Blackstone River Watershed Association
Free BRWA Member Paddles
In June and August, the BRWA offered member
paddle events on the Blackstone Canal at River Bend Farm in Uxbridge.
The BRWA provided canoes that participants took out along this 1.25
mile historic waterway. The canal affords paddlers many enjoyable
sights and sounds including painted turtles basking on logs, northern
water snakes slicing through the water, songbirds calling from the
shrubs and trees that overhang the canal, wildflowers growing along
the banks filled with dragonflies and damselflies, and great blue
herons gliding above the water on their way to a better fishing spot,
hungry for sunfish, perch, or frogs. Nature I.D. kits were provided
to participants to enhance the outdoor learning experience. The June
29th and August 9th paddle events coincided with an outdoor
performance of the Blackstone Valley Community Concert Band and with
Smokey's Birthday Celebration, respectively. Check us out next
summer for more paddling events!
The BRWA helped the Mass DCR celebrate Smokey's 70th birthday on
August 9 at River Bend Farm in Uxbridge. It was one of the most
beautiful days of the entire summer and over 100 attended the event
including many children eager to meet Smokey in person. Peter Coffin
with the Blackstone River Coalition demonstrated our interactive
watershed model, while BRWA Board members helped participants with the
canoes, informed people about our education, outreach, and
advocacy efforts, and signed up new BRWA members! The canoes were
provided by the Blackstone River Watershed Council/Friends of the
Blackstone. But you don't have
to wait for another event to join up! It's as easy as going to our
website at www.thebrwa.org and
clicking on "Make a Difference" !
The BRWA had planned for two plant-pull parties
this summer at Rice City Pond in Uxbridge to build on our success with
previous removals. However, the lack of rain the area has experienced
over the summer, and now into the fall, created such low water
conditions that the events could not be held. The BRWA will resume its
NIP program (no invasive plants) in 2015 and will be seeking volunteers
to assist at that time.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
October 9 is National Leif Erickson Day.
He was a fearless explorer from Greenland who came
to North America during his many adventures. Many of us look forward to
fall as a perfect time for our own explorations. The oppressive heat and
annoying mosquitoes of late summer are gone; the snow and chilling rains
of winter are not yet here; but the fields and woods are ablaze with color
from deciduous trees and late season flowers. Birds that were quiet and
reclusive during breeding season are now quite visible while seeking out
food and water. Enjoy being outside during this fine season!
Sundays in October:
Canal Walks at River Bend Farm.
Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park 1:00-2:00 p.m.
Hear about the history of the Blackstone Canal and catch a view of local
wildlife. 287 Oak Street Uxbridge MA
Info: 508-278-7604 or e-mail
Saturdays through October:
Leisurely Bike Tours in R.I.'s Blackstone Valley.
Participants enjoy a fun and relaxing way to experience culture, nature,
history and recreation on the 4-hr tours, for all fitness levels.
Sundays through October:
River Tours on the Blackstone Valley Explorer.
Pawtucket, RI. 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, & 4:00 p.m. View river plants and animals
and learn about the ecology of the river and surrounding wetlands along
with the cultural history of the region.
October 1 to 29:
Quack, Quack! Junior Duck Stamp Traveling Art Exhibit, North Easton.
The exhibit features top youth entries from the 2014 Massachusetts Junior
Duck Stamp (JDS) Contest. The contest was initiated in 1991 to educate
young people about the value of wetland habitats.
Borderland State Park, 259 Massapoag Road, North Easton.
Central Mass Chapter Trout Unlimited Monthly Meeting.
6:30 p.m. 50 Elm Street, Auburn, MA
10/12 & 10/19
Foliage Hike to Lookout Rock.
9:00-10:30am. Blackstone River and Canal Heritage
State Park. A 3-mile round-trip hike through the valley and Rice City Pond
woodlands. Meet at the Rice City Pond parking area, 366 East Hartford Ave,
Uxbridge.Info: 508-278-7604 or e-mail
Blackstone River Watershed Council Monthly Meeting.
