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WRWA sponsors or participates in a variety of events during the year. Many of these events offer opportunities for volunteers to get involved with watershed issues. The listing below includes some specifics for 2006 events.
Atlantic Salmon Egg-Rearing Program (ASERP): WRWA again provided chillers and tanks at the South Middle School in Westfield, the Gateway Regional Middle School in Huntington, and the Powder Mill Middle School in Southwick during the Spring of 2006. Two new schools also joined the program this year, Chester Elementary and the North Middle School in Westfield. About 300 salmon eggs were delivered to each site in February. Students monitored the hatching of the eggs and cared for the fry until they were stocked in local streams in May or June. Thanks to Mark Damon, Carl Grobe, Michael Vorwerk, Tim Parshall and Mike Young, who assisted with the school's fry releases.
Russell BioMass Debate: Russell Biomass LLC has proposed to build a biomass powered electrical generation facility in Russell, MA. This project entails many controversial environmental, social, economic, and planning issues. The Westfield River Environmental Center and WRWA cosponsored a debate, attended by 200-300 people, with representatives of Russell Biomass LLC and opponents of the project responding to questions the audience submitted in writing. The debate was held on Thursday, February 16 at 7:00 p.m. in the Scanlon Banquet Hall at Westfield State College. Light refreshments were served. All are welcome! Contact Michael Vorwerk (572-5305) for further information.
Hike Lair Mtn. in Tolland: Join Tom & Nancy Condon on Sunday, March 12 for a hike in Tolland State Forest to look for early signs of spring. This trail on the south end of Otis Reservoir winds through beautiful hardwood as well as hemlock forests. The trail has some rocky sections and may be wet and muddy this time of year or may still have snow - come prepared with proper footwear. Expect inclines. Bring a lunch and drinking water. Meet at the Blandford Post Office (Route 23) at 9:00 a.m. and expect to return by about 3:00 p.m. Please call 413-564-0895 to register, so if bad weather forces cancellation you can be contacted.
River Morphology and the Fundamentals of River Health: This workshop, to be held at the Becket Town Hall at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 14 will provide an overview of river health and describe approaches to protect and restore river habitat. Guest speakers will be Brian Graber (Restoration Scientist from the MA Riverways Program) and Heidi Davis (Environmental Analyst with DEP). This is part of Mass DEP's Circuit Rider Program series of free educational workshops for Conservation Commission members, staff and other interested persons. For more information, contact Mark Stinson, DEP Wetlands Circuit Rider for the Western Region, at 413-755-2257.
12th Annual Westfield River Symposium: Approximately 200 people attended the 2006 River Symposium, which was held in the Savignano Auditoriums (Wilson Hall) at Westfield State College on Saturday, April 1. The keynote speaker was Wayne Klockner, State Director of The Nature Conservancy. The event featured themes of "Flora and Fauna", "Historical Attractions", and "Commitment to Our Watershed's Future". Speakers included Wayne Petersen (Mass Audubon) on birding, Dennis Picard (Storrowtown Museum) on the General Knox Trail, and Dave Pierce on the Keystone Arches. Many WSC students prepared posters on watershed-related issues that were displayed at the symposium as well. Check the symposium program for the details of the schedule and a full listing of speakers.
East River Trail Hike: Join Tom & Nancy Condon on Sunday, April 2 for a hike that begins in Chesterfield Gorge and follow the Westfield River down to Knightsville Dam in Huntington. We'll be following this trail downriver in search for interesting natural sightings. Bring your binoculars to search for the return of early spring birds and perhaps a field guide for wildflowers, should we be so lucky, or mushrooms if the spring is wet. This hike is for casual hikers, we will travel at a leisurely pace. We have no particular destination or distance in mind. We'll walk as far as people wish and time allows. Please wear appropriate footwear, dress for the weather, pack a lunch, and carry plenty of water. Meet at the Commuter Parking Lot at Westfield State College at 9:00 a.m., and expect to return by about 2:00 p.m. Please call 413-564-0895 to register, so if bad weather forces cancellation you can be contacted.
Fry Stocking: About 30 volunteers assisted the MA DFW with stocking salmon fry along Dickenson and Munn Brooks in Granville and Southwick on Saturday, April 8. The group met at the WSC Commuter Parking Lot at 8:00 a.m., then caravanned to Granville where the fry were weighed out and buckets distributed. The volunteers, working in groups of 2-6, walked 1 km sections of stream, dropping off fry at pre-determined rates. This is part of the overall Atlantic Salmon restoration program.
