Fresh Pond Reservation Stewardship Report
In 2011 Fresh Pond Reservation had about 55 individual volunteers join us to help out, and we also hosted volunteers from Boston Cares, West Cambridge Youth Center, the Kennedy Longfellow School, BB&N, MIT, Cambridge Police Summer Employment Program, and DPW's Team Green Sense. We started out the year with workshops about Asian longhorned beetles, and while still buried in snow, we had a couple of enthusiastically attended Movie Nights.
To open the growing season, we gathered for a Volunteer Steward Walkabout highlighting the many areas volunteers have been maintaining throughout the Reservation. Many folks also enjoyed the four New England Wild Flower Society walks offered. One walk introduced us to the hundreds of native plants in the Woodland Restoration Project and folks also helped out with pulling garlic mustard down at Black's Nook. One wildflower walk, which was postponed because of rain, had us admiring asters and goldenrods through a veil of feasting mosquitoes at dusk in Lusitania Meadow. And while one walk did take place in the rain, we moved indoors another time and learned about native plant communities with Ted Elliman.
Purple loosestrife monitoring and galerucella beetle release drew an enthusiastic group over at the golf course. This year the Volunteer Stewardship program started offering monthly Weekend Weedouts on Sundays from 1 to 3 pm, which brought in a few new people and helped us get many more weeds out of the ground.
Volunteers also launched
the first ever city-wide campaign - the Cambridge Pod Patrol - to address
the spread of black swallow-wort. Perhaps the biggest change we made
to the program was meeting on Thursday mornings at 10 instead of waiting
until 2 in the afternoon for the sun to bear down on us. Here is a month-by-month
overview of some of our work:
Turnout was great as well for purple loosestrife monitoring, though we later learned that, since it bloomed late this year, willow herb did look remarkably similar to purple loosestrife. I later returned with several volunteers to re-count our sampling plots and it turned out that there was actually measurably less purple loosestrife in our sampling area, though we did discover it squatting in Lusitania Meadow.
I should also mention here
under the heading "July" that this year the Native Woodland
Restoration Project in "The Corner" looked beautiful. Our
three noble gardeners triumphed mightily through last year's flood,
drought, and ravenous bunnies, and even began restoring the woodland
adjacent to the original plot by clearing the understory of buckthorn
and bittersweet, and planting native saplings.
In September we dusted
off our weed wrenches and started pulling trees out of the meadows -
mostly cottonwoods, green ash, white mulberry, and buckthorn, hoping
to keep the encroaching forest at bay. We had a handful of new people
show up to help in September, though I think the mosquitoes chased away
a few of them.
By October we moved
back in front of the Water Department parking lot and worked on cutting
down black swallow-wort and bittersweet on the pond side of the fence.
Since it was too rocky to dig, we hoped that by cutting the vines down
we might weaken them a bit, though I fear anything short of digging
up entire root systems may only be encouraging them. Well, it was worth
a try. As we ran out of daylight, we ended the month, and Monday night
meetups, with Halloween seed collecting, popcorn, and a special screening
of The Lorax in the Water Department lunchroom.
Although we had a tough time jumpstarting the Specimen Tree Inventory due to an untimely illness, rain, and then more rain, I look forward to getting this effort started in the spring. By identifying, cataloguing, and geocoding the big and unique trees throughout the Reservation, we will be able to gather data to compare with information collected in 1996 to see how our trees are doing and also be on the lookout for Asian longhorned beetles. I've begun to work with mapping GPS points and hope to be able to include photos and tree information on an interactive map that anyone can view online. Looking ahead to future projects, I look forward to helping Andy Hrycyna document how Black's Nook supports nesting and migratory birds, helping out with ongoing work restoring the woodland between "The Corner" and Lusitania Meadow, and I still walk past Little Fresh Pond and envision a floating island, installed, monitored, and maintained by volunteers, and finding painted turtles resting among irises and cattails.
There are many challenges
ahead, and efforts will need to be renewed for several years, but I
believe we made a serious dent in the effort to stem the tide of four
plants in particular: mugwort, garlic mustard, black swallow-wort, and
buckthorn. I believe our continued efforts in Lusitania Meadow will
further our goals of stabilizing this sensitive wetland, which is an
important habitat to many, including warblers, bats, hawks, grasshoppers,
and dragonflies. I realized how unique it is when I brought children
out there to find grasshoppers and watched them climb on the big stump
and hide among the willows. We do need a comprehensive plan to reduce
the spread of Asian bittersweet throughout the Reservation, which is
killing many trees, especially between Little Fresh Pond and Black's
Nook. Additionally, I believe we'll need a better understanding of site
conditions for specific areas if we are to be sure we're supporting
plants that are best adapted to these high-disturbance areas and will
require minimal maintenance.Also,
looking ahead, I'd like to work with the New England Wild Flower Society
to draft a five-year Invasive Species Management Plan that outlines
specific volunteer projects and ways to ensure we're making optimal
use of our time together.
Summer 2011 brought the usual extreme heat and mosquitoes, but also sweet pepperbush blossoms in the Woodland Restoration Project, New York ironweed in the Weir Meadow, yellow-rumped warblers in Lusitania, and hooded mergansers at Black's Nook. Fall brought sudden darkness to our evening sessions, but also many new avian visitors and sunsets on Fresh Pond. Working alongside woolly bear caterpillars and grasshoppers, canvasbacks and ring-necked ducks, red-tailed hawks, nuthatches and woodpeckers, we ended this year's steward sessions sloshing through the mud in Black's Nook pulling up buckthorn stump sprouts with enormous roots, while Canada geese swam by to critique our work. Many thanks to the fantastic volunteers who gave their time, muscle power, expertise, ideas, and enthusiasm to help sustain these beautiful and rich habitats for all visitors and inhabitants of Fresh Pond Reservation.