Board-walk on the wild side
By Meredith J. Harris/
SPECIAL TO THE MINUTEMAN
Thursday, July 28, 2005
8:30 on a Saturday morning most people are just getting out of bed, but
for Michael Tabaczynski and other volunteer crew members, 8:30 is the
start of their long day of manual labor.
These are not your typical construction workers, but rather a ban
of volunteers who gathered together and sacrificed their Saturday to
construct a boardwalk over the area of land known as The Great Meadows.
The Great Meadows is a plot of land consisting of 183 acres of
mostly wetlands purchased by Arlington in the 19th century as a public
water supply. The land, however, is no longer just a place for water
supply, but a recreational sight that houses many different people and
activities. The Great Meadows is also an increasingly used sight for
school field trips.
"It is possibly the largest contiguous wetland in Lexington," said
Tabaczynski, project organizer and leader of the construction.
With an environment that can offer so much out-door recreation to
the community, The Great Meadows needed something back in return. The
outstanding problems to be addressed were the poor visitor support
facilities, a better means of protection for the environment, and the
long standing problem of the wetlands being submerged underwater and
muddy for two to six months of the year.
"Three years ago I thought The Great Meadows could use a boardwalk
so that it could be used in more than just the summer season," said
Three years later, and with a lot of planning and some help,
Tabaczynski's idea materialized.
Tabaczynski is trained in trail design and construction, and is no
novice to leading projects similar to this one. He has managed endeavors
at Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) state
parks, Lynn Woods Reservations, the Middlesex Fells and Lexington
Conservation land. He is also an active member of several local and
regional conservation organizations including Friends of Arlington's
Great Meadows (FoAGM), Citizens of Lexington Conservation, the Lexington
Conservation Stewards, and the new England Mountain Bike Association.
It was through these organizations from which Tabaczynski recruited
workers and found ways to get funds for the projects.
The organization principally responsible for the overall project,
however, is FoAGM, an unincorporated association of Arlington and
Lexington residents using means of education to help preserve the Great
Meadows as a natural open space. The Arlington Land Trust, a
community-based nonprofit organization, served as the fiscal sponsor to
FoAGM to fund the project.
"No municipal funds were used to finance construction," Tabaczynski
Tabaczynski was able to secure money from a Recreation Trails
Program (RTP) grant from the state Department of Conservation and
Recreating which amounted to $11,316.
"Getting the grants is a competitive situation," said Tabaczynski.
"They only fund about one third of the proposals."
Luckily for everyone, the grant was approved and last Saturday 700
feet of the boardwalk was constructed, making trails now accessible in
all four seasons. The volunteers worked an average of six hours totaling
245 hours of labor. There were 35 volunteers overall - 18 Lexington, 16
Arlington and one Waltham - with 11 organizations represented in the
"The workday was attended by a good mix of regulars and newcomers,"
said Tabaczynski. "Both genders were represented, and a diverse set of
skills, backgrounds, and affiliations were evident."
The remaining 450 feet, which needs to be constructed to finish the
boardwalk, is planned to be built some time next fall or spring. But for
now, however, the community constructed boardwalk not only serves as a
symbol of the dedication these people have to their community and
wetlands, but a dry place to walk on when the land below is flooded.
As a response to the accomplishment, Tabaczynski said, "The work
will help ensure that the Great Meadows provides a positive experience
for human visitors and a secure habitat for wetland plants and animals
for the next 20 years."
Chloe Thorburn, of Lexington, takes a sip of water while helping
construct the boardwalk at Great Meadows last weekend. (Staff
photo by Shawn Lynch)