Richard Cronin National Salmon Hatchery Tour: Join Tom & Nancy Condon on Sunday, April 9 for a visit to the Richard Cronin National Salmon Station in Sunderland, which plays a vital role in restoring Atlantic salmon to the Connecticut River and its tributaries. In 2005, 186 fish returned to the river system so long bereft of this species. This increase of 268% from 2004 is an achievement due to the efforts made right here by a very dedicated man and his colleagues. Mickey Novak, US Fish and Wildlife Service fisheries biologist and hatchery manager, will host our tour of this facility. Mickey will provide an update on the status of the restoration effort to date and allow us an insider's look at the salmon-saving efforts being made there. We can feed the 2005 returnee fish, kept at the facility for spawning purposes. We'll visit the holding ponds and runs and also a terrific vernal pool with salamander egg masses and spotted turtles since it is very cool and right on-site. Program will take place rain or shine. Bring a supper or some hotdogs to grill at the picnic area at the end of the tour. Everyone of every age is welcome. Meet at the Hampshire Mall parking lot in Hadley (in front of the EMS store) at 2:30 p.m. Contact Nancy at 413-564-0895 to pre-register.
The Impact of the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid on Eastern Hemlock Forests: Dr. David Orwig, of the Harvard Forest, will speak on Thursday, April 20 at 7:00 p.m. in Savignano Auditorium A (Wilson Hall) at Westfield State College. Dr. Orwig is a leading expert on the impact of this invasive insect on hemlock forests in New England. The hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae) is an aphid-like insect native to Asia that is threatening hemlock forests in eastern North America. The adelgid can be found under hemlock branches contained in small white fuzzy sacs. The insect feeds on hemlock sap causing needle loss and eventually tree mortality. Hemlock trees play a vital role in forest ecosystems in western Massachusetts. They provide thermal cover for mammals, nesting areas for birds, and shade relief along rivers and streams for endangered Atlantic salmon and trout that require cold temperatures for survival. The hemlock woolly adelgid was first found in 1951 near Richmond, Virginia, probably inadvertently transported with imported nursery stock. Since then it has been spreading though forests in northeastern North America. The adelgid arrived in western Massachusetts around 1985 and has been migrating northward. With the lack of natural predators, the adelgid reproduces quickly and will probably continue to spread. A new study initiated by faculty and students at Westfield State College aims to document where hemlock woolly adelgid is infesting forests in the Westfield River Watershed. All are welcome to attend and admission is free. Off campus visitors are encouraged to park in the visitor parking lot on Western Avenue. The talk is sponsored by the Westfield River Environmental Center. Contact Dr. Tim Parshall (413-572-5303) for more information.
WRWA Annual Dinner Meeting: About 45 people attended the 2006 Dinner on Thursday, May 4 from 6:00-900 p.m. at the Tekoa Country Club. Mayor Richard Sullivan and State Representative Don Humason made proclamations honoring Dan Call for his many years of service in support of local environmental issues - Friday, May 5, 2006 has been proclaimed "Dan Call Day" in the City of Westfield. George Reichert, owner of Conner's in downtown Westfield, was also honored for his assistance in distributing last year's "Five Feet and Rising" video. The after-dinner speaker was Alison Bowden, aquatic biologist for The Nature Conservancy, who updated the group on the Stream Continuity Project. Culvert surveys have been completed and a report prioritizing remediation for the structures that will most benefit connectivity of streams in the watershed will be completed within the next couple of months. The 2006 Board of Directors was also elected. Contact Kathy Meyer (568-4252) for more information.
Fly Fishing Clinic for Youth: On Saturday, May 13 the Westfield River Watershed Association and the Western Massachusetts Fly Fishing Association will offer a Fly Fishing Clinic for Youth. The event will be held from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the turnout on Highway 20 in Huntington across from the Huntington Health Center and Gateway Auto. This location is directly on the Westfield River. Youth of all ages can learn to tie a fishing fly and learn to fly cast under the expert guidance of seasoned fly fishermen. There will be exhibits about the fish that live in the Westfield River and children will have the opportunity to draw water samples from the river and look under a microscope at the tiny organisms that live in the river. A Naturalist will be on hand to help the children identify the organisms they find and explain how they fit into the river ecosystem. The purpose of the event is interest youth in fly-fishing, a low impact way to enjoy the Westfield River, and to appreciate the natural environment of the Westfield River. The event is free and open to the public. Heavy rain cancels. For further information, contact Bill Rose at (413) 786-0195 or Kathy Meyer at (413) 568-4252.
Salmon Stocking: Help with stocking of salmon fry along the branches of the Westfield River and its tributaries between April 3 and April 29. Check the local stocking schedule or download the schedule for the entire Connecticut Basin [pdf] - stocking in other areas continues throughout April and May. WRWA is particularly committed to finding volunteers to help out on Saturdays, April 8 and April 29. This is a great way to get out and do something positive for the Watershed - please consider joining us!! Contact Henry Warchol (562-3467) or Bill Rose (786-0195) for more information.
