Wildlands' Commitment to Green Infrastructure

By Community Stewardship Program Coordinator, Conor Michaud

Massachusetts is the 15th most populated state in the nation and as growth trends continue, the communities within the Commonwealth face increasing environmental concerns, intensified by the burgeoning state. Climate change has recently catalyzed some of the most creative solutions to population growth and fading grey infrastructure. As Massachusetts grows, particularly in the Boston metro area, concerns around stormwater runoff, rising temperatures, and compromised air quality in urban landscapes will need to be addressed through innovation and community commitment.

For nearly half a century, Wildlands has been helping to stave off the local effects of climate change through the implementation and conservation of green infrastructure (GI). The Environmental Protection Agency defines GI as “…a cost-effective, resilient approach to managing wet weather impacts that provides many community benefits…green infrastructure reduces and treats stormwater at its source while delivering environmental, social, and economic benefits.”[1] GI is not a new idea but it has become an essential lens in which urban redevelopment is viewed.

A basic rain garden schematic. (Source: https://www.natureworkseverywhere.org/)

Using the GI lens, impermeable surfaces are redesigned to allow for water passage and stormwater filtration. Street trees and rain gardens are some examples of nature-inspired adaptations which not only facilitate storm water management but help to purify the air, cool our cities, and benefit urban agriculture, all while playing an important role in the mental and physical health of city residents.

Conservation of open space is one of the most significant types of GI. Land conservation in proximity to urban areas greatly reduces localized climate effects while providing city residents with essential exposure to the natural world. Since 1973 Wildland has been working to protect Massachusetts’ natural spaces and promote open space as an opportunity to connect with nature. Helping to sustain the health of Southeastern Massachusetts has long been Wildlands’ mission and within the last ten years, Wildlands has been able to bring its expertise to the city of Brockton.

Wildlands acquired the Brockton Audubon Preserve in 2012 and began working with the city to reestablish the adjacent Stone Farm Conservation Area over the last two years. Together, these preserves comprise over 200 acres of protected woodland and wetland habitat, which help to regulate temperatures in surrounding neighborhoods, filter stormwater runoff, and sequester carbon. All of this occurring only 3 miles from the city center.

Like other Gateway Cities, Brockton is in the midst of redeveloping a formerly robust urban landscape to promote economic growth while creating a safe and attractive home for its residents. A city’s vitality, especially in consideration of a growing population, is now critically linked to GI. In an urban landscape where there is often limited space, making land conservation near impossible, other solutions must be thought of.

(Above) Street trees being planted as part of GGCP. By 2020, thousands of newly planted trees will line the streets and fill the yards of Brockton residents.

Over the last two years Wildlands has partnered with Brockton and the Department of Conservation and Recreation to increase the urban tree canopy through the Greening the Gateway Cities Program (GGCP). Through this free tree program the partnership will help to decrease the heating and cooling demand on residential properties while raising the real-estate value within these neighborhoods. Numerous other cities across the nation have implemented similar tree programs to effectively reduce the impacts of climate change while empowering their communities through increased property values and the natural beautification of trees.

The GI revolution affects society in a number of ways aside from the environmental and health benefits. The economic impact goes beyond saving on energy costs; the widespread implementation of GI is now beginning to have an effect on the local workforce and the future of the job market. With an increase in the urban tree canopy comes an increased demand for skilled labor and urban foresters. Investing in GI will require an investment in the green technology workforce and the citizens who inhabit these rapidly redeveloping cities. Organizations are already beginning to see this trend and are developing training and internship programs to provide new skills for those interested in joining the field.

Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MACEC), for example, helps match aspiring clean energy employees with green technology companies within the Commonwealth. Organizations like MACEC are helping to keep the Massachusetts workforce in place by providing potential employees with an opportunity to expand their skill set while working for a cause that will sustain their community. While green job training and environmental education is becoming more prevalent there are some organizations taking the green technology and GI workforce one step further.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is pushing the boundary on innovation and commitment to a sustainable future with the development of the Sustainability Accelerator. The accelerator is designed to fast track green innovations by providing a space for incubation and connecting entrepreneurs with potential funding sources.  Efforts to sustain the GI and green technology revolution are essential to preserving our cities and providing a home for future generations. Equally important, is working with the communities most impacted by climate change to discuss and implement GI and discover opportunities for career advancement and workplace innovation.

Brockton Envirothon team members met with Brockton State Reps. Claire Cronin and Gerry Cassady and Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo on May 6, 2019 after Joyce Voorhis (bottom row, middle) received the Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education.

