Westborough Land Trust NEWS
Spring 2011

Read About . . .

Westborough Boy Scouts Clear Invasive Plants to Celebrate 100th Anniversary of Scouting

Cub Scout Packs 4, 100, and 3033 and Boy Scout Troops 4, 100, and 382 made a major contribution to WCLT’s Gilmore Pond restoration project. [MORE]

WCLT Runs Nature Photo Contest:
“Wild in Westborough”

Nature photographers of all ages, get your cameras ready for WCLT’s second nature photo contest! [MORE]

The Rest of the Story: Don Burn

A look at the man behind the Charm Bracelet and the experiences that shaped him. [MORE]

Earth Day Essay Contest and 2011 Scholarship

For the sixth year, WCLT will run its annual Earth Day Essay Contest for graduating Westborough High School seniors. [MORE]

Clean up Westborough on April 16 after the snow is gone!

Take pleasure and pride in beautifying Westborough at WCLT’s annual town-wide litter clean-up. [MORE]

See Live Birds of Prey

Enjoy a rare close-up look at live hawks and an eagle, a peregrine falcon, a great horned owl, and a turkey vulture! [MORE]

A True Story

Westborough—this is the place to be! [MORE]

The Sightings Page is Here!

What fauna and flora do you see around town? Let us know, and we'll share it with the WCLT community! [MORE]

Ellen Lutz (1955-2010)

WCLT is saddened by the passing of Ellen Lutz, one of the founders of the land trust. [MORE]

Westborough Boy Scouts Clear Invasive Plants at WCLT’s Gilmore Pond to Celebrate 100th Anniversary of Scouting

Westborough Boy Scouts Troop 4
The Boy Scouts of Troop 4 stand with two of the weed wrenches they used to uproot large honeysuckle shrubs at WCLT’s Gilmore Pond last October. From left to right: Ben Huber, Matthew Plunkett, Michael Townsend, Kevin Koenigsberg, James Murray, Evan Frye, Ethan Huber, Scott McCullough, Sam Berg (lacrosse shirt), Drew McGrath, Mathew Wolohan, Shayne Brenner

The clearing of invasive plants—especially invasive honeysuckle shrubs—around Gilmore Pond took a giant leap forward last fall, thanks to a massive, coordinated undertaking by all of the Boy Scout Packs and Troops in Westborough in celebration of the 2010 centennial anniversary of scouting in the U.S.

Cub Scout Packs 4, 100, and 3033 and Boy Scout Troops 4, 100, and 382 took part in the work, making a major contribution to WCLT’s Gilmore Pond restoration project, which has been under way for several years.

WCLT stewardship committee members Mark Fox and Don Burn and scout leader Warren Anderson organized the effort.

The work started with a “train the trainers” session for the scout leaders in September. Then came three 4-hour work sessions in October with scouts, leaders, and some scout parents.

“On those three days in October, we removed as many invasives and cleared as much area as we had in the past three years,” reported Mark.

At the September training session, Mark and stewardship committee member Scott Henderson met with the leaders of the Packs and Troops to show the leaders how to identify and remove honeysuckle. “We showed them how to use the weed wrenches to uproot honeysuckle shrubs," Mark explained.

Scouts amidst a sea of honeysuckle

At the first work session on October 16, Troop 4 pulled up honeysuckle plants halfway around Gilmore Pond and put them in piles.

Cub Scout Packs 4, 100, and 3033 came with parents for the second work session on October 23. The boys, and especially their parents, moved the piles of pulled honeysuckle bushes left by Troop 4 and stacked them by the kiosk for later chipping and removal by Josh Broussard’s tree removal company after the ground froze.

“The brush pile after the day was done was massive,” said Warren. “Some boys couldn’t resist the urge to stack it as high as they could. It reached nearly 10 feet tall in some places and was well over 50 feet long.”

At the third work session on October 30, Troops 100 and 382 worked for 4 hours and removed large areas of honeysuckle from two areas around the pond.

