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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 2008 events.
Cross Country Skiing (Granville) or Hiking (Becket): If there's Snow: Join Tom and Nancy Condon for some cross-country skiing on the extensive trail system at Maple Corner Farm on Saturday, January 26 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Bring your own skis or rent them there. This trip is for all ability levels. Ski as a group or split off and ski the trails of your choice and ability level. The group will explore the trails for signs of animals and discuss winter survival strategies used by plants. Bring a lunch or buy something to eat at the farm's snack bar. Treacherous travel conditions may cancel. A $10 trail pass and $10 equipment rental apply. If there's No Snow: Join us for a winter hike along the trail system at Becket Historic Quarry Forest Preserve, also on Saturday, January 26 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. This demonstration forest abuts the historic Quarry and contains miles of trails. Both these preserved areas, which together comprise over 300 acres, are in the care of Becket Land Trust. We will wander a few trails, talk about winter adaptations of plants and look for signs of animals. Bring a lunch or snack. Here, there is no indoor area in which to eat or sit. No fee to hike here. Please call Tom and Nancy at 413-564-0895 to register for either event and to get directions to the meeting points. Pre-registration allows them to contact you if bad weather conditions force a cancellation.
Atlantic Salmon Egg-Rearing Program (ASERP): WRWA is again providing chillers and tanks at the North and South Middle Schools in Westfield, the Powder Mill Middle School in Southwick, Fausey Elementary in West Springfield, and Chester Elementary during the Spring of 2008. Gateway Regional Middle School took a year off, but we added Abner Gibbs Elementary in Westfield to the program this year. 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. WRWA provided volunteers to help with stocking activities for four of the schools - thanks to Carl Grobe, Marj Lehan, Tim Parshall, Michael Vorwerk, Karin Vorwerk, and Mike Young for their help with the release days. Thanks to Petco for providing a substantial discount on the new tank and supplies for Abner Gibbs Elementary, and to WalMart of Westfield for donating some accessories for the new tank.
14th Westfield River Symposium: Our annual symposium, with a keynote address this year by Commissioner of the MA Dept. of Conservation and Recreation Richard Sullivan, took place in the Scanlon Banquet Hall at Westfield State College on Saturday, April 5. Registration (it's FREE!) begins at 8:15, with a free continental breakfast. A variety of talks will be given throughout the morning, and about two dozen exhibits will be available for viewing. An afternoon performance of "The Watershed Waltz", and a field trip are also part of the program. Check the symposium program for the most up-to-date information.
Birding at the Sofinowski Land Preserve, Southwick: Tom and Nancy Condon will lead this trip on Sunday, April 13 from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. (meet at the Sofinowski Land Preserve on Mort Vining Road in Southwick). In 2002, the town of Southwick set aside this old farm as part of their open space plan. We'll be exploring the established trails that meander from fields to wetlands to upland forests. The diversity of ecosystems offers a wonderful opportunity for birding, so strap on those binoculars or grab up that spotting scope. We'll travel slowly to observe as many signs of spring as we can. Dress for the weather and wear comfortable shoes. Bring along some water and a snack. Heavy rain cancels. Please call Tom or Nancy at 413-564-0895 to sign up.
Storm Drain Labeling in Agawam: We'll be labeling storm drains in north Agawam, advising residents to avoid dumping things into the drains - which empty directly into wetlands or the Westfield River, on Saturday, April 19. As part of the project, pamphlets will also be distributed to neighborhood residents. Contact Bill Rose (786-0195) for more information.
Salmon Fry Stocking: More than 50 volunteers turned out (on each of WRWA's "dates") to help the MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife with stocking more than a million salmon fry in the Westfield River watershed! WRWA helped to provide volunteers on two dates: Saturday, April 12, when stocking was done along Dickenson and Munn Brooks in Granville and Southwick, and Saturday, April 26, when stocking was done along the Middle Branch above Littleville Lake. Special thanks to Karen Williford and to Cub Scout Pack 120 from Chester for their help on the 26th and for the photographs below! For more information, including info on other fry stocking opportunities, check the MA DFW Fry Stocking Page.
WRWA Annual Dinner: WRWA's Annual dinner meeting, for WRWA members only, will be held on Thursday, May 29 at the School Street Bistro. Invitations were mailed in mid-April. The evening will begin with a social hour from 5:30-6:30 (cash bar), followed by dinner at 6:30, then a brief business meeting and the keynote presentation "Growing a Forest One Tree at a Time - Building a Network for Forest Protection" by Jennifer Fish of the MassACORN project. We hope to see you there!
Fishway Open House: About 300 people attended the open house at the West Springfield Fishway on Sunday, June 1 from 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Getting there involved a half-mile walk (each way) along the Westfield River, but was rewarded by tours of the facility and the chance to see an adult salmon! Parking was at the Southworth Paper Co. on Front St. in West Springfield. From Rt. 20, turn south onto Second St. and go a couple of blocks down the hill, then right onto Front St. After about 200 yards, turn left and cross the railroad tracks, then turn immediately right and look for parking along the cobblestone street. For more information on salmon, check out the web site of the Atlantic Salmon Federation. Thanks to Henry Warchol (413-562-3467) for organizing, and to Mark Damon, Ron Lucassen, Kathy Meyer, Bill Rose, Phil Sousa, Ken Taylor, and Mike Young for helping out.
