News

Cummings Foundation Awards $100K Grant to SVT!

SVT Executive Director Lisa Vernegaard (left) was thrilled when she learned SVT had received a $100,000 grant from Cummings Foundation. Lisa got the good news from Cheryl Rank, Associate Director of New Horizons in Marlborough.
SVT Executive Director Lisa Vernegaard (left) was thrilled when she learned SVT had received a $100,000 grant from Cummings Foundation. Lisa got the good news from Cheryl Rank, Associate Director of New Horizons in Marlborough.

Sudbury Valley Trustees (SVT) has received a $100,000 grant through Cummings Foundation’s “$100K for 100” program. SVT was one of 100 nonprofit organizations out of 574 applicants to be awarded a grant following a competitive review process.

Lisa Vernegaard, SVT Executive Director, received the good news from Cheryl Rank, Associate Director of New Horizons in Marlborough, a not-for-profit retirement community that is owned and operated by Cummings Foundation. “I was over the moon to learn that we’d been awarded one of these generous grants,” said Ms. Vernegaard.

Ms. Vernegaard continued, “These funds will enable SVT to accelerate the pace of conservation in our region so that we, together with our many partners, can save our most vulnerable and beautiful natural areas before they are lost forever to pavement and buildings. The impact of this grant will be felt for generations to come.”

The “$100K for 100” program supports nonprofits that are based in and primarily serve Middlesex, Essex, and Suffolk counties. Through this initiative, Cummings Foundation aims to give back in the area where it owns commercial buildings, all of which are managed, at no cost to the Foundation, by its affiliate Cummings Properties. Founded in 1970 by Bill Cummings, the Woburn-based commercial real estate firm leases and manages 10 million square feet of space, the majority of which exclusively benefits the Foundation.

“By having such a local focus, we aim to make a meaningful positive difference in the communities where our colleagues and leasing clients live and work,” said Joel Swets, Cummings Foundation’s Executive Director. “We are most grateful for the nonprofit organizations that assist and empower our neighbors, and we are proud to support their efforts.”

This year’s grant recipients represent a variety of causes, including homelessness prevention, affordable housing, education, violence prevention, and food insecurity. Most of the grants will be paid over two to five years. The list of winners will be posted at www.CummingsFoundation.org.

Cummings Foundation announced an additional $15 million in early May through its Sustaining Grants program. Through these awards, 50 local nonprofits will receive funding of $20,000 to $50,000 per year for 10 years.

About Cummings Foundation

Woburn-based Cummings Foundation, Inc. was established in 1986 by Joyce and Bill Cummings. The Foundation directly operates its own charitable subsidiaries, including New Horizons retirement communities in Marlborough and Woburn. Its largest single commitment to date has been to Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

Discovery Day Participants Find Butterflies, Dragonflies, and More

SVT's Discovery Day: Plants & Pollinators. Photo by Dany Pelletier.
SVT's Discovery Day: Plants & Pollinators. Photo by Dany Pelletier.
SVT's Discovery Day: Plants & Pollinators. Photo by Dany Pelletier.

The second of our three Discovery Days was a rousing success! Twenty-five amateur naturalists turned out on Saturday, May 18, at the newly acquired Smith Conservation Land in Littleton to learn about pollinators and their habitat, how to identify plants, and how to use the iNatualist application to log their findings. 

The theme of the day became, "Biology is messy and not everything is easily classified, but it can be a lot of fun!" 

The group divided into three and rotated around to different areas of the reservation to learn from expert naturalists like Ted Elliman, Pam Durrant, and Greg Dysart. There were exciting finds like American Lady butterflies, Dot-tailed Whiteface dragonflies, and many spring wildflowers. Other sightings included Spring Azure and Cabbage White butterflies and a Fragile Forktail damselfly.

This was the second of three Discovery Days, an educational program designed give amateurs the skills to interact with the natural world and take part in our BioBlitz on June 22. The final Discovery Day, focusing on Herpetology and Aquatics, is scheduled for June 1 at the Smith Conservation Land. Register to join us as we survey Black Pond for turtles and examine vernal pools for salamanders’ larvae and frog tadpoles.

All participants of the Discovery Days series and other expert naturalists will be invited to take part in our BioBlitz on June 22,  when volunteers will have the opportunity to catalogue all species on properties in Littleton, Boxborough, and Harvard. This biological inventory will help SVT and our conservation partners taking care of this ecologically important area and the species it protects.

Thank you to our volunteer experts who made this second Discovery Day possible:

  • Pam Durrant
  • Ted Elliman
  • Greg Dysart
  • Mary Brogan
  • Ryan Dorsey

Amateurs Acquire Birdwatching Skills at Discovery Day

Seventeen amateur naturalists joined experts and SVT staff on a rainy Saturday to learn how to find and identify birds in the wild. Gathering at Horse Meadows Knoll in Harvard early in the morning on May 4, the group started the day by learning to use guidebooks and apps like eBird and iNaturalist. In addition, the group used a scope and binoculars to watch eastern bluebirds and tree swallows enjoy their breakfast near the Horse Meadows Reservoir. At the end of the day the group had seen 25 species of birds!

