Year in Review
Every time we visit Fresh Pond Reservation we witness change - in the weather, the seasons, the morphing landscapes, the birds we see, the growing numbers of visitors. Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation (FFPR) participates in changing these landscapes through stewardship activities - and is itself changing. In recent years, FFPR and the Cambridge Water Department (CWD) have increasingly worked together to offer free educational programs and opportunities for volunteer stewardship. This year more than half of the programs we publicized were planned and led by CWD staff. We are delighted to see the CWD interns developing innovative program ideas such as this summer's multi-faceted "Fresh Pond Monarch Watch" and the day-long bicycle trip "Cycle to the Source." These activities attract participants from the younger age groups we need to engage, for the future of conservation and stewardship both at Fresh Pond and in the wider natural world.
New programs offered by the Friends group this year included a talk on the ecological effects of invasive weeds by Eric Olsen, another on ectomycorrhizal fungi (the fungi associated with the roots of plants) by Rosanne Healy, and a workshop for planting wildflower seeds. Our monthly bird walks, and annual mushroom, insect, and plant identification programs remained popular.
While our public programs emphasize hands-on learning experiences that take place at the Reservation, the Fresh Pond Reading Group offers opportunities for FFPR members to learn about the earth from a broader perspective. Since the reading group started in 2007, we have explored a wide variety of topics including geology, paleontology, hydrology, evolution, history, animal behavior, ecology, and the future of life. Several of our recent books have taken us back to the beginning of the solar system and escorted us through 4.5 billion years of geological and biological evolution, to the world as we know it today. Earth's story is one of change on an almost unimaginable scale.
How do these readings relate to Fresh Pond Reservation, a 300 acre patch of land and water that is surrounded by highways and buildings, apparently cut off from the rest of the natural world? They informed us that the Pond has a long and interesting history: centuries before it played a major role in the19th century ice industry, it was used as a source of fresh water both by Native Americans and colonists. Its roots go back much farther, however, to about 12,000 years ago when the retreating Laurentide Glacier that covered all of New England left behind an enormous chunk of ice. The weight of the ice left a deep depression in the land which became the Pond. The glacier also left the nearby hills, called glacial moraines. In fact, it sculpted all of New England.
We learned that water connects the Pond to the rest of the world: all of the water in the Pond, our local reservoir, comes from somewhere else. The Pond is connected by underground pipes to larger reservoirs near Route 128, but the water arrived there as rain from clouds carried east across the continent by the jet stream. That water has been recycled around the planet countless times. And water itself probably arrived on comets or asteroids from the outer solar system that smashed into the Earth more than 4 billion years ago.
Birds certainly connect us to the rest of the world. Some of the ducks that we observe during our bird walks are resting here on their way south for the winter having flown from nesting grounds in Alaska. Several species of warbler that visit in the spring are traveling from South America to breeding grounds northern Canada. All of these migrating birds depend on the Reservation as a safe place to rest and eat before continuing their journeys. The health of habitats here and in faraway places are all critical to the survival of these long distance travelers.
A number of native plants that we have identified on the Reservation are related to plants in Europe and Asia. Their common ancestors populated the giant continent we call Pangaea that began to break apart into separate continents 200 million years ago. Over the past few hundred years the vegetation on the Reservation has once again become connected to Eurasia by the proliferation of plants that humans have introduced. Many of these plants are invasive, threatening the stability of our native habitats and degrading the land.
In recent years the Reservation has experienced something of a reversal of that invasion. As the CWD implements the landscape restorations outlined in the Fresh Pond Master Plan of 2000, non-native plants are being removed, and native species are being planted by the thousands. Healthy habitats for birds and other animals are being created. Reservation visitors who are educated and involved play an essential role by respecting and helping maintain these habitats.
By offering programs about the plants, the animals, the geology, and the history of Fresh Pond, the Friends group helps participants to understand and appreciate this island of woods and meadows in our midst. By reading about the wider world, we come to understand that the Pond is part of something infinitely larger, and that everything is interconnected. By encouraging stewardship, we help people recognize how much the world needs us to be stewards not only of Fresh Pond Reservation, but of all of Earth's lands, waters and atmosphere. With knowledge and commitment we can change this world - for the better.
Members of the FFPR Planning Committee: Susan Agger, Suzanna Black, Susan Coolidge, Janet Kovner, Nancy Haslett, Kirsten Lindquist, Betsy Meyer, Rebecca Ramsay, Carol Benoit Reynolds, and Elizabeth Wylde (coordinator)
Fresh Pond Reading Group Moderator: Lance Drane
Woodland Restoration Project Leaders: Suzanna Black, Susan Coolidge, Pamela Hart, Kirsten Lindquist, Betsy Meyer, Elizabeth Wylde
Photographers: Kirsten Lindquist, Jim Koll, Elizabeth Wylde
Water Department Staff: Julie Coffey, Vince Falcione, Dave Kaplan,
Professionals: Russ Cohen, Ted Elliman, Janet Hobbs, Rosanne
Healy, Dan Jaffe,
Julie Croston, Lance Drane, Nancy Guppy, Chris McKay, Herb
who helped in other ways: Susan Agger (Maynard Ecology Center
Coordinator), Sue Bowdridge (Neville Place Activities Director), Vince
Falcione (CWD), Brian Mulrenan (CWD)