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Forecast Calls for Cleanup, Conservation

March 5, 2014

Conservation land at Elizabeth Brook    (Rob Kean)
Conservation land at Elizabeth Brook (Rob Kean)

By Rob Kean

March has arrived roarless but bearing an ice-covered mane just the same, a lion merely halfway between groundhog and lamb.  Still, with talk of spring being right around the corner, several Stow groups are already looking ahead to what lies beneath the snow when it finally melts.

One such group is the Stow Conservation Commission, now in its 51st year, but no less committed than it was in its first.  Chaired by Ingeborg Hegemann Clark, crewed by six other voting members and six associates (all  volunteers), the SCC performs several different functions.  Not the least of these is stewardship of nearly 1,300 acres of town-owned conservation land, along with an additional 550 acres protected in partnership with private landowners.

“It’s a big job!” exclaims Conservation Coordinator Kathy Sferra, though in a tone that’s overjoyed about what the size of this job says for Stow’s environmental resources and priorities.  “We’re currently engaged in an effort to walk all of our conservation land boundaries, which will take several years.  We want to make sure they’re clearly posted, and also address any encroachments by neighboring property owners.  It’s a lot do, between myself, the volunteer Commission members, and our part-time land steward (Bruce Trefry).  So we’re beginning to recruit volunteer property stewards who can help be our eyes and ears at different properties.”

In the meantime, at homes that border conservation land, the melting snow will leave behind its yearly casualties, a winter’s worth of downed limbs and dead annuals in need of removal.  Sferra reminds home owners they “shouldn’t be dumping yard waste and brush on conservation land ‘out back.’  As we walk the boundaries, we’ve found leaf and brush piles and small structures dumped on conservation land, even clearing and cutting on conservation land itself.”

The Annual Stow Town Cleanup is just around the corner, under the  snow.  (Courtesy Sandy and Tara Taft)
The Annual Stow Town Cleanup is just around the corner, under the snow. (Courtesy Sandy and Tara Taft)

The SCC is currently drafting an informational Q&A to help homeowners understand what is and isn’t permitted on conservation land.  But the overriding message is of Golden Rule simplicity.  “If you wouldn’t want your neighbor doing something on your land,” advises Sferra, “you shouldn’t do it on town land.”

At the same time, she wants to remind the community there’s a reward to conservation, in the form of beautiful areas in which to walk dogs, hike, fish or just reflect.  “We encourage people to just get out and enjoy the land.”

Of course, not all Stow land is of the conservation kind, but even the more beaten paths are in need of upkeep, as the same melting snow that reveals tree limbs on lawns will lay bare litter on roadsides.  To counter this, Tara and Sandy Taft, co-founders of the Stow Cleanup Group, have scheduled Saturday, April 5th for the Sixth Annual Stow Town Cleanup, and they encourage one and all to join them.

The cleanup will take place from 8 a.m. to noon, with a starting base at the Lower Common near Papa Gino’s, where folks can sign up for a cleanup area on the town map, grab some garbage bags and gloves free of charge, then head off for a few hours of good, clean(up) fun.

In past years, says Sandy Taft, “participation has been very good, from people of all ages.  From Cub Scouts and Brownies to new singles who’ve just moved to town, to retired couples who’ve lived here for years.  Our best year was 211 participants, and this year we’d like to beat that.”

What he and the Stow Cleanup Group would most like to conquer, though, is months of snow-hidden trash.  And if form holds, some spots will contain plenty of it.

“There are hot spots,” he says.  “Route 117 is always a challenge.  South and West Action Roads, as well as Sudbury Road.  But the feedback we’re getting from people is that each year these places are in better shape than they were the year before.”

The SCG recommends that those planning to participate not only wear the gloves provided but also long pants and sleeves, along with bright colors and even a reflective vest.  They also want to make clear that participants can leave their full trash bags roadside, and the Town Highway Department will pick them up on Monday.

Of course, all this cleanup of trash left behind by melting snow depends on the snow actually melting.  “The biggest concern I have right now is the snow, will it all melt in time,” says Taft.  “We had this same worry last year, but Mother Nature cooperated with us.  We’re praying that will happen again.  If not, we’ll work with the town to see if we can do it the next weekend.  Because there’s nothing like a good, spring cleaning.  Everyone always feels better after that!”

For more Stow Cleanup information and continuing updates, please visit

For more information on the Stow Conservation Commission, or to get involved, please visit [email protected] or