Participants also learned how to bird by ear, hearing species like brown creeper and pine warbler. Plus, the group spotted a few "flat birds" (pieces of wood painted to resemble native species) that we had placed around the property to help them test their identification skills. The flat birds will remain up so other visitors to Horse Meadows Knoll can practice their birdwatching skills. 

This event was the first of three Discovery Days that SVT is hosting in the Harvard-Littleton-Boxborough region. The Discovery Days are educational events where area residents can acquire useful naturalist skills while learning about the ecological abundance of the region.

Future Discovery Days will be held at the Smith Conservation Area in Littleton and will focus on Plants and Pollinators (May 18) and Herps and Aquatics (June 1).  All are invited to attend these free events, but registration is required; visit our online calendar to register.

All Discovery Days participants as well as expert naturalists will be invited to take part in our spring BioBlitz on June 22, when we will try to catalog all the special species in this area so we can better care for our conservation lands.  

We extend a big "thank you" to our volunteer experts who made this day possible:

  • Dave Durrant
  • Norman Levey
  • Mary Brogan
  • Nichole Bray
  • Christopher Errington
  • Peter Norton

Saving the Riverbank in Wayland

Students from Wayland High School recently helped us with a slope restoration project along the Sudbury River at our Greenways Reservation.

During a workday on April 25, the students repaired a fence along the riverbank to prevent free-running dogs from trampling vegetation on a steep slope. They also planted lowbush blueberries and Pennsylvania sedge to restore the native vegetation that will stabilize the slope and provide good wildlife habitat. 

This stretch of the Sudbury River has been federally designated as a Wild & Scenic River, and thanks to the efforts of these student volunteers, we hope to prevent further degradation of the area.

SVT Joins MVP Effort

Click map for larger view. Map courtesy of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

To improve their resilience to climate change, cities and towns across Massachusetts have begun participating in a new Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program. The MVP program arose from a 2016 executive order issued by Governor Charlie Baker, in which he established an integrated climate change strategy for the commonwealth.

The MVP program provides grants to municipalities that evaluate their vulnerabilities to climate change and develop concrete action steps to make their communities more resilient. The grants cover both the creation of the MVP plan and the implementation of the action steps.

Since the program’s inception in 2017, 74 communities have become MVP communities and another 83 are working to achieve the designation in 2019 (see map). With more than 40% of the 351 Massachusetts communities obtaining MVP designation by the end of the year, the commonwealth is taking great strides forward in the fight against climate change.

This year, the program added “land conservation” as an action that is eligible for an MVP grant. As a result, SVT is offering our input and expertise to the municipalities in our region as they develop their MVP plans.

In April, Dan Stimson (Assistant Director of Stewardship) and Ashley Davies (Senior Land Protection Specialist) attended the planning workshops for the Towns of Wayland and Harvard, respectively, where they provided input on those communities’ plans. Soon, we'll be participating in planning workshops in Clinton and Sudbury.

As other communities develop MVP programs, SVT staff will accept invitations to their planning sessions, where we can offer advice on nature-based action steps for improving climate change resiliency. We also recommend that our members attend their local MVP planning sessions to stay abreast of how their communities are responding to climate change.

Protection and proper management of natural areas help both to combat climate change and to mitigate the destruction caused by major weather events, such as floods, droughts, and ice storms. We encourage all the communities in our region to participate in the MVP program and to keep land conservation, forest management, and protection of water resources at the top of their action lists. 

SVT and OARS Hold Third Legislative Breakfast

SVT and OARS sponsored our third annual legislative breakfast at the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge visitors' center on April 5th. We coordinate this event in order to strengthen relationships with legislators and discuss priorities in land and water issues.

Constituents from across our service area had a chance to interact with members of our state legislature during the two-hour session. Conversation topics ranged from climate change to pollinator protection to ensuring a healthy and abundant (but not too abundant) water supply for our region.

Several area legislators were in attendance: State Senator Jamie Eldridge and State Representatives Carmine Gentile, Kate Hogan, Tami Gouveia, and Danielle Gregoire. Senator Michael Barrett and Representative Jennifer Benson were unable to attend but sent aides in their place.

Thank you to Roche Bros. for donating the food for this event.

Learn About "The Very Impatient Caterpillar" on the Storybook Trail

With the arrival of spring, we've posted a new book to the Storybook Trail at Wolbach Farm: The Very Impatient Caterpillar. This story, written by Ross Burach, is a fun tale that incorporates lessons about metamorphosis AND patience. 