Mark Fox, Scott Henderson, Warren Anderson, and the scout leaders managed the individual groups during the three work sessions. Stewardship member Sharon Williams also helped on the first work session. Over all three weekends, at least 60 scouts, along with many parents and scout leaders, participated in the project.

“For the scouts, this service project represents a fitting way to mark the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America,” said Warren. “Robert Boyce, founder of the BSA, was inspired to bring the scouting movement from the U.K. to the U.S. after a scout guided him through the London streets and refused a tip, saying that he was a Boy Scout and was doing a good turn. For the 100th anniversary celebration, our Boy Scout council encouraged units in each town to find a service project they could do together. They asked us to think big and identify a project where scouts of all ages could contribute.”

“After a couple of conversations with Don Burn, the Gilmore Pond project seemed perfect,” recalled Warren. “With a lot of hands and a little sweat, the boys, parents, and scout leaders made a remarkable difference, changing the understory from a sea of green honeysuckle into the base of an open forest.”

“Without Warren Anderson’s efforts,” Mark noted, “this very successful project would not have gotten off the ground.”

Removing invasive plants from around the pond is a key step in WCLT’s multi-year Gilmore Pond restoration project. The aim is to create a scenic woodland park in the 12 acres surrounding Gilmore Pond for town residents to enjoy.

Invasive oriental bittersweet, multiflora rose, and especially Asian honeysuckle shrubs had overgrown the area around the pond, pushing out native species and blocking views of the pond from the trails. Removal of the invasive plants opens views of the pond and makes room for native species to move back in or be replanted. Eventually town residents will be able to walk trails through a landscape populated mainly by native plant species.

Another recent major step in the Gilmore Pond project was the restoration of the pond’s dam in 2009–2010, arranged and paid for by WCLT.

The restoration of Gilmore Pond is guided by a landscape plan developed by Waterman Design Associates of Westborough. Future steps are likely to include water quality monitoring and the creation of a native plant butterfly garden, as well as trail hardening, replanting, water treatment, and stocking with fish.

WCLT acquired the Gilmore Pond property in 2003. Located off Gilmore Farm Road, the 2.6-acre pond was originally created as a fire pond in the 1930s, when the surrounding area consisted of orchards and farmland. Gilmore Pond is part of the headwaters of Jackstraw Brook, a major stream that feeds into Cedar Swamp Pond, where the Sudbury River originates.

Gilmore Pond is the centerpiece of the 53-acre Upper Jackstraw Brook Reservation, which is the Westborough Community Land Trust’s largest parcel of land.

Last fall’s major push in clearing invasives was the latest and largest contribution by the Boy Scouts of Westborough to the Gilmore Pond project, but groups of scouts have also joined WCLT’s work parties there over the past several years. They worked alongside other volunteers from the community, including those from the Westborough Civic Club (which has provided both volunteer and important financial support to the project), Congregation B’nai Shalom, and other groups.

WCLT values its relationship with the Boy Scouts of Westborough and the work they have done together to benefit Westborough’s natural environment and make it more accessible to town residents. WCLT has sponsored roughly 40 Eagle Scout projects, many of them related to the creation of the Charm Bracelet Trail system, a project of WCLT and the Town’s Open Space Preservation Committee (OSPC).

Back to top

WCLT Runs Nature Photo Contest:
“Wild in Westborough”

After the Storm, by Robin Fleming
After the Storm, by Robin Fleming (2007 1st Prize Winner)

Nature photographers of all ages, get your cameras ready for “Wild in Westborough,” the Westborough Community Land Trust’s second nature photo contest, culminating in an exhibition in October.

The juried competition is open to area photographers of all ages. Photos must be taken in Westborough of natural subjects, such as landscapes, flora, or wildlife.

Photos should be submitted in October of this year. Details about how to submit photos for the contest will be available on the WCLT web site at a future date.

WCLT will feature the winning photos and a selection of other entries in a photo exhibition open to the public from October 22 through November 6 in the meeting room in Tatnuck Bookseller in Westborough. An open house will be held there Sunday afternoon, October 23, to celebrate the winners and entrants.

