Blackstone River Watershed Association
Blackstone River Watershed Association
In This Issue


BRWA Needs Greenway Challenge Volunteers!

Productive Pull the Plants Party

The Watershed & Us Program Presented At River Bend Farm

Blackstone River Summit - Save the Date



Help Massachusetts Bats


Nation's Biggest Dam Removal to Restore Washington River

BRWA Online
About the BRWA


Issue 20 August 2011

Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.

Rachel Carson

Myths about composting
A lot of attention is being paid lately to agricultural practices that mimic or work in conjunction with natural biological processes. One of the oldest and simplest examples of this is composting. And it’s one that can be practiced at any scale from industrial operations supplying farms and landscapers to a kitchen countertop bin supplying the houseplants.

An abundance of information is available online and in books on composting methods for the home gardener. So why don’t more people practice it? Here we dispel some myths about composting that may be holding people back.

Compost Smells Bad
Properly managed compost smells like rich soil. Stinky compost means something is wrong, usually not enough air or too much water both of which inhibit the bacteria from doing their job. Turning the pile occasionally and keeping the compost moist but not mushy will eliminate odors.

Compost Attracts Animals
Compost pile containing food waste can attract small animals (as can bird feeders, trash barrels and outdoor pet food). This can be managed by enclosing the compost completely, burying the food waste or, in extreme cases, avoiding food waste all together. Also, dairy, meat, bones, fat or pet manure should always be avoided, as their smell will attract animals.

Composting Takes Up Space
An effective outdoor compost bin can be put a space as small as 3’ x 3’ x3’ with good air circulation. In addition, commercial compost bins of various sizes and shapes are available for purchase at retail stores or through local cities and towns. Also, a web search for “urban composting” will show systems available for apartment and condo dwellers.

Composting Costs A Lot
It may seem that there is an endless supply of must-have products for composting. The fact is that, at best, they make things a bit more convenient or “attractive”, but they do little to improve the quality or quantity of compost produced. Our ancestors had great success with a heap in the back yard. A web or library search will yield successful bin designs typically made from inexpensive or found materials. And forget the expensive additives, inoculants, starters, etc. Compost will happen without them.

Composting is Complicated
Our ancestors didn’t have chemistry or biology degrees and they made and used compost with great success. Maintain a mix of brown & green materials, keep it moist, turn it once in a while and compost will happen. That’s it

Composting is a Lot of Work
In reality, nature does most of the work. Once a method is chosen and set up, composting takes little maintenance. Even turning the pile over is not absolutely necessary; it just makes things go a bit faster.

Compost is Acidic
Despite the addition of leaves, pine needles, etc., finished compost is actually acid neutral or slightly alkaline. It is an excellent soil amendment that increases the availability of nutrients to plants. Never add lime to an active compost pile as it may inhibit the process and produce a nasty ammonia smell.

So what’s stopping you? Start composting this Fall.

Myth-busting Source Material:


BRWA Needs Greenway Challenge Volunteers!
The Greenway Challenge is billed as “New England’s Premiere Adventure Race.” This 56 mile challenge sends athletes running, paddling and cycling throughout the Blackstone River Valley. This unique race – now in its 10th year - promotes the many recreational attractions our area has to offer.

On Saturday, September 24th (rain date Oct. 1), the BRWA will host a Greenway Challenge transition site at River Bend Farm in Uxbridge and we need your help. At this location the racers will transfer from boats to bicycles; they are expected to pass through between 12 PM and 3 PM. Racers will portage at Stanley Woolen, paddle up the Blackstone Canal, drop off their boats, transfer to waiting bicycles in the River Bend Farm Visitors Center parking lot and race off to their next transfer site.

Volunteer responsibilities will include setting up and breaking down the site, placing and removing course signs, logging racer timing, ensuring that racers follow the race guidelines at boat portages, and parking, traffic and spectator control.

A Greenway Challenge Volunteer T-shirt, Finish Line BBQ, ticket into raffle drawing for prizes, and a Thank You Dinner at Village Haven in October will be provided to all volunteers!

If you can help, please contact Jim Plasse at 508-883-6149 or email Hope to see you there!


Productive Pull the Plants Party
Eager and enthusiastic “Party” goers made a big improvement in the health of Rice City Pond, Uxbridge, and cleared a good pathway through the cover of invasive aquatic plants to assist the competitors in next month’s Greenway Challenge.