The Storybook Trail is located along the George Lewis Memorial Trail at SVT’s Wolbach Farm on Wolbach Road in Sudbury. The trail is only ¾-mile long—the perfect length for a walk with young children.

We have posted the pages of the book on 12 stations along the path, so you can read the story in sections as you walk through the woods.

Be sure to wear appropriate footwear. The trail could be muddy at this time of year.

After you finish the Storybook Trail, we invite you to stop in at the Nature Nook on the side of our office building. The Nature Nook offers families an interactive way to learn more about our natural surroundings. Activity sheets, crafts, and children's books feature the plants and wildlife of Wolbach Farm and other local conservation areas.

SVT Seeks Two AmeriCorps Members for 2019-2020

SVT has openings for two TerraCorps-AmeriCorps Members for the 2019-2020 service year. These full-time, 11-month positions provide wonderful, hands-on experience for anyone interested in a career in land conservation.

TerraCorps is a Massachusetts-based organization that is part of the national AmeriCorps program. Each year, AmeriCorps engages more than 75,000 Americans in service at nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups across the country. 

TerraCorps supports AmeriCorps Members who serve in land trusts and agricultural-based organizations across the state. Members serve for 11 months and receive a living allowance, an education award, and additional AmeriCorps benefits. 

The 2019-2020 service year will run from August 26, 2019, through July 31, 2020. 

SVT has openings for two TerraCorps/AmeriCorps Members at our headquarters in Sudbury, MA:

Land Stewardship Coordinator (LSC)
SVT is increasing its support to local land trusts and municipal conservation committees to build regional capacity for land stewardship. The LSC will serve with SVT's Stewardship staff to assess community-level conservation land stewardship priorities and needs. The LSC will meet with and interview local land trust and municipal conservation representatives and boards. in order to develop training and service days to address those priorities and needs. We anticipate the stewardship issues will focus on invasive species, deer impacts and control, building climate resiliency, managing field and early successional habitats, and connecting trail networks. This initiative is part of continued development of the capacity of the Metrowest Conservation Alliance and the Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area, two regional conservation collaboratives.

Read the full description and application instructions for the LSC position.
 

Regional Conservation Coordinator (RCC)
The RCC will work with our Land Protection staff to coordinate a series of workshops for landowners and the general public that emphasize a community-based approach to conservation. Workshops would be spread out throughout the year, and will focus on different land management and land conservation techniques. Other projects might include organizing SVT’s annual legislative breakfast and researching relevant legislation and pending legislation; organizing workshops, such as conservation options for landowners; and providing general assistance for land protection projects.

Read the full description and application instructions for the RCC position.

   

SVT Announces Volunteer "Bark Ranger" Program

Engaging Dog Walkers on SVT Trails

Do you love walking SVT trails? Engaging with others? Have a passion for the environment? If so, then you might have the skills to be an SVT Bark Ranger.

SVT is seeking volunteer Bark Rangers to interact with dog walkers at our Gray and Memorial Forest Reservations in Sudbury and our Greenways Reservation in Wayland in order to spread awareness of property rules and regulations. This will include hiking our trails twice a week from May through July to engage visitors about their dog-walking habits and encourage good stewardship.

By educating dog walkers about proper dog etiquette, Bark Rangers will play an important role in SVT's conservation efforts. We want to ensure our trails remain enjoyable for all visitors and also ensure that dogs do not harm critical wildlife habitats. 

A key part of the job will involve explaining the negative impacts that free-running dogs can have:  They can trample and damage vegetation and disturb ground-nesting birds and other wildlife. By running into a stream or pond, dogs add sediments to the water and destroy aquatic species. In addition, dog waste that is not picked up introduces harmful bacteria that can be drawn into groundwater.

Requirements

  • Commit to monitoring at least twice per week for at least 1 hour per visit, from May to July.
  • Submit a data-collection report after each outing.
  • Willingness to approach strangers and provide positive reinforcement when good dog behavior is observed or provide gentle reminders and suggestions when dog owners are behaving badly.
  • Possibly run dog outreach events at trail heads.

This is a pilot program that will help us assess the value of having Bark Rangers on our conservation properties. Training provided.

Want to make a difference? Become a Bark Ranger!
If you're interested, please fill out our Volunteer Application.

For more information contact Trevor Nelson at [email protected] or 978-443-5588 x137

Family Woodland Scavenger Hunt Planned for School Vacation Week

Explore the beautiful landscape of Upper Mill Brook in Wayland with Frances Pollitt, who has been enjoying this land since she was a girl.

Children (accompanied by their own caregivers) will be encouraged to make a closer observation of their surroundings by participating in a scavenger hunt of the natural world.

Wednesday, April 17
Upper Mill Brook Reservation, Wayland

Registration Required: SVT Members--Free; Non-members--$10 each.

Register now