6:30pm - 8:30pm. Lincoln RI.
10/18 & 10/25
Luminary Canal Walk at River Bend Farm.
Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park
5:30-6:30pm. A lantern stroll and not so spooky walk at the water’s edge at
sunset. Listen for wildlife, hear stories of the past and enjoy the season!
287 Oak Street Uxbridge MA Info: 508-278-7604 or e-mail
BRWA Board Meeting.
6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. 271 Oak St., Uxbridge.
Conservation Subdivisions in Action.
10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. Mass Audubon is offering
this workshop designed to promote a "community-wide network of protected
lands and trails” by partnering developers, town planners, and conservation
advocates. Westford Police Training Facility. 53 Main Street Westford, MA.
"Biodiversity and land conservation at the
Massachusetts Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program".
Patricia Swain, Ph.D., Natural Community Ecologist,
Mass Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. The talk will focus on
conservation through identifying, tracking, managing, and regulating
rare species and identifying and mapping NHESP priority natural communities.
Land use history, climate change, and other influences on native biodiversity
will be part of the discussion. 12:00-1:00 p.m. Medford Campus Tufts University.
Or watch online live at Tufts WebEx.
Central Mass Chapter Trout Unlimited Monthly Meeting.
6:30 p.m. 50 Elm Street, Auburn, MA
"Invasive species: Causes, consequences, and solutions”
Rebecca Irwin, Associate Professor, Dartmouth
College. 12:00-1:00 p.m. Medford Campus Tufts University. Or watch
online live at Tufts WebEx.
Blackstone Canal Conservancy Work Day.
9am. Meet at Plummers Landing west parking area,
Church Street, Northbridge. For info, contact Dave Barber 508-478-4918 or email
Landscaping at the Water’s Edge- An Ecological
1:00 - 2:00 p.m. Tune in to learn “simple
storm water management strategies for residential properties that encourage
infiltration of runoff on site, thus reducing pollutant loads to surface waters.
Blackstone River Watershed Council Monthly Meeting.
6:30pm - 8:30pm. Lincoln RI.
THINK GLOBAL, ACT LOCAL
Clean Water Act: Public Comment Period
On October 20th, the U.S EPA will close the public
comment period for the proposed "Waters of the U.S" rule developed this
past spring by the EPA and U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. The rule was
designed to clarify the scope of waters covered by the federal Clean
Water Act. Prior to this proposed rule, smaller water bodies including
headwater and intermittent streams, stream-side wetlands, and isolated
wetlands were exempt from the CWA's regulations that prohibited discharge
of pollutants into navigable waterways. Since the CWA's inception in
1972, scientists have garnered increasing evidence of these smaller
waters' connectedness to, and therefore influence on, larger water bodies.
It is this growing body of scientific research that led to the EPA's
In the case of the Blackstone River, the headwater streams located in
the greater Worcester area include Tatnuck Brook, Beaver Brook, Sewell
Brook, Coal Mine Brook, Broad Meadow Brook, and Bummit Brook, to name a
For more information on the proposed rule, go to
To submit comments,
Closing the existing gap in the definition of the waters of the U.S. will
help protect the Blackstone River and its watershed!
On November 4th, Massachusetts’s residents will go
to the polls to vote on a ballot ("Question 2") to expand the bottle bill.
The bill is designed to stop litter, increase recycling, and save
municipalities money. The issue went to ballot when the Massachusetts
House failed to even vote on it. Supporters of the ballot include
Governor Patrick, the state senate, the Sierra Club, Mass Audubon,
the Environmental League of Massachusetts, and the League of Women Voters.
Sixty percent of the towns and cities in the state have passed resolutions
in favor of it as well.
In 1982, Massachusetts enacted its current bottle deposit law to cover
primarily soda and beer bottles. It does not include non-carbonated
drinks such as water, ice tea, juice, and sports drinks, which were not
widely marketed back then. Thirty years later, however, it is apparent
that the loophole in the state's law needs to be closed in order to
reduce the tremendous amount of litter produced by these exempted bottles.
