Blackstone River Watershed Association
Celebrating Smokey's Birthday
Come join us on Sunday August 11th at River Bend Farm in Uxbridge as
we help the Mass Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR)
celebrate American's forest mascot - Smokey! The DCR is hosting this
event in honor of Smokey's 69th birthday! Park Staff will have
equipment from MA DCR Forest Fire Control District 7, MA Department
of Fire Services, Uxbridge Fire Dept. and the Uxbridge Antique Fire
Museum on display. They will also provide self-guided activities to
learn about Smokey's forest friends, a butterfly garden tent and
While there, the BRWA invites you to participate in a series of short,
informative demonstrations that we will provide on the following
water resource topics: rain gardens, down-spouts, invasive aquatic plants, and reduction of
non-point source pollution using our interactive watershed model
(see following newsletter article). You'll receive environmental
tips to use at home, work, and around your community. We will also
have a member of our board available to discuss the BRWA's education,
outreach, and advocacy initiatives. This is the perfect time for
you to find a way to get involved with our efforts to protect and
restore the Blackstone River and its watershed. We look forward to
seeing you there!
Educating our Youth
Fifth graders at Uxbridge's Whitin school were
responsible for severely polluting an entire watershed on May 15th.
Sediment, fertilizer, pet waste, pesticides, road salt, petroleum
products, manure, heavy metals, and toxins flowed fast and furious
into waterways. But never fear, the students saw the error of their
ways and cleaned up their mess by implementing best managment practices
in their neighborhoods, businesses, farms, factories, golf courses,
parking lots, and roadways. And all of this happened in about an hour.
And then it was repeated over and over until nearly 150 students had
participated in the BRWA's interactive watershed model program.
During the programs, Susan Thomas, BRWA project coordinator, engaged
the students in an animated discussion of the water cycle, watersheds,
point- and non-point source pollution, environmental and human
consequences of water pollution, and conservation practices.
As part of the "Watersheds and Us" program, the BRWA brings this
interactive watershed model into fourth and fifth-grade classrooms
throughout the Blackstone River Watershed in an effort to increase
the public's awareness and stewardship of the Blackstone River, its
tributaries and all the land surrounding it. During these presentations,
which complement the Massachusetts science curriculum, students learn
three major lessons: (1) wherever you are, you are in a watershed;
(2) what you do on the land directly affects the health of our waterways;
and (3) for every type of landuse, there are environmentally-friendly
alternatives to traditional management practices. For example, homeowners
can reduce the amount of lawn fertilizer they use or even convert grassy
areas to wildlfower gardens or vegetable patches. Business owners
can reduce stormwater runoff and increase groundwater infiltration
by installing downspouts and rain gardens.
The Uxbridge students were particularly enthusiastic about the
watershed model program and provided letters and posters demonstrating
their newfound understanding.
More comments can be found here.
- "I liked the fact that you let us do
everything hands on instead of doing it all by yourself. Before your
presentation, i didn't even know what a watershed was."
- "That display
you brought in was very fun and cool. . . . I hope you get to do that
for the next couple of years for all the other kids (to) get to enjoy
it as much as we did."
- "It (the presentation) helped prepare me to
talk to my family about pollution."
- "This presentation also helped a
lot with MCAS testing because there were lots of questions revolving
If you are a teacher, or parent of a student, and you want the BRWA
to bring the program into your school, please contact the BRWA
email@example.com or 508-278-5200.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
According to the powers that be, July is National Park
and Recreation Month, National Blueberry Month, and National Picnic Month.
Those add up to one great invitation to get out and enjoy the Blackstone
River watershed in a boat or along the trails! We've even included a recipe
for blueberry muffins to take along on your picnic.
August is National Immunization Month, National Catfish Month, and National
Peach Month. Whether you are travelling abroad or have children entering
school in September, vaccinations are an important consideration. And while
you'll have to fish outside the Blackstone watershed to catch a catfish,
you'll find orchards around where you can pick your own peaches to eat fresh
or use in the cobbler recipe that we've provided.
7/29, 8/19, 8/26
Nature Journaling at River Bend Farm.
1:00-1:30 p.m. The Nature Notebook in the Visitor
Center is brimming with interesting nature notes and wildlife sightings!
Supplies provided to make your own nature journal and wildlife sightings!
Contact: (508) 278-7604.