WCLT’s first nature photo contest, “Westborough’s Natural Treasures,” took place four years ago in 2007 and was a huge success. It drew entries from 43 local photographers of diverse ages, from age 8 through senior citizen. Prizes were awarded for first, second, and third place, and “People’s Choice.” In addition, 13 photographs received honorable mention.

To take inspiration from the 2007 contest, click here to read about it and view some of the winning photos.

Volunteers are needed to help with “Wild in Westborough” in various ways. Email the Photo Contest Coordinators if you’d like to help with the contest and exhibition, or if you have questions about the contest.

Back to top

The Rest of the Story: Don Burn

Don Burn A certificate from the Massachusetts House of Representatives recognizes the Charm Bracelet trail system as “an area of regional pride, natural beauty, and open space for all residents” and Don Burn as the prime mover behind its creation.

But who is Don Burn? Here is the rest of the story—a look at the man behind the Charm Bracelet and the experiences that shaped him.

It may have been his birthday parties in an arboretum that hooked young Don Burn on the woods. Or the fact his parents introduced him early to the fun of hiking and exploring nature in suburbs outside Chicago. No doubt becoming an Eagle Scout developed his skills in camping, trail blazing, and hiking.

These first lessons certainly took root. They eventually spurred Don’s desire to build a network of hiking trails connecting woods and open spaces with neighborhoods in Westborough.

Don’s introduction to serious hiking resulted from a challenge in Boy Scouts. He wanted to tackle a 21-mile hike but didn’t meet the requirements. “I had six weeks’ notice,” says Don, “and in those weeks I went up the two ranks I needed. That was my most memorable hike; I did the hike again just before moving to Massachusetts 16 years later.”

Wilderness activities continued for Don while he studied general engineering at the University of Illinois. He led a number of whitewater canoe trips and tubing trips on local rivers. As president of the service fraternity (Alpha Phi Omega), his service projects at a local scout camp included trail work and leading overnight camping trips. This fraternity work also cemented Don’s commitment to community service.

When not in the woods, Don pursued a new-found passion. Although he had not used a computer until sophomore year, Don discovered in a mandatory course that he loved programming. The job market was tight in 1973, so he decided to pursue graduate studies, earning a M.S. in computer science in 1978 from the University of Illinois. Upon graduation, Data General offered him a job in Westborough as a software developer. Presently, Don works as an independent software developer.

Hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing, skiing, and canoeing continue to keep Don in the wild. His love of canoeing began on Boy Scout canoe trips in Wisconsin, which later led to weeklong canoe trips in Canada and Maine. According to Don, a canoe trip with Nan Burke, his wife of 25 years, doing the Allagash in Maine remains a high point. “It was one week of very hard work from dawn to dusk, but also very relaxing since it took us away from high tech.”

Certificate marking 10th anniversary of Charm Bracelet

A certificate marking last fall’s 10th anniversary celebration of the Charm Bracelet trail system was sent to the Westborough Community Land Trust by state representative Karen Polito. It reads:

Be it hereby known to all that:
The Massachusetts House of Representatives offers its sincerest congratulations to:
Westborough Community Land Trust In recognition of the 10th Anniversary of the Charm Bracelet Trail!!! Thanks to the tireless work of Don Burn and countless other members of the community including many Eagle Scouts, the Charm Bracelet has become an area of regional pride, natural beauty, and open space for all residents to enjoy!!!!

Don has explored the meadows, lakes, and oak and pine forests of Westborough for more than three decades. His inspiration to build a town trail system led him to create a map of existing and possible trails in 1999 as a member of the Town’s Open Space Preservation Committee (OSPC). Through his spirited advocacy, the concept won the support of the OSPC and Westborough Community Land Trust (WCLT). Don continued to be a driving force to build the Charm Bracelet during his 15 years of service (1993–2008) on the OSPC, three of them as chairman. The dream of a trail network connecting natural places and neighborhoods materialized with its first Charm Bracelet hike in 2000.

Planning and building trails is a skill that Don learned first in Scouts and then improved in college from a unique perspective. “I worked for a railroad in college as someone who helped design where track went,” he notes. To this day, Don enjoys exploring abandoned and old railways.

