We may all be guilty from time to time of getting so caught up in our daily lives that we forget there is a gorgeous planet that surrounds us that sometimes can only be seen by taking the back roads.
One beautiful piece of this Earth is the Wachusett Reservoir Watershed, a 117-square-mile paradise touching the communities of Boylston, Clinton, Holden, Hubbardston, Leominster, Paxton, Princeton, Rutland, Sterling, West Boylston, Westminster and Worcester.
The Wachusett Reservoir, along with the Quabbin Reservoir and Ware River, are the unfiltered source of high-quality water for the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority water-supply system.
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation's Division of Water Supply Protection manages and protects the watersheds and the drinking-water supply. They offer educational programs to inform the public of this important mission and the importance of clean water.
"The Wachusett Reservoir was constructed as a water supply to Boston and its suburbs by damming the south branch of the Nashua River," says Kathryn Parent, program coordinator for the DCR's Wachusett/Sudbury Section. "At the time of construction, during the early 1900s, the Wachusett Reservoir was the largest in the world. It remains an engineering marvel and is one of the few unfiltered water supplies in the country.
The reservoir is part of the Nashua River Watershed and is fed by the Quinapoxet and Stillwater rivers.
The Division of Water Supply Protection welcomes the community to experience the beauty of the Wachusett Reservoir Watershed with events kicking off spring.
"A variety of free programs are planned to offer something for everyone, from a moderate hike to indoor hands-on experiments," Kathryn says. "April Vacation programming will be provided by watershed rangers and educational staff to kick off the season and reinvigorate public events at Stillwater Farm Interpretive Site."
Stillwater Farm Interpretive Site, located at 228 Redemption Rock Road in Sterling, is a 1790s farmhouse on watershed land that features displays on the watershed and history of the farm.
"Studies have shown that spending time outside can benefit physical and mental health," Kathryn says. "We are excited for April Vacation Week, as it will feature family-friendly activities that will encourage nature discovery, offer an experience to enjoy the natural and cultural resources of the watershed, and focus on inspiring appreciation for the Earth's environment."
The community is welcomed to visit Tuesday, April 16, through Saturday, April 20, from noon to 3 p.m., to participate in hands-on activities and Earth Day-inspired STEM activities.
A variety of spring events at Stillwater Farm is planned for the community to offer many ways to love the planet.
"We are offering a creative way to make your own nature story or journal," Kathryn says. "Look, listen, touch, feel and take in the experience at the "Make Your Own Storybook Walk."
That event is set for Saturday, April 13, from 10:30 to noon. All ages and abilities are welcome.
Finding inspiration from Robert Frost's poem "Nature's First Green is Gold," the watershed is inviting the community to enjoy a moderate one-mile hike, also Saturday, from noon to 1:30 p.m., to take in the spring landscape before green leaves obstruct the views.
"We will be hiking uphill with some steep areas, but taking frequent breaks to enjoy the forest's hues of golden buds before leafing-out to green," Kathryn says.
Springtime storytimes feature such topics as "Music of the Birds" and "Rabbits and Raindrops."
"Ever wonder what rabbits and other wild animals do during April showers?" Kathryn asks with a smile. "Well, find out as we read stories followed by a nature walk."
The "Music of the Birds" storytime will be held Tuesday, April 16, at 10:30 a.m., with "Rabbits and Raindrops" set for Friday, April 19, at 10:30 a.m.
Take a guided tree walk, scavenger-hunt-style, to match up buds and bark during this challenging and exciting time of year at the "Bark & Buds Spring Walk" on Wednesday, at 11 a.m.
"All About Owls" will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, April 18, where you will "learn about the most common owls of the area and hear recordings of their calls," says Kathryn.
"One Acre Safari" will be held from 10:30 until 11:30 a.m. Saturday, April 20.
"Get your family outside and investigating nature to discover how much space wildlife requires," Kathryn explains. "Enjoy some free exploration time, all within one square acre, while counting living things and identifying as many as we can."
The Wachusett Rangers offer historical presentations for the watershed elementary schools, libraries, scouts, and friends' groups.
"The Ranger Program gives families with young children a chance to investigate vernal pools at Stillwater Farm," says Ranger Tyler Brien. "The program will begin with an indoor introduction followed by a hands-on outdoor experience."
"The Vernal Pool Investigation" will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday, April 14, followed by the "Stonewalls in New England" program from 9 a.m. until noon Sunday, April 28.
"Stonewalls in New England are as iconic as lobster and clam chowder," adds Tyler. "The Wachusett Watershed encompasses thousands of acres of forested lands and fields that contain these structures."
Fostering public appreciation of the region is the reason why Wachusett Reservoir Watershed finds it so important to participate in Park Serve Day from 9 a.m. until noon Saturday, April 27.
This is the statewide initiative of getting the community involved.
Volunteers can meet at the Wachusett Reservoir Watershed headquarters, located at 180 Beaman St., West Boylston to pick up trash bags and safety gear, and take on a location assignment to help pick up litter and make a difference.
"Lend a hand during this day of statewide volunteer service to help clean up litter while enjoying the beauty of the reservoir," says Kathryn.
All programs are free and open to the community, please note that children must be accompanied by an adult. Dress for the weather and wear appropriate footwear. It is recommended to bring water, sunscreen, and insect repellent. Dogs and domestic animals are prohibited on watershed lands. Service dogs are welcome.
"By providing opportunities to spend with family and engaging in healthy activities is our goal to inspire a deeper connection with nature and an understanding that our daily actions can impact our wonderful Earth," Kathryn concludes.
For additional information, please contact Kathryn Parent at Kathryn.Parent@Mass.gov or call 774-261-1809.
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