Last month, MMRG teamed up with the Acton Wakefield Watershed Alliance (AWWA) to introduce a Wetlands Workshop on the recently conserved Prentice Woods Preserve in Wakefield, NH. Although a small parcel of land, the Preserve is a beautiful and welcome respite from the surrounding suburban area.

Within the watershed of Province Lake, the Preserve also boasts important vernal wetlands offering springtime refuge to many interesting plants and animals. Both MMRG and AWWA include the Preserve in our service areas, and we were thrilled to partner with an organization so dedicated to protecting water quality through land conservation.

Led by MMRG Board Member and natural resource scientist Dan Coons (ILEX Wetlands Consulting) and Jon Balanoff, Executive Director of AWWA, our group of excited participants trekked through the Preserve while learning about the many ecological benefits of protected wetland habitats. Some of these include natural water filtration, storm buffering, serving as hubs for biodiversity, and more. These wetlands prevent contaminants from reaching the Province Lake watershed.

“My favorite part of this event was being able to wear my wetlands hat again, but with the added pleasure of sharing the hidden beauty of wetlands with a curious and eager group of onlookers. Even after 10 years in this field, these things still excite me, and to share that with someone who is equally as fascinated is priceless,” Jon said.

We were grateful to have Ken Gatto, the contributing landowner of Prentice Woods Preserve, with us on the walk around his former property. The Preserve has been in Ken’s family for decades, and he was happy to see the land being enjoyed by an entirely new group of people – and to find some new discoveries himself.

“For me, the most exciting thing was when a group of Black Gum trees (also known as Black Tupelo) was identified around the vernal wetlands. Having such a large stand is quite unusual! I was thrilled to hear it. It was something to treasure and appreciate anew about the land we had trod many times,” he said.

Jon and Dan also helped our group identify many plant species on the walk – sheep laurel, steeple bush, and dewberry are just a few examples. We also saw a cluster of salamander eggs in the wetlands as well as gleyed soil – characteristic wetland soils that remain saturated with groundwater for long enough to develop a unique colour pattern.

I am hoping other workshops can be offered on different topics at Prentice Woods Preserve. They would be something to look forward to,” Ken added.

Stay tuned for upcoming events on our public conservation lands! We’d like to thank both Dan and Jon for their enthusiasm and expertise during the walk, AWWA for co-hosting the event, and the Gatto family for donating this property. Click here to learn more about the Prentice Woods Preserve.

All photos by Kate Wilcox.