Battling thorns of multiflora rose, slashing bittersweet vines, tearing up honeysuckle—Don has always been in the thick of the action, directing trail building and removing invasives with vigor. As chair of WCLT’s Stewardship Committee for five years, Don encouraged stewards to tap varied sources of trail building knowledge. WCLT engaged Trailwrights from New Hampshire to assist with building the trail at the Town’s Libbey property, off Adams Street. “I watched carefully as a volunteer when SVT laid out the trail on the east side of Cedar Hill,” Don says. WCLT stewards have also relied on resources such as the Appalachian Mountain Club and Appalachian Trail Conference books on building trails.

Don has also used his professional training to benefit the Charm Bracelet in a number of ways. “In graduate school I taught drafting to undergrads which has helped me with putting together the maps for the Charm Bracelet,” he says. “At work I have been involved with a number of contract negotiations; that has helped with contracts for trail rights of way and with dealing with folks with questions on the trail.”

Bringing the Charm Bracelet to its current 21 miles of main trails and many miles of side trails has been a demanding journey. Since 2002 Don has helped steer its course as a director, chair of Stewardship, and member of the Acquisitions Committee of WCLT.

“The effort on the Charm Bracelet has been over 10,000 man-hours at this point,” says Don. “Most of this time was in building the trails, but it is the non-building efforts that are the hardest to get volunteers to help with. We have had to negotiate over a dozen agreements to this point; each one averaged over a year. We still are in need of a large number of agreements to complete the trail system, and at the moment these are our biggest challenge.”

Now that the trail system has grown to its current size, the other challenge is maintaining the trails. “We hope all the trail users will report problems to us,” Don adds. “We need people to do simple maintenance such as picking up trash, moving small downed limbs, and trimming back plants intruding into the trail.” You can now report trail problems by sending us an email.

Persistence, vision, hard labor, and a stubborn refusal to let obstacles block the way have been the hallmarks of Don Burn’s leadership on the Charm Bracelet. He concludes, “Personally, the most wonderful thing about leading the effort has been the friendships I have made with the folks helping build the trails and the people using the trails.”

Back to top

Earth Day Essay Contest and 2011 Scholarship

For the sixth year, the Westborough Community Land Trust will run its annual Earth Day Essay Contest for graduating Westborough High School seniors. The essay contest winner will receive the $500 WCLT 2011 Scholarship at graduation in June.

Essay instructions and scholarship applications will be available in the WHS Guidance Office as of March 1. This year, applicants have just one month to turn in their essays to the Guidance Office, by Friday, April 1, 2011.

This year’s due date comes earlier than in past years because the school wants to make it easier for seniors who participate in the popular Quest program to submit essays that are part of scholarship applications before they take early final exams. WCLT is one of twelve organizations that award scholarships to WHS seniors based on an essay.

To enter the Earth Day Essay Contest, seniors should write an essay of 500–750 words on one of these three topics:

  1. An environmental issue in Westborough Describe an environmental issue that affects a natural resource in Westborough. Propose a solution that would address this issue and/or describe activities in which you have been involved that have worked toward solving this particular problem.
  2. Sustainable living in Westborough and beyond Discuss ways that you and others of your generation could live more sustainably on Earth. If applicable, include a description of changes you have made in your own life that have enabled you or your family to live more sustainably.
  3. Protection of Westborough’s natural heritage and special places Describe a place in Westborough that you think is especially important to protect, and explain why. Discuss what you have done or propose ways that you could help to protect Westborough’s natural heritage.

Seniors do not need to be planning an environmental emphasis in their future studies or career in order to enter the contest and apply for the scholarship.

Back to top

Clean up Westborough on April 16 after the snow is gone!

Young parishioners from Good Shepherd
Young parishioners from the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church cleaned up trash from Otis Street near the MBTA station as part of last year’s town-wide Earth Day clean-up.