While groups like TNC and MACEC are working directly with the work force, Wildlands is taking a different approach to the redesign of our urban landscapes, focusing on environmental education and public exposure to natural spaces. The long established partnership with Brockton High School has allowed Wildlands to aid in student’s education and demonstrate the possibilities for environmental and community based work through Envirothon. Community outreach in the Greening the Gateway Cities Program goes beyond helping put trees in the ground; weekly one-on-one canvassing interactions with Brockton residents are opportunities to discuss the importance of GI and ask each resident to take a step forward in helping to protect their environment.

The goal of developing healthy and environmentally conscious communities across Massachusetts is not lofty. Wildlands realizes that these efforts must start from the ground up through land conservation, community outreach, and environmental education. The commitment to the protection of open space in perpetuity is a commitment to the communities within these spaces and a commitment to help build a more healthy and equitable planet.


Volunteer Spotlight: Mike Arsenault

By Stewardship Manager, Erik Boyer

Michael Arsenault, of Marshfield, is Wildlands’ first Adopt-a-Preserve volunteer at Hoyt-Hall Preserve. Adopt-A-Preserve is a training program in which volunteers help Wildlands monitor the most highly visited WT properties through monthly preserve visits and submitting online reports. Mike has volunteered his time over the last few years and enjoys going out to the preserve on a weekly basis. Mike assists us with everything from leading hikes to being our photographer at events. Recently, I sat down with Mike to find out more about why he enjoys working with Wildlands:

How did you first learn about Wildlands Trust?

In the spring of 2016, I caught a glimpse of a group clearing vegetation from a pull-off on Careswell Street in Marshfield. I was curious to what was happening so I pulled in and learned that an area was being cleared for a future trailhead parking lot. I, being a lifelong hiker and outdoor enthusiast, was excited to learn about the soon to be built 2-mile trail loop that would traverse around the perimeter of Long Tom Pond, an area that I had always been curious to explore. At that point I tagged along to help on multiple trail work days, where I assisted with building the trail and constructing bog boards on the wet areas of the trail.

Mike Arsenault and Wildlands’ Outreach and Education Manager Rachel Calderara check out the trees at Hoyt-Hall Preserve.

How did you first get introduced to hiking?

I started hiking at an early age when my father would take me for day hikes in the Blue Hills to explore. I was also a member of the Boy Scouts and we would go to Camp Dorchester in the Blue Hills for camping outings.

What is your favorite trail work memory?

One of my favorite memories is at Hoyt-Hall, where a Great Horned Owl watched us redirecting a trail during a Trailblazer project and then subsequently seeing the owl while out on hikes on the property.

What is your favorite spot at Hoyt-Hall?

The portion of the trail that runs [along] the earthen dam that follows the southern portion of the loop and all of the signs of human use of the land that are noticeable during a hike, such as the access road around the old cranberry bog that is now a red maple swamp, the well that water was drawn from for irrigating, and the foundation of a windmill.

What is the best time of year to visit?

The best times of year to visit is the winter after a light snowfall and in the fall as red maples throughout the property change to a brilliant red.

Mike Arsenault and Wildlands’ Stewardship Manager Erik Boyer look out over Long Tom Pond at Hoyt-Hall Preserve after performing trail work.

What has kept you involved at Hoyt-Hall?

Being part of the trail establishment and the evolution of the property to one of the most visited Wildlands Trust properties. I feel a deep connection with the land and I am constantly impressed seeing other hikers picking up trash during most of my hikes. I enjoy  keeping trails safe and accessible to hikers and helping connect other people to the natural beauty that is around them.

What is your favorite aspect of trail work?

I would say being part of the raking crew as we get to visually make the trail look complete and it’s a good way to be productive and still chat with other volunteers.

What is your favorite Wildlands Trust property to hike on outside of Hoyt-Hall?

Great Neck Preserve in Wareham. It’s close to a 4-mile hike and you get such a variety of views as the trail gives you views of a salt marsh, sheep farm, pond, and forest.

What advice would you give to anyone interested in volunteering with Wildlands through the “Adopt-a-Preserve” program?

My advice to anyone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer with Wildlands Trust is simply to just try it out, no matter your background, any amount of your time that you can give is valuable. I’ve felt a sense of support throughout the years from Trust staff and I feel that I’ve been part of a community with my fellow volunteers.

 

A fun fact Mike shared with me during my time with him, this past Christmas Mike received the perfect present from his grandchildren that tells it all: A t-shirt with “Hoyt-Hall Trail Guide” blazed on the back. Thank you to Mike for sitting down and speaking with me about his experience volunteering at Widlands Trust. If you’d like to learn more about Wildlands’ Adopt-A-Preserve program, visit our volunteer page: https://wildlandstrust.org/volunteer

Brockton High School Competes at Massachusetts Envirothon

By Outreach and Education Manager, Rachel Calderara

Wildlands Trust first started coaching an Envirothon team at Brockton High School in 2015 in partnership with science teacher Joyce Voorhis. Over the years, we’ve had the privilege of working with many bright and talented students at after school meetings as they study forestry, soils, water and wildlife, and research a current environmental issue impacting their community. Dozens of students attended club meetings throughout this school year and eight of the most dedicated students – all freshman and sophomores no less – went on to represent Brockton High and Wildlands Trust at the 2019 Massachusetts Envirothon Competition on Friday, May 17.