Canoe Cruise: A dozen boats (canoes and kayaks) cruised the Westfield River, from downtown Westfield to Robinson State Park in Agawam, on Saturday, June 7. Registration was from 12:30 to 1:00 at the River Walk entry point off Meadow Street in Westfield (0.1 miles SE of the Great River Bridge, where Rts 10/202 cross the Westfield River just north of the center of town). We launched at 1:00 and the trip took only about 2 hours because of high flows from rains on Friday and Saturday. This event is free for WRWA members (though you need your own boat), and $5 per person for non-members (to cover the cost of insurance). Steady rain cancels. Thanks to Tom Condon for leading this year's cruise.
The World Without Us: Alan Weisman, author of the bestselling book The World Without Us, gave a talk at the Westfield Athanaeum (the Westfield city library) at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 21. Alan is an award-winning journalist who has written for The New York Times, Harper's, The Atlantic Monthly, Discover, and NPR. His book The World Without Us (check out the website!) explores what would happen to our planet, including the artifacts of our own civilization, if humanity were to vanish tomorrow. WRWA arranged for his talk and for a book sale and signing afterwards.
Hike Gobble Mountain: Gobble Mountain is a Nature Conservancy Property in the town of Chester. As the name implies, there will be a climb and it can be a bit steep at times. Hence the reason for the early meeting time. The trail, an old road really, will allow us to wind our way up the mountainside. Eventually we'll level out and find ourselves in amongst some unusual rock cliff. After a touch over one mile, we will crest out at the site of an old fire tower. The views from the top of the Westfield River and its watershed are well worth the effort of the climb. Bring along a snack, plenty of water, binoculars. Dress for the weather and you may want to wear solid hiking shoes. It can be a bit rocky in places. Meet at the Chester Elementary School on Middlefield Road at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, Aug 23 (expect to be back by noon). Please call Tom Condon (413-564-0895) to sign up so that you can be contacted if weather conditions force a cancellation.
Annual River Cleanup: Nearly 150 volunteers showed up for WRWA's annual river cleanup in Westfield and Agawam, which was held on Saturday, October 4 from 9:00 a.m. to approximately noon or 1:00 p.m. The Westfield contingent met at the Westfield Gas and Electric substation near the Great River Bridge (where Rt 10/202 cross the river, and where a new bridge is being constructed), where we split up into small teams and headed off to eleven sites along the river. Our efforts filled more than 120 trash bags and removed 28 tires and 97 other large items from along the banks of the river! Thanks to Heather Comee (427-5089) and Mark Damon for organizing this year's cleanup.
Tekoa Peak Hike: Tom and Nancy Condon will lead a hike to the top of Tekoa Peak on Saturday, October 18. As you travel west on the Mass Pike from Westfield toward New York, you pass over the Westfield River. Just west of the river, the Mass Pike enters a narrow steep pass between two peaks. The peak to the south is called Tekoa Peak. It hosts a Westfield city park with nice trails to follow. Our hike will start on Route 20, pass under the Mass Pike Bridge and then climb to the peak. At times the climb will be steep, but we'll take our time and stop along the way to watch for birds in the treetops (we'll be looking down into them), mushrooms at our feet (it's been a good wet year - do we dare hope it continues?) and catch our breath to enjoy the fall colors. Dress for the weather, wear sturdy hiking boots, a hiking stick might be helpful, and bring plenty of water with your lunch. Heavy rain cancels. Meet at the pull-out along Rt. 20 on the Westfield-Russell town line (east of the Mass Pike Bridge) at 10:00 a.m., with a return by about 1:00 p.m. Please call 413-564-0895 to register so that you can be notified if the trip is canceled.
Keystone Arches Hike: Tom and Nancy Condon will guide us to the Keystone Arches in Chester on Sunday, November 2. Back at the turn of the century, the 20th, not the 21st, a railroad track was laid through the rugged country of Western Massachusetts. Engineers struggled with tackling such a steep and treacherous terrain. George Washington Whistler solved the problem: a series of spectacular keystone arched bridges. Join us as we follow the path to these hidden marvels on the Westfield River. We'll walk past, over, and around these bridges and along the way enjoy the sights and sounds of the woods that now envelop the structures of man. The trail is never very steep, but is often wet, so come prepared, wear sturdy hiking boots, a hiking stick might be helpful, and bring plenty of water with your lunch. Dress for the weather and remember heavy rain cancels. The bridges might be able to handle it, but we can come back another day. Meet at the Chester Elementary School on Middlefield Road in Chester at 10:00 a.m., with a return by about 3:00 p.m. Please call 413-564-0895 to register so that you can be notified if the trip is canceled.
Nighttime at Noble View: Join Tom and Nancy Condon for an evening at Noble View in Russell on Saturday, December 13. Sunset is about 4:30pm. Winter is nearly upon us. Join us for a pleasant leisurely nighttime walk along the road to the Appalachian Mountain Club's Noble View cabin. Along the way, we will call for owls. Great Horned Owls nest in late January, and begin calling to one another as early as October so hopefully, we'll receive answers. Be alert too, 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 maybe something to share. Meet at the Noble View parking area off South Quarter Road in Russell at 7:00 p.m., with a return by about 9:00 p.m. Please call 413-564-0895 to register so that you can be notified if the trip is canceled by heavy rain or heavy snow (light snow would be a delight!).