Blackstone River Watershed Council/Friends of the Blackstone.
8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Free for RI residents: Eco-Depot hazardous waste
recycling. 60 Commercial Way, East Providence, RI.
8/4, 8/18, 8/25
Art at the River / Canal Towpath Tour at River Bend Farm.
11:00 to 11:45 a.m. / 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. Blackstone
River and Canal Heritage State Park, Uxbridge. Take a short walk through
the sunny field to the Blackstone River, make a sun print for your nature
journal and write down your discoveries. Materials provided. / This easy
walk follows the flat towpath and includes stories about the canal's
history and wildlife. Contact: (508) 278-7604.
Tour of Bioremediation at Blackstone River Canal,
Fisherville Mill Canal.
10:00 a.m. to noon. Grafton.
or contact the ELA at firstname.lastname@example.org or (617) 436-5838.
Aquatic Plant ID Training.
The Sudbury-Assabet-Concord Cooperative Invasive
Species Management Area. 6:00 p.m. –8:00 p.m. Assabet River National
Wildlife Refuge Visitors’ Center, 680 Hudson Rd in Sudbury.
Contact Amber Carr at
email@example.com or (978) 443-4661 ext.33.
Blackstone River Coalition Water Quality Monitoring.
Smokey's Birthday Celebration.
1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Blackstone River and Canal
Heritage State Park. 287 Oak Street, Uxbridge. See above
BRWC Open House/River Cleanup.
8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Contact Keith Hainley at 401-996-1542
9 a.m. at Plummer’s Landing, Church St.
Info from Dave Barber 508-478-4918
Blackstone River Watershed Council Monthly Meeting.
6:30-8:30 p.m., Lincoln, R.I.
BRWA Board Meeting.
6:45pm 271 Oak St., Uxbridge
Stormwater Advocates Training Workshops.
Sundays through October 20
Weekly Riverboat Tours on the Blackstone Valley Explorer.
Central Falls Landing in Pawtucket, R.I.
Free the last Sunday of each month. info.
THINK GLOBAL, ACT LOCAL
Clean Water Act Violation on Peters River
The U.S. EPA has issued a $55,000 fine to J.H Lynch
& Sons, Inc. for failing to prevent discharge of sediment into the Peters
River and Arnold Brook in Bellingham. The contamination occurred during
MassDOT roadwork for which J.H Lynch & Sons was contracted. The Clean
Water Act requires that projects over one acre utilize best management
practices to intercept site runoff during construction. Sediment, oil,
and other contaminants contained in runoff can impair water quality, reduce
fish and wildlife habitat, and decrease the waterway's capacity to moderate
flooding. More information on EPA stormwater guidelines can be found at
As you spend time outdoors this summer, keep an
eye out for a particularly destructive woodland enemy. Beginning in July,
the dreaded Asian Long-horned beetle, Anoplophora glabripennis, will be
emerging from hardwood trees as adults after spending time in the center
of the tree as pupae. Eating their way out from the center, the non-native
insects destroy the structural integrity of the tree and leave a dime-size
hole on the outside that is visible to those who know what to look for.
The beetle's waste is called frass and it looks similar to sawdust.
A coalition of government agencies, conservation organizations, academic
researchers, municipalities and citizens have banded together to contain
the spread of this devastating species since it first was observed in
Worcester in 2008. If you spot an adult beetle, its frass, or the exit
holes in a tree, please call 1-866-702-9938. For more information, go to
Summer Fish Kills
The Blackstone River watershed is home to numerous
species of freshwater fish, and efforts are underway to restore passage
for anadromous fish including herring and shad. Recreational fishing is
what connects many people to the Blackstone River and its tributaries.
While observing a fish kill in the summer is disturbing, keep in mind
that natural causes, and not pollution, are typically responsible.
Increased temperatures and related reductions in dissolved oxygen are
common precursers to fish kills. And as water levels drop in late summer,
fish become concentrated, which allows disease to spread. If you observe
a kill-off, you should notify the Mass Department of Fish and Wildlife at
SPOTLIGHT ON SCIENCE
Spectacular Sedges and Remarkable Rushes
"Sedges have edges, and rushes are round." Like
a great many people who are interested in plant life, but who are not
botanists, this might be the limit of what you know about these
fascinating plant species. But there is much more to sedges and rushes
than their shape--they play important roles in our wetland ecosystems,
and with a little practice, you can differentiate between members of the
two groups, and identify some of the different species of sedges and
rushes that live in New England.