It was a rainy day at Sholan Farms in Leominster, but that didn’t stop swarms of poncho-wearing high school students from taking this outdoor competition by storm. The Brockton High School team started by impressing a panel of judges with their current issue presentation: “Abundant, Affordable, Healthy Food”, as it pertains to their city. They explored how Brockton might be able to help feed a growing population in a city where fresh food is not always accessible.

Envirothon team members get “out in the field” at Langwater Farm in Easton.

Throughout the year, the team learned about this issue with the help of TerraCorps members Hayley Leonard and Alissa Young, Wildlands Education Manager Rachel Calderara, and teachers Joyce Voorhis and Melissa Kelly. They met with a variety of people in the city working towards increasing fresh food access for all, and volunteered at the Brockton High School community garden and at Langwater Farm in Easton. They turned their research into a well-rehearsed 15-minute presentation in the weeks leading up to the competition and now it was time to give it their all.

The team began the presentation with an overview of their city’s landscape and demographics, pointing out that in the most highly populated neighborhoods, the average income is lower than the national average, and there is very limited access to fresh food. They discussed the importance of the volunteer-run Community Garden Network in Brockton, which their school’s garden belongs to, as well as the significance of Brockton’s newly adopted Urban Agriculture Plan. They ended with recommendations for city officials and their big hopes and dreams for increasing food access and production in Brockton.

The judges were impressed with the team’s work and encouraged them to keep advocating for the cause. This summer, the students will be volunteering at their school’s community garden to help harvest and donate the produce grown there, with hopes of expanding garden educational programming next spring to the larger student body at Brockton High.

Our young team made us proud this year. Although it was most of their first times at Envirothon (we had one returner from last year’s team) they gave the competition their all. After the current issue presentation, the team split up to take hands-on field tests in soil, water, wildlife and forestry. They measured and identified trees, classified soil horizons and textures, tested and analyzed water quality, and identified wildlife tracks, pelts, and skulls. At the end of the day, Brockton took home 5th place in the water category!

The Massachusetts Envirothon is one of the most formative environmental programs available for high school students in our state and we at Wildlands Trust could not be more proud to be a part of it. We look forward to working with these students again next year as they continue to learn about our shared environment and begin their research on water resources for next year’s competition.

The 2019 Brockton High School Envirothon team.

The Scoop on Dog Poop (and Other Trail Etiquette Tips)

By Roxey Lay, Membership & Communications Coordinator

With temperatures rising, people from all over the region are getting back out onto the trails. Having access to open public lands is one of the great qualities of living in Southeastern Massachusetts and it’s up to all of us who use these lands to follow appropriate dog etiquette when visiting with four-legged companions. So, before you hit the trails this year, we want to give a refresher on some quick dog etiquette tips for your next visit.

A pup ready to hit the trails with a group of hikers.

A pup ready to hit the trails with a group of hikers.

Your dog pooping on the trails may not seem like it’s a big deal, but it is. Everyone knows not to leave trash on the trail, however, it’s just as important to pick up your dog’s poop, carry it out with you and dispose of it properly. One of the primary reasons is that it can spread disease. “People think it’s fine [to leave it] because it’s natural, but it’s not [fine],” says Stewardship Manager Erik Boyer. “If you’re a dog owner, it should be a concern for your own dog’s safety, as well as for others on the trail.” Animals, including your dog, do occasionally eat other animal’s waste and if they happen to come across some that contains harmful bacteria and/or parasites, it can make them sick. This also applies to humans, who may come in contact with it or unintentionally consume contaminated soil or water. When your dog’s poop breaks down, it may be physically gone but the bacteria remains in the soil or water it has washed into. If you get contaminated soil on your hands and then happen to get it in your mouth or drink contaminated water, it can make you sick too.

Beyond the bacteria, the nutrients found inside your dog’s poop can negatively affect the surrounding ecosystem. Wild animals that live on our preserves eat resources and nutrients from that ecosystem and then return those same nutrients to the area. The nutrient-rich dog food your dog eats, however, results “in poop that’s very rich in substances like nitrogen and phosphorous—the same ingredients you’ll find in fertilizer. The addition of that nutrient-rich poop to an ecosystem leads to an imbalance that, when it’s washed into water sources, can lead to algae blooms and promote the growth of invasive plant species on land.” [1] Nearly every Wildlands preserve has either a wetland or body of water, which eventually connects to the ocean and can affect other areas on the way. For example, 17 different streams connect to the Taunton River and run through 3 counties and 12 cities, populated with 1.7 million people, before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean in Wareham. Contaminating a body of water, no matter how small, can have a larger impact than you may realize.