One only needs to take a paddle in the Blackstone River watershed like
Lake Ripple in Grafton or the Mumford River in Northbridge to see the
debris piling up from these products. The same is true for hiking the
trails such as West Hill Dam in Uxbridge, Purgatory Chasm in Sutton, or
by the Gorge in Blackstone. The tremendous amount of litter collected
during the BRWA's annual Earth Day Cleanup at River Bend Farm in Uxbridge
and numerous other locations throughout the watershed is further
indication of the need to address the failure to get these bottles out
of the environment and into the recycling stream.
The beverage industry, represented primarily by Coca Cola, Polar Beverage,
and Ocean Spray, is spending nearly $8 million in a campaign to defeat the
November ballot compared to the $145,000 spent by committees advocating
for the expansion. The opponents favor curb-side recycling as the sole
solution to the litter problem. However, only 47% of Massachusetts’s
municipalities provide curbside recycling. And in general, non-deposit
bottles are being disproportionately left out of the recycling stream.
Figures indicate 80% of deposit bottles are redeemed or otherwise recycled
compared with only 23% of non-deposit bottles. The proposed bottle bill
will help keep that 77% from polluting the environment.
For more information on this important opportunity to improve the quality
of the Blackstone River Watershed, go to
Massachusetts Environmental Bond Bill Passed
Late this summer, Governor Patrick signed into law
the 5-year, $2.2 billion environmental bond bill environmentalists across
the state have been strongly advocating for. It's a great victory for
Massachusetts' valuable natural resources with over $350 million provided
for land conservation programs, $117 million to improve coastal and
inland waterways, and $75 million to assess and monitor waterways. This
legislative effectively ties together efforts to protect and/or promote
water quality, energy efficiency, and fish and wildlife resources across
Mass Wildlife Hunting Season
Hunting season for various wildlife species in
Massachusetts begins October 18th and runs through November 29th.
Hikers, paddlers, bikers, riders, and others should consult the state
for specific dates, and exercise caution when outdoors this season.
In our June newsletter, we printed a photo of a
tree overhanging a stream with an upper branch high above the current
water surface stripped of bark. We challenged our readers to solve this
mystery. One person suggested that a beaver, standing on snowpack, had
stripped the bark back when the branch would have been accessible.
Clever critters! Do you have a photo mystery you want us to help solve?
If so, submit it to
SPOTLIGHT ON SCIENCE
Why is the Red Maple Such a Noteworthy Success?
By John P. Roche
The red maple (Acer rubrum), also known as swamp
maple or scarlet maple, is a common tree in New England, living on both
dry upland areas and areas with moist soil, such as swamp borders and in
forested wetlands known as red maple swamps. It is a fast-growing
pioneer species that is characterized by the following traits: red,
wind-pollinated flowers in early spring, paired fruit bodies called
samaras that mature in late spring and are wind-dispersed, and red leaf
buds in winter that open into dark green leaves on red stalks with
opposite branching. The flowers and seeds serve as forage for insects,
birds, and small mammals. And as the primary component of a red maple
swamp community, the trees provide critical habitat to several species
of plants and animals listed with the Mass Natural Heritage Program as
special concern, threatened, or endangered.
Red maples are extremely common in New England today, but red maples
did not used to be so common. In pre-European days, red maples were a
minor component of New England forests; in southern New England, oaks
and pines were the dominant trees and in northern New England, sugar
maple, yellow birch, beech, spruce, and fir were dominant. Then, in the
20th century, the red maple increased dramatically in abundance in the
forests of Massachusetts, through much of the rest of New England, and
in many other areas of the United States. Red maple swamps are now the
most common type of forest wetland community found in Massachusetts.
Why did the red maple increase so much in dominance? The answer may lie
with two aspects of this species’ ecology.
One factor favoring the red maple in the past 100 years is that the red
maple is highly tolerant of a wide range of conditions, including very
dry, and very moist, soil as well as soil with low nutrient levels.
