Earth Day Cleanups this Saturday

But it doesn't say 'No Tagging'! (Sign at Paris Ave. & Swan Ave., Worcester)

It’s that time of year again — and once again we’re doing a cleanup at God’s Acre in the following locations:
–Swan Avenue between Paris and Wildwood
–along the trail that begins at Logan Field
–at trail heads on Goddard Memorial Drive

We’ll be out on Saturday, April 21, from 8am to noon.

(And — if Saturday doesn’t work for you — we’ll also be out for most of Friday on Swan Avenue.)

If you’re interested in volunteering, let me know and I can give you directions.

And if you’re interested in volunteering at a different site, there are plenty all around the city — find out more on the REC website.

God’s Acre, 1987

While looking for information on the citizen complaints officer, I found this article from the front page of the October 18, 1987 Telegram.  Enjoy!

‘God’s Acre’ May Go Unbuilt

FAA Has Final Say, But Officials Are Optimistic

By Walter H. Crockett Jr.

The interests of conservation and aviation have combined to preserve one of the city’s last large areas of unspoiled woodland.

It took two city commissions and two city departments to turn the trick, and the final say on the matter still rests with the Federal Aviation Administration.  But city officials say it is almost certain that 150 acres of maple, oak, birch, glacial boulders and endangered salamanders on the eastern slope of Tatnuck Hill will be preserved in perpetuity for conservation and passive recreation.

The land is off Swan Avenue, a winding dirt road that climbs what used to be known as Rattlesnake Hill from Mill Street and gradually curves in the direction of Apricot Street.

Owned by the city and controlled by the Worcester Airport Commission, it includes the site of the former Hermitage estate and the huge granite boulder on which Solomon Parsons deeded 10 acres to God during the 19th century.

That particular parcel became known as God’s 10 Acres, or simply God’s Acre.  Earlier this year, the Conservation Commission included God’s Acre in a 17-acre tract and said it was one of 10 open-space areas that should get top priority for preservation.

On the verge

While several of the other top-10 areas already are slated for development by their owners, God’s Acre is on the verge of beating the reaper.

The city’s new master plan endorses the Conservation Commission’s top-10 list and the City Council has directed City Manager William J. Mulford to find ways to buy or otherwise protect the areas.

The Office of Planning and Community Development this year began approaching owners of parcels in the 10 areas to see if they were interested in selling them or granting conservation easements.

David M. Moore, a lawyer in the city Law Department who works with the Airport Commission, was asked by OPCD to see if the commission would give approval for conservation restrictions on the 17-acre God’s Acre parcel.

The commission liked the idea because keeping the land undeveloped would help avoid problems with neighbors, Moore said in a recent interview.

“The airport wants to be a good neighbor and they don’t want to have people build houses at the end of runways and have noise problems,” Moore said.

To reduce noise problems, the commission has asked the Planning Board to require aviation easements for new developments in the airport area.  The city’s proposed zoning ordinance includes an airport overlay area that would require strict review for building projects in the area and heavy soundproofing for houses that are built nearby.

When Moore researched the God’s Acre land for the Airport Commission, he found that it was one of eight adjoining parcels taken by eminent domain in 1977 for the airport and the industrial park.  None of the parcels was suitable for industrial use or airport expansion.

The commission decided to extend conservation restrictions to all eight parcels, enlarging God’s Acre to 130 acres and placing it under restricted covenants that include the phrase, “the property shall remain in its natural, scenic and open condition in perpetuity.”

Such words are music to the ears of conservationists, and Robert Burtin, a Conservation Commission member, who teaches ecology at Holy Cross College, said he was “very much pleased” by the Airport Commission’s action.

Burtin said the area is of considerable historical significance because of the granite boulder carved with 1 1/2- inch-high capital letters deeding the land to God.

The hillside includes a good stand of hardwoods and also may be home to an endangered amphibian, Burtin said.  He said he had been asked not to name the amphibian because some misguided scientist might try to collect it.

Deborah D. Cary, director of the Resources for Worcester office of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, said that with the Airport Commission’s approval, the enlarged God’s Acre area could be used for hiking, nature study, and perhaps cross-country skiing.  An existing trail through part of the area could be maintained by groups such as the Boy Scouts, and new hiking trails could be developed, she said.

“The first step is to get the land under the conservation restrictions and the next step is to develop ways to use it for conservation purposes,” Moore said.

The protective covenants must be approved by the FAA and there is no telling how long that will take, he said.

Escape Clause

There is an escape clause among them that would allow the Airport Commission to use part of the land for sophisticated landing instruments if no other location is suitable, he said.  But such use would not reduce the conservation value of the land and there is no chance the commission would use the land to expand the airport, Moore said.