Bagged dog waste left on the trail.

Bagged dog waste left on the trail.

Bagging it up and leaving it on the ground (or hanging it in a tree) isn’t a good idea either. Now, instead of only your dog’s poop decomposing on the trail, you’ve introduced plastic into the equation. The bag will take years to breakdown and when it eventually does, microplastics, along with the bacteria from the poop, will remain in the soil (or wash into a waterway). The presence of your dog’s waste can also alert prey species to the existence of possible predators, putting undue stress on wildlife that live in that area.

It’s also just plain unsightly. Public preserves are for everyone and no one wants to see dog poop bags littering the trail. “Part of what we do is teach good land ethics and picking up after your dog sets a good example for other trail goers and younger generations,” says Community Stewardship Program Coordinator Conor Michaud. So, if you are out on the trail with your dog this summer, please remember to bring dog waste bags with you and dispose of it appropriately.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here are some additional tips for dog etiquette on the trails:

Dogs check out their surroundings on Wildlands’ Post Feast Waddle.

Dogs check out their surroundings on Wildlands’ Post Feast Waddle.

Know the Town Leash Law:

On any Wildlands property, visitor guidelines require dogs to be under control at all times in order to protect sensitive wildlife and respect other visitors. Prior to your visit, you should familiarize yourself with the leash laws where the preserve is located so you can comply with that town’s definition of “control”. These laws can vary town to town and can range from requiring a leash at all times (sometimes with leash length maximums) to allowing voice command control. In areas that allow voice command, assess your dog’s level of obedience and determine whether or not that is the best option for them or if it’s better, for your dog’s and other visitor’s safety, for them to be on a leash.

Yield Trail Right-of-Way:

When on a trail, if you have a dog and you happen upon another visitor, you should yield the right-of-way to the other visitor. This means stopping and moving to the side of the trail with your pup. If you are in a town that allows voice command control and your dog is not on a leash, you should leash the dog when moving to the side of the trail until the other visitor has passed. You may know your dog is friendly, but others don’t and may not be comfortable with your dog approaching them.

Reflective Gear:

Hunting on Wildlands properties is prohibited unless otherwise posted; however, we do suggest visitors (and their dogs) wear brightly colored or reflective clothing during hunting seasons. Some Wildlands properties share borders with or have trails that cut through other town/organization-owned properties that may allow hunting and it is always a good idea to make sure you and your animal are visible to hunters.

Stay on the Trail:

When visiting any Wildlands property, please respect the wildlife and vegetation around you and stay on the trail. Please don’t let your dog run into the woods as it may disturb local wildlife and destroy sensitive vegetation.

Getting out on the trails is a healthy and fun way for you and your dog to spend your days and we thank you for taking the time to be courteous to both our properties and other visitors!


Wildlands Keeps Brockton Beautiful

By Hayley Leonard, Community Engagement Coordinator

Saturday, April 27, Wildlands Trust partnered with the city of Brockton for their annual ‘Keep Brockton Beautiful Day’. The day is an opportunity for community members to come together with the shared goal of cleaning up trash throughout the city, culminating with an afternoon cookout for those that volunteer. This year marks the second year that Wildlands Trust has participated in the event, the first being in 2012 when Wildlands first acquired Brockton Audubon Preserve.

The weather didn’t discourage our dedicated group of volunteers.

The weather didn’t discourage our dedicated group of volunteers.

Early that morning, despite the dreary conditions, a crew of 11 Brockton residents came together to help Wildlands Trust staff and AmeriCorps members clean up trash from Stone Farm and Brockton Audubon Preserves. These properties are some of the last intact parcels of open space left in the city and together they total about 240 acres. Armed with gloves, trash pickers and bags provided by the city, we made our way into the most littered areas of the properties. We spent almost three hours cleaning and removed around 20 bags worth of trash by the end of the morning. With everyone’s help, we were even able to clear out some larger items that had been there for quite some time, such as a broken flat screen television, an old tire and what remained of a spring mattress.

Volunteers wrap-up after spending three hours cleaning the properties.

Volunteers wrap-up after spending three hours cleaning the properties.

Local clean-up efforts tie into Wildlands’ mission of connecting residents with their natural environments – what better way to build a connection with a place than to help care for it? As a heavily urbanized area, residents of Brockton have fewer opportunities to explore natural spaces than those in the surrounding towns of Plymouth County. Events like this are an important addition to the work Wildlands Trust is already doing in Brockton with Greening the Gateway Cities and the Brockton High School Envirothon Team because they provide residents with the opportunity to actively engage with and learn about their environment, and understand how it connects to other aspects of their lives.