Sedges and rushes are both grass-like plants that inhabit areas with
water or wet soil, including pond shores, wet meadows, marshes, fens,
and swales. Many species of sedges and rushes grow in clumps or tussocks,
but others grow in dense stands of single stems that spread from underground
rhizomes. Both sedges and rushes are wind-pollinated.
Sedges and rushes are important wetland plants, providing shelter, nesting
material, and food for a variety of wildlife species such as waterfowl,
songbirds, and muskrats. By slowing down fast-moving water and trapping
sediment, they provide flood mitigation and erosion control. Additionally,
sedges and rushes improve water quality by filtering out pollutants and
excess nutrients from the water.
Sedges are in the family Cyperaceae, with the vast majority belonging to
the Carex genus, called "true sedges". Most other sedges around New England
are in one the following genera: Cyperus (nutsedges), Eleocharis (spike rushes)
and Scirpus (bulrushes).
Sedges are challenging to identify precisely at the species level without
a technical guide. However, they all tend to have a triangular-shaped stem
(culm), which is best felt toward the bottom end where the stem is thicker.
They generally have three flat leaf blades, and closed sheathes (where the
leave blade wraps around the stem). Individual species can be identified by
carefully observing the flowers and fruiting bodies that occur at the tip
or along the sides of the stem. The flowers grow in clusters on spikes
called inflorescences. Species vary by whether the male and female flowers
are on the same spike, on different spikes, or even on different plants.
Single seeds are contained in a small dry fruit called an achene or nutlet,
which is contained within a sac-like perigynium that contains the female
flower prior to pollination. The variation observed in these structures
is used to differentiate species. For example, the achene can have two
or three sides. The perigynium can taper to a point called a beak. If
you were trying to identify a plant you found, you might also consider
the length of the sac, whether it has hairs or is ribbed, the sheath
color, and whether the flowers are stalked or stalkless.
Rushes belong to the family Juncaceae and most species are in the Juncos
genus. In contrast to sedges, rushes have a round stem and narrow leaf
blades that, when present, may be flat or round. The stem may have
internal compartments, called septa, that are never present in sedges.
The leaf sheaths can be open or closed around the stem. Flowers are
bisexual, having both male and female parts, and they can occur along
the sides or at the top of the stem. The fruiting bodies are capsules
that contain many seeds. Species can be differentiated by stem height,
capsule features, leaf position and length, and flower color.
Whether your field identification skills are limited to "sedges have
edges, and rushes are round," or you are able to point out the differences
between Carex greyi and Juncus effusus, everyone should appreciate the
valuable role these grass-like plants play within the Blackstone River
watershed. Discuss them with your town conservation commission in regard
to wetland permitting and restoration projects. Suggest that your local
plant nursery add them to their aquatic plant offerings. Consider them
when designing a rain garden for your home or business. And provide these
humble plants with the same respect and protection that you would show
more dramatic woody plants. So, the next time you find yourself walking
or paddling past some grassy plants, take a closer look. You may
actually be in the presence of spectacular sedges and remarkable rushes.
You can find more information about sedges and rushes at
New England Wetland Plants, Inc.,
and the National Resource and Conservation Service
We are certainly experiencing the warm, slow, days
of summer when all we want to do is find a hammock or tree-house or perhaps
a large flat rock in the middle of a cool, lazy stream where we can relax,
and pass the hours turning the pages of a good book. What better time to
gather your kids around an illustrated copy of Kenneth Grahame's classic,
The Wind in the Willows!
In chapter one, which is called "The River Bank", Mole and Rat explore
the river. In the beginning, Mole leaves behind his spring cleaning,
digs his way to the surface, crosses a meadow, and finds himself in a
whole new world.
"As he meandered aimlessly along, suddenly he stood by the edge
of a full-fed river. Never in his life had he seen a river before.
All was a-shake and a-shiver — gleams and sparkles, chatter and bubble.
The Mole was bewitched. By its side he trotted spellbound; and when tired
at last, he sat on the bank."
There are many splendid stories that take place on, or near, a river.
Scruffy the Tugboat by Gertrude Crampton (ages 3-7), Paddle to the Sea by
Holling C. Holling (ages 7 and up), and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain (ages 12 and up) are just a few.