Spider Hunt: Spiders are fascinating creatures. Were it not for them, our world would be overridden with insects. Come learn a little bit about these invertebrates and participate in a hike to find some. We will stop in a couple of different spots along the trail and perform a variety of collecting techniques. Armed with vials, we'll sift through the leaf litter, tap branches to see who falls out on a collecting tarp, and perhaps set up a Burlese funnel to temporarily collect specimens for inspection. We'll check them out with hand lenses and microscopes to get a close look at the 8 eyes or the combs on the end of the tarsi. Armed with guides and keys, and Nancy's limited but practiced aptitude, we'll figure out who we found, and gain a higher respect for these crafty little fellows. Come dressed for the weather and for getting down on hands& knees. Gloves may make you feel better about handling spiders, but are not really necessary. An adventurous spirit is all that is required. Meet at the Frank Stanley Beveridge Wildlife area trailhead at Stanley Park at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, May 28, and expect to return by about 12:00 p.m. Please call Nancy Condon at 413-564-0895 to preregister.
Fishway Open House: More than 200 visitors toured the West Springfield Fishway on Sunday, June 4 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The fishway provides upstream passage for migrating fish, including Atlantic Salmon. Two Atlantic Salmon, a male and a female, were trapped that morning, and provided some extra excitement for the tour. Thanks to Henry Warchol (562-3467) and Bill Rose (786-0195) for organizing the event, and to Kathy Meyer, Ken Taylor, Gabe Khatchadourian, Joan Pearsons, and Mike Young for helping out.
Columbia Greenway Rail Trail Meeting: Westfield's future rail-trail is beginning to take shape. Please plan on attending the Mass Highway public hearing for the 25% design phase of the project on Tuesday, June 20 at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers of the Westfield City Hall. This is your opportunity to view the plans, to provide input on the project, and to demonstrate strong community support to the Mass Highway planners. You can find more information at www.WestfieldRailTrail.org.
Art Exhibit: During the month of July the Hilltown Plein Air Painters will be exhibiting their paintings of the Westfield River Watershed at the Jasper Rand Art Museum of the Westfield Athenaeum. The seven artists (from left to right below: Carolyn Avery, Karin Cook, Ann Kusiak, Alma LaFrance, Mary Montague, Natlie Birrell, and Carol Chandler) have painted in all seasons at numerous sites along the Westfield River including Chesterfield Gorge, Knightville Basin, the Keystone Arches, Gardner State Park and views in Worthington, Chester and Huntingon. WRWA hosted a reception for the painters on Thursday, July 6 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Athenauem, which was very well attended.
Keystone Arches Hike: Dave Pierce, of the Friends of the Keystone Arches, will lead an approximately 5-mile hike to the bridges on Sunday, September 17. Dave is very knowledgeable about these sites and will provide lots of information on the history of the bridges and on renovations that we hope will be carried out soon. Meet at the new Chester Elementary School at 10:00 a.m. Bring a lunch and water, and expect to return by 1-2 p.m. A $10/person donation is requested to help support the work of the Friends of the Keystone Arches. Contact Mike Young (562-8498) for more information.
River Cleanup: Our annual cleanup will be held on Saturday, September 30 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Meet at the Westfield Gas & Electric substation just off Meadow St. (near the SE corner of the Rt. 10/202 bridge) in Westfield. Contact Mark Damon (572-9991) for more information.
A Place of Many Windings: Mike Donovan will talk about the history of Woronoco and the impact of the mills there on the Westfield River on Thursday, October 19 at 6:30 p.m. in the Rand Museum of the Westfield Athenaeum. The talk is free and open to the public. Contact Mike Young (572-5741) for more information.
November on October Mountain: Join Tom and Nancy Condon on Saturday, November 18 for a hike along the gently rolling hills of October Mountain State Forest. After running a car shuttle, we will start hiking off County Road (gravel) in Becket (5 miles from Route 8). We will then hike the Appalachian Trail to the picturesque Finerty Pond. If a bit of fall color still survives, this pond is a real delight. The trail is relatively gentle through this section of forest. We will then begin a gradual ascent of both Becket (2,180 ft.) and Walling (2,222 ft.) mountains. Although the summits are forested, the open woods in the area make for a very pleasant fall hike as the newly fallen leaves pad our steps - which sure beats raking them! The total distance of the hike is 5.5 miles. Meet at the Commuter Parking Lot (off Western Ave.) at Westfield State College at 9:00 a.m. We should be back by 4:00 p.m. Bring a lunch, plenty of water, raingear and good hiking boots. Please call 413-564-0895 to register so that if bad weather forces a cancellation, you can be contacted.
Nighttime at Noble View: Join Tom and Nancy Condon on Saturday, December 2 for a pleasant leisurely nighttime walk along the road to the Appalachian Mountain Club's Noble View cabin. Along the way, learn how to call for owls. They will not be nesting until next month, but it's worth a try. We will be alert for other nighttime creatures like porcupine or flying squirrels. Our destination will be the stunning view down into Westfield, where we'll enjoy a little star-gazing (if the weather permits) and some hot chocolate and goodies at the picnic table. Bring along a mug and flashlight. Dress for the weather. Although the hike is free, a dontation to help preserve this beautiful piece of AMC property is an option. Meet at the Noble View Parking Area, South Quarter Road in Russell at 7:00 p.m. and expect to return by 9:00 p.m. Please call 413-564-0895 to register so that if bad weather (heavy rain or heavy snow) forces a cancellation, you can be contacted.