The Airport Commission also controls other parcels in the area that it may want to preserve, Moore said.  Engineering work would have to be done to determine their precise boundaries, but it is not impossible that the God’s Acre conservation area could eventually be greatly increased in size and extend to Airport Drive or to Logan Field on Mill Street, he said.

Burtin said extending the area to Logan Field would tie God’s Acre into city-owned conservation land that may someday extend from Coes Pond to Cascades Park.  That would allow city residents to take a healthy hike in the woods, and skip a few stones along the way, without ever leaving town.

Earth Day Cleanups 2012

The Regional Environmental Council will once again be coordinating Earth Day Cleanups.

Here are the details for this year, from the REC website:

Plans for the 23rd Annual REC Earth Day Cleanups on Saturday April 21st are already underway.  We are very excited to be reconnecting with the many dedicated volunteers who have made the REC Earth Day Cleanups possible for the last 22nd years, and to welcome new volunteers who  decide to give their time and energy for the first time.  Last year, REC was able to count 36 tons of trash removed from 65 cleanups across the City because 65 volunteers took the initiative to coordinate the effort at each location.  This year we look forward to continuing our effort at the 65 sites, and adding a few that are new in 2012.

If you are interested in continuing your involvement as a site coordinator, or becoming one for the first time in 2012, please fill out:  Site Coordinator App 2012

As longtime readers know, this will be my fifth (!) year coordinating the God’s Acre/Swan Avenue site for Earth Day cleanups.  The past four cleanups have helped remove over 30 tons of garbage along Swan Avenue and in God’s Acre (and the surrounding area).

We are now at the maintenance stage for this site, so this year we will be picking up trash that may have been dumped along Swan Avenue since last October.

We’re only anticipating that the work will take 2-3 hours this year because the God’s Acre trail is mostly clear of trash.  (You can see the kind of work we did at last year’s Earth Day Cleanup here — I expect this year will be similar in volume and content.)

What’s been done since last year’s Earth Day Cleanup

If you’ve been to God’s Acre in the past, you may remember that there were three cars that had been dumped off a hill.

Due to the hard work of Greater Worcester Land Trust volunteers (and others), those cars have been removed.  The GWLT has also been hard at work blazing trails to both Logan Field and Goddard Memorial Drive.

Those of you who came to National Trails Day at God’s Acre last June may remember that the part of the trail closer to Logan Field also had some dumping, mostly of the metal and glass variety.  We have removed most of that (and will remove the rest in the spring).

Consider Becoming a Site Coordinator

While I’m always looking for volunteers who are willing to help with our cleanups, I’d also like to encourage folks to consider becoming a site coordinator.  Take a look at the location map from last year; if there’s a location you feel needs cleaning up and you don’t see it listed, there’s a good chance that we need you to take that on this year.

Two years ago, I wrote a short guide to beginning cleanups in your neighborhood, and I’ve listed some additional tips here and here.  If this sounds like something you’d like to do, call or email the REC.  If you have questions about how the process works, comment on this post or send me an email.

As always, I appreciate the work of the REC, the city, and others in organizing these cleanups, and the enormous effort volunteers put into cleaning up the site and blazing trails.

Worcester God’s Acre Walk This Saturday

via Mass Audubon; I’ll try to be there:

Worcester Walk
Sponsored by Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary

Sat, Nov 05, 2011 9:00 am – 11:00 am

Location: God’s Acre
Instructors: Deb Cary – Director, Central Sanctuaries; Martha Gach – Conservation Coordinator
Audience: All (suitable for children ages 12 & up)

Come explore the Greater Worcester Land Trust’s newly blazed trail between Logan Field and Deed Rock, about a 2-mile walk through beautiful open forest. Expect a variety of birds, mature trees, and occasional vistas on this beautiful hillside framed by Mill Street and Worcester Airport.

Instructions and Directions: Meet at Logan Field near the intersection of Mill St. and Airport Drive.

This is a free program. Donations are welcome and most appreciated!

Mayor’s Walk at God’s Acre on Monday

The rumor mill told me that there will likely be a Mayor’s Walk at God’s Acre next Monday, August 29, at 6:00pm.  I’ll post more details on the time and location as I hear them.

As per usual, here’s been some dumping (a couch, about 10 bags’ worth of trash, a Little Tikes tugboat sandbox that I’ll likely drag to my front yard and put a “Free” sign on, etc.).

The question — which I suspect is the question all folks in this position have — is whether or not to leave the trash as is.  Seeing a quite pretty wooded area with large items dumped intermittently throughout certainly makes a statement.

On the other hand, I was already planning on spending some this week’s free time collecting the trash for DPW to pick up.  If I hadn’t heard about the Mayor’s Walk, I’d have been spending a few hours with my wheelbarrow doing what I usually do.

The compromise I’ll likely make with myself is to do some tidying up, but to take plenty of “before” pictures so that those who only see the “after” can fully appreciate the work it takes to keep God’s Acre looking the way it does.