Water Chestnuts at Rice City Pond Volunteers paddled ashore canoes piled with water chestnut plants and heaved them into a trailer, to be taken away for composting. Pull the Plant partiers filled the trailer, which was approximately 6’ square and 6’ high, to its full capacity - three times! The team was almost successful in accomplishing its goal to clear a channel across the entire pond to the stone bridge, but the pre-hurricane rain forced the party to come to an end.

A big thank you goes to all the volunteers, who included members and friends of the BRWA, Greenway Challenge representatives, DCR/River Bend Farm staff, and employees of Lycott Environmental. Our thanks also to the team at Northborough EMS who volunteered to help finish the job.

Removal of the plants prevented the seeding of hundreds of new plants, decreased the amount of material that will decompose and decrease the available oxygen in the water, and enabled a safer and easier journey across the water for paddlers.

The BRWA is preparing a fundraising campaign to contract a mechanical harvester to help eliminate the water chestnut infestation in Rice City Pond. Stay tuned for information about our next Pull the Plants Party!


The Watershed & Us Program Presented At River Bend Farm
On August 13, the BRWA presented a series of short demonstrations in it’s the Watershed & Us program at River Bend Farm. 


            Heiselmeyer demonstrating composting methods In her Composting demonstration, Tamara Heiselmeyer explained how to turn food scraps and yard debris into a rich, organic  amendment.

Mike Sperry talks about household stormwater management Mike Sperry explained how improperly managed stormwater carries pollutants into the watershed and what homeowners can do to help reduce the problem.

Michelle Walsh presenting the watershed model Michelle Walsh presented the watershed model program which illustrates how a watershed works and the sources of man-made pollution that affect it. Dona Neely was on hand to discuss invasive aquatic plants and steps that are being taken to remove them and to prevent their establishment & growth.

After the presentations, we joined the Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Massachusetts Bureau of Fire Control in celebrating Smokey the Bear’s 67th birthday.


Blackstone River Summit - Save the Date
The Blackstone River Coalition will be hosting a Blackstone River Summit on November 16, at Alternatives in Whitinsville, MA. Topics will include water quality, river access and river restoration. Details and agenda to follow.

**** Alternatives, Inc. Free Summer Concert Series Thursday Nights 6pm, July - Sept   info
9/8 BRWA Board Meeting 6:30pm 271 Oak St., Uxbridge   info
9/10 BRC Water Quality Sampling
9/19 International Talk Like A Pirate Day   info
9/19-9/25 National Pollution Prevention Week   info
9/24 Greenway Challenge   info, volunteer
9/24 National Public Lands Day   info
11/16 Blackstone River Summit - Alternatives, Whitinsville  



Help Massachusetts Bats
2 little brown bats, hand held Because Massachusetts and other northeastern states have lost thousands of bats due to a fungal infection on bat called White-Nose Syndrome, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) is asking for reports from property owners with a summer colony of 10 or more bats. Please provide the location (street address), type of structure where the bats reside, number of bats in the colony, and your contact information by calling (508) 389-6360 or emailing

For information on the important benefits these mammals provide, the danger they face from White-Nose Syndrome and what to if you encounter bats in your home, visit the MassWildlife website.

Photo credit:Myers, P., R. Espinosa, C. S. Parr, T. Jones, G. S. Hammond, and T. A. Dewey. 2006. The Animal Diversity Web (online). Accessed August 26, 2011 at



Nation's Biggest Dam Removal to Restore Washington River
In September, in an effort to restore Washington’s Elwha River, two large dams will be dismantled including the Glines Canyon Dam which, at 210 feet, will be the tallest dam ever removed in our country. Dismantling the Glines Canyon Dam and the 108-foot high Elwha Dam will allow the river to flow freely for the first time in 100 years and revive a once thriving Pacific salmon and steelhead habitat. Visit the American Rivers website for more information.


Views & opinions expressed in linked websites do not necessarily state or reflect those of the BRWA.

Your input is crucial to this eNewsletter. If you have a local watershed-related story, information of interest to our subscribers, or comments about this publication, drop an email to the editor.

The Blackstone River Watershed Association (BRWA) has a mission to engage, educate and advocate for improved water quality in the Blackstone River Watershed; its objectives are to:
  • Engage the public in watershed stewardship activities,
  • Educate members, supporters and watershed residents on watershed protection strategies, and
  • Improve the water quality and esthetics of the Blackstone River Watershed’s water bodies.
The BRWA eNewsletter is published monthly by the Blackstone River Watershed Association. BRWA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Editor: Michael Sperry
Mailing address: BRWA, 271 Oak Street Uxbridge, MA 01569
Phone: 508-278-5200  Web:

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