More are listed here.
Choose a favorite scene to recreate along the Blackstone River!
Native Lawns are Green Lawns - By Maggie Plasse
This article appeared in a previous issue of
BRWA Blackstone River Monitor and has been edited.
We Americans love our lawns! Approximately 20 million U.S. acres are
planted as residential lawn and 30–60% of the potable municipal water
in the U.S. is used for maintaining lawns. That’s a lot of land and a lot
of water. We also use 67 million pounds of synthetic pesticides yearly,
It is easy to see that our love for green lawns is polluting our rivers
and streams and depleting our diminishing water supply. So, what is an
environmentally minded person to do?
While speaking to people from the Executive Office of Environmental
Affairs (EOEA), I found out that I could have my cake and eat it, too!
The secret is to work with nature. This means creating conditions for
grass to thrive and resist damage from weeds, disease, and insects. The
idea is to prevent problems from occurring so you don’t have to treat them.
A healthy lawn can out-compete most weeds, survive most insect attacks,
and fend off most diseases. Here are some ways with which you can maintain
a healthy lawn:
Lawns grow best in soil that is loamy, and that has a mixture of clay,
silt, and sand. Periodically adding organic matter like compost, manure
and grass clippings improves the soil by retaining water and adding
nutrients. If the soil is packed down, aerate it by pulling out plugs
of soil, allowing water and nutrients to penetrate to the grass roots.
- Develop healthy soil.
- Choose a grass type that thrives in your area.
- Mow high, often, and with sharp blades.
- Water deeply, but not too frequently.
- Correct thatch build-up.
- Don't attempt to eliminate all weeds. Set realistic goals.
Most lawns need to be fertilized annually. Be careful not to
over-fertilize—this could harm the lawn. In a slightly acidic soil, a
slow-acting fertilizer is best.
Choose a type of grass that grows best in New England; it will better
resist local pests and diseases. Native grasses such as fescues are well
adapted to growing in sun or shade, and are hardy enough to withstand
summer droughts and cold New England winters. Once your lawn is well
established, watering should not be necessary. Mother Nature will do
When mowing, set your mower on a medium or high setting, mow often, and
keep the blades on your mower sharp. Longer grass has more leaf surface
to take sunlight. This allows the grass to grow thicker and develop a
deeper root system that helps the grass survive drought and tolerate
insect damage. Longer grass also shades the soil, retains moisture, and
makes it difficult for weeds to grow.
Most lawns are watered too often, but with too little water per watering
session. It’s best to water a lawn when it really needs it, and to water
slowly and deeply. This trains the roots to grow downward. Watering too
often and too little trains the roots to grow closer to the surface making
it harder for the grass to resist drought conditions. Water your lawn
once per week in a way that simulates a slow, soaking rain. This gives
the lawn about an inch of water that will penetrate 6–8 inches. Before
watering again, let the soil to dry completely and water in the early
morning to reduce evaporation.
What does it mean to correct thatch build up? All grass forms a layer of
dead plant material called thatch. When thatch gets too thick, it prevents
water and nutrients from penetrating the soil. Over use of fertilizer can
create a heavy layer of thatch. You can reduce thatch by raking or
sprinkling a thin layer of soil or compost over the grass. In a healthy
lawn, earthworms and microorganisms keep the thatch in balance by
decomposing it and releasing nutrients into the soil.
Remember to set realistic goals. Even a healthy lawn is likely to have
some weeds. Also, if you know that grass does not grow well in an area
of your yard, try planting a local ground cover.
If you want a lawn that is thick and enjoyable and also good for the
environment, you can also check out these sites:
“It is not half so important to know as to feel.” Rachel Carson
It's been a long week. You are feeling drained and stressed.
Listening to a recording of environmental sounds, especially water, can
soothe and revitalize you quickly in a way that lingers for long afterwards.
Here are two water recordings that you can find online.
Both are produced by Lindsay O'Connor, and, along with many other acoustic
water videos, they are available at
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:
The BRWA eNewsletter is published monthly by the Blackstone River Watershed
Association. BRWA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
- 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.
Editor: Susan Thomas firstname.lastname@example.org
Mailing address: BRWA, 271 Oak Street Uxbridge, MA 01569
Phone: 508-278-5200 Web: www.thebrwa.org
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