planting the 160 small trees that we had bought in the spring and kept in a nursery next to the Water Department building. We maintained a busy schedule until cold weather arrived in mid-December. For more details about this project, please see our "Volunteer Restoration Projects" Report and Species Lists. We see this project as a gift to the Reservation itself, this small piece of the natural world that gives all of us so much. (For details see our Woodland Restorations Report.)
Memberships, Donations, and Expenses
Our membership numbers this year were somewhat fewer than last year, and we received smaller and fewer donations. This may reflect the state of the economy, or indicate that we have reached our maximum membership level. We appreciate the generosity of members who make additional donations. We use that money for stewardship projects such as the Corner and The Lusitania Habitat Project.
Our expenses included office support, such as web hosting, printer ink, and paper; mailing expenses (mostly stamps); program supplies such as cookies; and honoraria for professional program leaders and advisors. We are able to keep our printing costs low thanks to the generosity of the Cambridge Water Department, which allows us to use their photocopy machine. We, in turn, provide events publicity and information for the public, such as maps of the Reservation. On Fresh Pond Day this year we arranged with Mass Audubon Society for a live demonstration of a Great Horned Owl. We also made our annual donation to Neville Place, and have plans to buy books for the Maynard Ecology Center. This year the members of the Planning Committee voted to use more of our money to purchase plants and supplies for the Lusitania Woodland Habitat Restoration. We have spent about $700 for that project, including $400 for plants and $100 for fencing to protect the plants from hungry rabbits.
Wylde, for the FFPR Planning Committee
Members of the Planning Committee: Susan Agger, Deb Albenberg, Suzanna Black, Susan Coolidge, Janet Kovner, Rebecca Ramsay, Betsy Meyer, Barbara Strell (retiring), and Elizabeth Wylde (coordinator)
Fresh Pond Reading Group Moderator: Lance Drane
Woodland Restoration Project s Leaders: Suzanna Black, Susan Coolidge, Pamela Hart, Betsy Meyer, Elizabeth Wylde
Photographers: Carol Collura, Miren Etcheverry, Wenzhe Ma, Elizabeth Wylde
Volunteers: Linda Bamber, Suzanna Black, Susan Coolidge, Lance Drane, Nancy Guppy, Andy Hrycyna, Chris McKay, Betsy Meyer, Herb Pearce, Rebecca Ramsay, Barbara Strell, Elizabeth Wylde
Cambridge Water Department Staff: Deb Albenberg, Vince Falcione, Dave Kaplan, Tim MacDonald, Krystyna McNally, Brian Mulrenan, Chip Norton, Jean Rogers
who helped in other ways: Sue Bowdridge (Neville Place Activities
Director), Kristin DeSouza (New England Wild Flower Society)