Land Management Activities
The Conservation Commission is responsible for the protection and management of Weston’s natural resources. The Land Use Policy and Regulations (PDF) are available to review online.
While the Commission is responsible for a substantial amount of conservation land in town, private organizations such as Land’s Sake, Inc. and the Weston Forest and Trail Association provide significant assistance in maintaining this land.
The following are the Commission's land management and monitoring activities.
Surveying Conservation Land
The Commission is in the process of surveying the property boundaries of most of the land under its care and control. This ongoing project clarifies the limits of the private land that abuts the conservation land in town. The Commission has discovered a number of minor encroachments onto Conservation Land and has established a policy for responding to encroachments (PDF), as well as addressing frequently asked questions about encroachments (PDF).
A forest management plan that allows for the selective cutting of fire wood and saw logs has been implemented. By selective cutting and careful management, the town’s forests will ultimately be more productive and will provide diverse wildlife habitat. Land’s Sake, through a contract with the Commission, manages this program and has done work in the Highland Forest and Case Estates.
With the permission of the Board of Selectmen, the Conservation Commission has opened several town properties to allow bow-hunting of deer. Deer management was deemed to be advisable after a 9-month public outreach and education process investigating the scope of the problem and exploring deer management alternatives. Weston has triple the optimum deer density, and the burgeoning population is damaging the forest understory, causing public safety issues (deer-car collisions), and exacerbating the Lyme disease epidemic.
If deer are allowed to proliferate unchecked, Weston’s forests will lose hardwood saplings, spring wildflowers, and low growing shrubs. This impoverished ecosystem, in turn, will adversely affect numerous other wildlife species, including ground- and shrub-nesting song birds, amphibians, and insects. In addition, invasive species, which deer avoid, will proliferate and replace the browsed hardwoods.
The Commission’s research has shown that bow-hunting is the only practicable method to manage deer in Weston. Only skilled hunters who passed rigorous proficiency tests and background checks are issued a Weston permit and all deer are harvested as humanely as possible. The deer harvested on public land, combined with deer that were harvested on private land, will have a meaningful impact on the deer population.
Furthermore, the Commission has established several vegetation monitoring programs to assess the long-term effects of deer browse on Weston's forests:
- lady slipper abundance is assessed annually, with help from the Weston garden clubs;
- four deer exclosures are monitored by Brandeis University students; and
- in 2014 an additional deer exclosure was installed near the Middle School for teachers and students to study the effects of deer on vegetation.
Tick & Lyme Disease Prevention
The Special Commission on Lyme Disease, comprised of public health experts, issued its report, Lyme Disease in Massachusetts (PDF) on February 28, 2013.
Charged with investigating the incidence of Lyme disease and making recommendations to bring the Lyme disease epidemic under control, the Lyme Commission reported that “[t]he scourge of Lyme disease in the Commonwealth has been described as having reached epidemic proportions and as endemic in all of Massachusetts.“
The Lyme Commission divided its work into five topic areas:
Weston's Conservation Commission adopted the Lyme Commission’s prevention recommendations including “environmental modes of intervention, deer management, and education on personal protection. An integrated strategy comprising short and long-term approaches is required for … success.”
Additionally, Conservation Administrator Michele Grzenda is a member of the Middlesex Tick Task Force, a group of public health staff members from surrounding towns who work to confront this serious regional public health issue and share ideas and resources regarding prevention of tick-borne diseases. The group's work and educational information is available on a separate web page.
Woolly Adelgid Treatments
In 2008 and 2009, the Commission utilized Community Preservation Act Funds and Land Management funds to treat four stands of Eastern Hemlock that were infected with the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. Treatment areas were chosen based on the viability and present condition of the trees.
Left untreated, the invasive Woolly Adelgid would probably kill most, if not all, of the hemlocks in Weston. This would dramatically change the species composition and habitat quality of Weston’s open space.
The Conservation Commission manages over 30 fields and meadows. Some of these fields are more actively managed as agricultural land through a contract with Land's Sake Inc.; however, the majority of the meadows are mowed once a year and provide vital habitat for mammals, birds, and insects.
The Commission issues and annual contract for the mowing of 24 fields in town. This Field Mowing Guide (PDF) provides maps and access information for the fields provided for under the Weston Conservation Commission's mowing contract.
Approximately 24 fields are maintained by the Conservation Commission and the Weston Forest & Trail Association. Over the years, several field edges have become overgrown. Since 2005, the Commission has utilized Community Preservation Act Funds to help restore several field edges that had become overgrown with shrubs, saplings, and invasive species. This generally involves work to cut them back to their appropriate boundaries - either stone walls or mature trees marking an old fence-row or woodlot edge. The fields preserved to date include:
- FY 2005: Highland Street/Dickson Fields along sidewalk
- FY 2006: Additional work at Coburn Fields, Highland Street/Dickson Fields, and Onion Field opposite Merriam Village
- FY 2007: 2 acre field at back of the Case Estate’s 40-Acre Field
- FY 2008: Dickson Fields
- FY 2009: Complete Dickson Fields, Sears Land
- FY 2010: Large field adjacent to Hobbs Pond, known as 80 Acres
- FY 2011: Complete 80 Acres, Glen Road and Wellesley Street
Case 40-Acre Field
The Conservation Commission assists with the stewardship of the Case Estate’s Forty Acre Field, which was purchased by the town for municipal purposes from Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum in 1986. This area has been managed for the Commission by Land’s Sake, a nonprofit, community service organization that was awarded the Community Farming and Education Contract by the town.
Services include operating an organic farm, providing produce to the needy, maintaining Conservation land in Weston, as well as providing education and employment for young people in Weston. The Commission supports Land’s Sake’s involvement with environmental education projects which are conducted with the School Department.
Vegetables, flowers, herbs and fruit are provided for sale at a farm stand or on a pick-your-own basis. Maintenance of this area continues with brush clearing, mowing, walking path upkeep, and tree work.
Apple Orchard - Concord Road
Land’s Sake also continues to maintain the apple orchard on Concord Road. In 2009, with the help from volunteers and an Eagle Scout, several new fruit tree seedlings were planted.
Maple Syrup Project
The Commission’s popular maple syrup project continues at the Bill McElwain Sugar House at the Middle School under the education contract awarded to Land's Sake.
Each winter, Land’s Sake installs approximately 400 taps in 200 trees throughout town and teach Middle School students the maple sugaring process and sustainable forestry management.
Green Power Farm
The Green Power Farm project continues to be a vital part of the town’s agricultural activities. This project is administered and paid for by the Conservation Commission and managed by Land’s Sake.
Many resident children and teenagers participate in this program and receive a practical introduction to organic farming and gardening, cooking with the produce, caring for chickens and rabbits, as well as distributing produce to those who needed it.
Community Garden - Merriam Street
Weston Community Gardens offers garden lots for summer rental and has new policies in place effective for 2015. Please visit the Weston Community Gardens web page for more information.
The Community Gardens is on Municipal Purposes land and managed by the Weston Conservation Commission. The Commission can be reached via email at conservation [at] westonmass.org or by phone at 781-786-5068.