After all the snow shoveling we’ve done this winter, picking up litter around Westborough to celebrate Earth Day should be a piece of cake! Everyone is already looking forward to seeing the snow disappear, but then the unsightly litter on the roadsides and other public places will be uncovered for all to see.

Take pleasure and pride in beautifying Westborough on Saturday, April 16 at WCLT’s annual town-wide litter clean-up. Come to West Meadow Plaza or Bellows Road at 6:30 AM or bring your family to the Lake Chauncy parking lot at 9:00 AM. Wear gloves and sturdy shoes. Trash bags will be provided.

Another way to help, on your own schedule, is to get your family out to pick up your own neighborhood. Or team up with your neighbors or co-workers to clean up a nearby area. Or organize a scout, church, or school group to do some picking up at a convenient time.

Between now and then, if you spot an area or stretch of road that needs to be cleaned up, let WCLT know by sending an email to Earth Day clean-up coordinator Bruce Tretter at EarthDay@westboroughlandtrust.org. Or suggest possible contacts at local or area businesses that might be approached to help clean up in their vicinity.

“We had the best turnout ever last year thanks to all those who participated and the terrific help of Kelly Wilcox, Outreach Director at New Hope Chapel,” Bruce said. “This truly is one of those events where every hand makes a difference. It’s just great to see what a difference we all made—and can make—together.”

The official Earth Day, April 22, falls on a weekday this year and coincides with Good Friday.

The Westborough Community Land Trust has sponsored the annual town-wide Earth Day clean-up since the founding of the land trust in 1997.

WCLT celebrates April as Earth Awareness Month. The centerpiece of WCLT-sponsored activities this year is the exciting live animal program for families, “Massachusetts Birds of Prey,” on Saturday, April 9 (with support from a grant from the Westborough Cultural Council). (See separate story and Upcoming Events item.)

WCLT also runs its annual Earth Day Essay Contest for graduating Westborough High School seniors, with essays due this year on April 1. The winner of the contest will receive the $500 WCLT 2011 Scholarship at graduation. (See separate story and Upcoming Events item.)

Back to top

See Live Birds of Prey

Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon © ~K~

This spring, bring your family to WCLT’s live animal program featuring Massachusetts birds of prey on Saturday, April 9, from 10:00 AM–12:00 PM, at the Knights of Columbus Hall (17 Willow St.).

Enjoy a rare close-up look at live hawks and an eagle, a peregrine falcon, a great horned owl, and a turkey vulture in this program by Tom Ricardi, a licensed rehabilitator and wildlife biologist. Discover the behavior of these amazing birds.

Learn about the great work being done by the Massachusetts Bird of Prey Rehabilitation Facility, where Tom cares for injured birds and operates a successful captive-breeding program. His pioneering work with bald eagles has resulted in captive-bred bald eagles reproducing in the wild and captive-bred chicks being adopted into wild nests.

This live animal program is part of WCLT’s celebration of April as Earth Awareness Month. It is supported by a grant from the Westborough Cultural Council, a local agency, which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

The program is suitable for all ages. If you have questions, email us.

Back to top

A True Story

From John Metzger

I want to share a story I heard recently from the mother of a family that moved to Westborough about 6 years ago. We were standing at a town event and I happened to ask where they lived before Westborough and what brought them here. She said that they were living in the Boston area and went to the Arnold Arboretum often as well as to other parts of the Emerald Necklace. But then for job reasons they needed to move to the western suburbs.

Of course many towns out here have good school systems, but Westborough caught her eye because it had an actual downtown with a mixture of residences and businesses. When she stopped in Town Hall with questions, she came across information about trails in Westborough and specifically about the Charm Bracelet. For her it was “Emerald Necklace—Charm Bracelet—Westborough— this is the place to be.” So they focused on Westborough and bought a place. They also became WCLT members several years ago, after hearing about us from a neighbor. She has become a regular hiker on many of the trails in and near Westborough, and they are now at a point where they can hike more and more of the trails with their young children.

If there’s one story like this, I’m sure there are various others where WCLT has helped tell people about the options around Westborough.

Do you have a story? Share it with us!

Back to top