Sustainable Arlington

An Envision Arlington committee & a Mass. Climate Action Network (MCAN) chapter

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Keeping Open Space Open

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As reported by first time aquatic weed-hauler Charlotte Milan

Keeping our open spaces free from invasive plant species means that sometimes people have to get down and mucky!

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Local volunteer Juliet stands next to a water chestnut plant, just like the ones she helped pull from the water and into the canoe we shared last Saturday.

Juliet (above) and I joined volunteers from all around Town to help preserve the beauty and tranquility of the Arlington Reservoir, a beloved destination for walkers, birders and dog lovers. Hosted by the Vision 2020 Reservoir Committee, the clean up day was one of a series of activities that occur in open spaces around Town each year. Volunteering to help the Town maintain its natural spaces is a popular activity, and an important support for Town Departments such as Public Works.

If you were walking around the Res earlier this summer and happened to look across the water, you might have noticed an infestation of green-leafed plants that were largely covering the surface. Those leafy greens are known as water chestnuts.  Sadly, these plant were introduced first in Cambridge as an ornamental garden plant. They have since spread throughout the waterways of the Mystic River watershed, causing ecological imbalance. The Mystic River Watershed Association has long helped organize volunteers to assist state and local authorities in efforts to control this invasive species. Learn more about the water chestnut eradication from the MyRWA website.

After local efforts, however, the problem has been greatly reduced, for now. This clean up was part of a multi-year plan, and you can read about it on the Reservoir Committee webpage here.

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Juliet displays the plant's prickly seeds, ouch! If you see these seeds at the Res, please throw them in a trash can.

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(photo from the MyRWA website)

The water chestnut problem at the Arlington Reservoir is being addressed by using mechanical harvesters, such as the one above.

The giant orange harvesting machines being used at the Res can't come in too close to the shore of the pond, so canoers, kayakers, and rugged volunteers with waist-high fishing gaiters were spending their Saturday morning gettting wet and muddy. It's a rewarding experience. In no time you can fill a bucket or boat with the loosely tethered plants, and unlike the weeds in my garden, these are easy to pull up.

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Over 20 volunteers turned out Saturday, some pictured here with full loads of water chestnuts in their kayaks.

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Pulling these weeds is a great activity for all ages. Meg and her three kids are finding all kinds of critters in the bottom of their canoe.

The ongoing battle to keep our open spaces open and free of non-native invasive plant species can be a thankless job, and expensive. Local author Meg Muckenhoupt has recently written on the subject on her blog, reacting to a recent Ideas article in the Boston Globe. Read Meg's blog here to learn more about the ecological argument in support of fighting invasive plant species.

Thanks to all the volunteers who organized and attended the clean up event, and for those of you who think this looks like fun (and I can attest it is!) keep your eyes open for future harvesting events sponsored by the Vision 2020 Reservoir Committee, the Conservation Commission, and the Mystic River Watershed Association.

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