This allows it to colonize many areas where other trees would not
thrive. The last one hundred years have been a time of many habitat
disturbances, including abandonment of agricultural fields, logging,
clearing of land, and outbreaks of insects such as gypsy moths and
diseases such as chestnut blight. All of these disturbances can open up
land for colonization by an opportunistic, condition-tolerant species
such as the red maple.
A second factor favoring red maples in the past 100 years is the trend
toward fire suppression. Red maples are much more vulnerable to fire
than many other New England tree species. In the pre-European era,
fires in New England forests were more common, with fires originating
naturally or being lit by Native Americans. In the past century,
however, forest fires have been suppressed, supplying red maples with
an added competitive advantage.
Red maples do not dominate every habitat, however. For example, because
of their tolerance to a wide range of soil quality, red maples do well
in dry upland areas such as ridge tops and slopes, and in low, moist
areas, where they often form almost monoculture stands in red maple
swamps. But in what are called mesic soils, where moisture levels are
intermediate, sugar maples outcompete red maples, and are thus more common.
The expansion of the red maple provides an interesting insight into
forest ecology under changing conditions, but it also provides another
benefit—in autumn, red maples provide one of the most magnificent
displays of color seen anywhere in nature. When you are out leaf peeping
this fall, keep your eyes out for the splendid scarlet hues of the red
maple, and marvel at this species’ success.
Ready, Aim, Shoot (a picture)!
Autumn is a wonderful time to introduce children to
nature photography. There is tremendous color in the trees and fall flowers,
and the air is particularly crisp and bright. Animals that had been reclusive
during the breeding months and hot weather are now displaying themselves in
the air, on the ground, and in the waterways. Here are some tips for helping
your kids explore the Blackstone River watershed through the lens of a camera.
More suggestions can be found at:
- Use a durable, good quality camera that will produce good quality
photos. Some cameras marketed for children produce really poor images,
and the idea is to encourage a child's interest with fascinating results.
- Offer basic instruction about looking through the viewfinder,
framing an image, holding still, and the importance of practice and
- Encourage him/her to photograph a variety of subject matter: large
and small, near and far, plants, animals, and non-living parts of nature
like stonewalls and pools of water.
- Make it part of a game such as shooting images in a fall scavenger
hunt, or telling a story with a series of images.
- Follow the outdoor photo shoot with an indoor research session to
learn more about the subject matter. For example, Mass Wildlife has
fact sheets online for many species of animals.
- Encourage your child to use the photography sessions as a stepping
stone to conservation. For example, images of butterflies and birds on
native plants could be used to encourage friends and neighbors to plant
more native plants in their yard.
Making Fall Green
Here are several tips for making fall yard work
kinder to the environment.
- Raked up leaves can be composted for future
use around landscaped areas. This is a green alternative to bagging
them up for trash pickup or burning them.
- When you go to fertilize your
shrubs and perennial beds for the winter, use organic products that
keep the watershed clean of excess nutrients.
- Planting shrubs, trees,
and even grass this time of year conserves a tremendous amount of water
that would otherwise be required during the hot dry months of summer.
“It is not half so important to know as to feel.” Rachel Carson
We find ourselves in the fall of the year. We think of this as a time
of slowing down and preparing for the solitude and quiet of winter.
Nature, however, continues to be tremendously busy. Color bursts
through leaves as chlorophyll stops being produced for photosynthesis.
Trees are releasing mature nuts and fruits that are being actively
consumed and stored by wildlife. Summer and fall flowers are setting
And then there's the water. It rarely slows down. Precipitating
from the sky, moving over the landscape, flowing from tributary to main
stem to estuary to ocean - tumbling over dams along the way. But
this fall, where is the water? We watch the skies for rain knowing
the plants are thirsty. The streams are running low or even dry.
The waterfalls are quiet in many places. Perhaps a rain dance is in order?
photo credit: Alexey Sergeev (2004).
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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