Cascading Waters can be found at 135 Olean Street on the eastern edge of Worcester's northwest parklands, the Cascades. The Cascades are 350 acres of park and conservation lands along the borders of Worcester, Paxton, and Holden, Massachusetts. Home to countless species of plants and animals, the Cascades are open to passive recreation year-round.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Red Flag Warning

So, in the parlance of safety, a red flag generally isn't a good and happy sign (unless you are a surfer at North Hampton Beach, in which case it rocks!)

For us it means "Critical Fire Danger."

The weeks without real rainfall, the sun and warmth, and the winds have dedicated the surface duff, leaves and brush, such that any fire, should it start would spread quickly and be hard to contain.

Interestingly, the Fire Danger rating scale is only at the HIGH or VERY HIGH level. It can co higher to EXTREME! Extreme is usually used where a fire is in progress in the area.

At the Lodge right now we have it posted for VERY HIGH.

No fires. No cigarettes. Careful with gas power tools.

The hard deep freeze of last night beat up the magnolia pretty bad with all of its flowers brown and wilted.

The daffodils did allright, as did the hyacinths, blood wort , and bulbs.

Enjoy the weather, even if chilly, because... tomorrow may rain, so today I'll follow the sun.


Note that the National Weather Service has issued a RED FLAG WARNING for Central Massachusetts. Due to high winds and very dry conditions, the danger of fire spreading is extreme.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

What a Week ((Month) Season)

That was a weird week!

But first, some notes from today's news in Canada:

"Northern British Columbia sees near record snowpack levels"
"Flooding continues across western New Brunswick"

No, no, no, this is not an apocalyptic post, BUT it is to say that I think I found where all of our rain and snow went!

So, the possible scattered showers predicted during the week all melted away the closer we got to the actual day expected. Similarly the rain predicted for last night and today melted from 0.10-.025" last night (actual recorded here was wet surface but no measurable accumulation) and the 70% chance of showers today is already down to 30% and the humidity is dropping!

Dry, warm, and RECORDS...

Thrs. RECORD 78 degrees F, prior 76 in 1938
Weds. RECORD 73 degrees F, prior 71 in 1921
Tues. (we only missed by 1 degree!)
Mon. RECORD 78 degrees F, prior 71 in 1894
Sun. RECORD 74 degrees F, prior 65 in 1999

And then there is the missing water...
Generally by this point in March we ought to have something on the order of 3.20" of accumulation of precipitation, instead we have 1.54".
Generally by this point in the year we ought to have something on the order of 9.92" of accumulation of precipitation, instead we have 5.94"

This gets into trick territory...
The vernal pool species all came out early because of the warmth, and they bred and laid their eggs, only the vernal pools are trying to dry up as if it were July.
Very bad news for amphibians indeed.

But it is overcast, and it did lightly precipitate, and the humidity was a little higher this morning, and there isn't a stiff wind,
So the Fire Danger Class is down from VERY HIGH to MODERATE.
That is goodish news for the moment.

The weather conditions here at the Lodge at 11:10am:

47.1 degrees F and rising;
50% humidity and falling;
29.12" of Hg Pressure and steady;
Occasional breeze;
No recorded precipitation, but trace amounts observed;
USFS Fire Danger is MODERATE

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Crow Hill Fire

This past week there was a brush fire at Crow Hill, a roughly 35 acre area.

Now, the reason it got State money for preservation was that it is a habitat called Black oak Savannah.

Black oak Savannah requires fire to continue to persist. It is called "pyrophytic" or fire-loving and is characterized by open low growth, like grasses and blueberry bushes with an overstory of oak trees. Fast burning ground fires burn any poplar or birch or pine trying to join the party and the blueberry make opportunity of the full sun and ash chemical mix added to the soil.

This is what used to be much more prevalent as the landscape in Worcester.

We were starting to see this situation slip away at Crow Savannah with the undergrowth getting thick and threatening to dominate the site. We were beginning to have a conversation about mechanically, and laboriously, needing to cut it back.

And then, one hot dry spring, helped or not, Mother Nature took over and she did her thing!

The paper estimated 4ac. burned.
Yesterday, the Trust's Americorps Dude went out with the Dynamy intern and a GPS.
Make that more like 10 acres!
We will have a final number next week.

This is truly exciting!

To identify a natural system, to speak of it, study it, to lead walks on it, to preserve a piece of it is all great. BUT to see it jump to life and actively transform itself like a caterpillar to a pupae, to a butterfly... a butterfly big enough to see on aerial photos! Is quite amazing.

Way to go Crow Hill Savannah!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Still rising

We've raised the fire danger sign again this morning to VERY HIGH. This is very,  very unusual for central Massachusetts, let alone for March.
At 8:45, it is 59 degrees and rising. 87% humidity and steady.
The barometer is at 29.41 inches of mercury and steady.

I should also note that we are lucky enough to have some excellent sign work going on this week, thanks to intern Jacob!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sign of change

As Crow Hill reminded us yesterday, it is drying out! We've posted a (very rare) HIGH fire danger for today.
The Worcester Fire Department would also like to remind us that yard waste burning is not permitted in city limits.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Records & Yard Waste

Today set a temperature record.
Yesterday did too.
Tomorrow has a chance to do so as well.

For today it was 78 degrees F up at the Worcester Airport.
The prior record set in 1894 was 71 degrees.
In the old order when we used words like "usually," we might have said that the temperature would "usually" be 44 degrees F. Last year was a little warmer than the "usual" as it was 47 degrees F.

Tomorrow's record is 77 degrees F.
The prediction is for 76 degrees F.
You never know... anything is possible.

Yesterday was another temperature record.
74 degrees F up at the Worcester Airport.
The prior record since 1892 was back in 1999 at 65 degrees.

Crazy days.


With all of the warm weather folks are out gardening.
Some folks have grown tired of the Christmas tree in the backyard and are looking to get rid of it.
Some have new bags of leaves and clippings.

Please, please, please resist the temptation to illegally dump your yard waste in the park, or conservation area.

There are a couple of problems with this, some you might have thought of, and some you might not have.

On the more obvious side:

  • It looks really ugly (imagine selling a post card of the White Mountains, or the beach, with mounds of yard waste);
  • While things may eventually compost over a few years in a managed compost operation, dumping in the woods takes much much longer as it is not tended to, not to say that looking at mounds of yard waste for even a couple of years is not at all wonderful;
  • It is considered dumping, and thus is an illicit act;

On the things you might not have thought of:

  • Illicit behavior encourages others to do the same. This gets overwhelming and out of hand very quickly! Especially in a city. Imagine one Christmas tree turning into 5, OR 1 day's labor of grass clippings and leaves each month for the spring, summer, and fall being multiplied by you and your 3-4 neighbors! or more! It gets pretty crazy pretty fast!
  • The stuff in your yard honestly has no place in the woods. Folks grow exotic flowers, bushes, and trees in their yard because they look pretty. Heck, even the grass folks grow really doesn't honestly belong here. More of the seeds and cuttings from those items survive and make a new home in the woods. They choke out the stuff that belongs in the woods and destroy the homes, food, and camouflage needed by all sorts of birds, beasts, and slithering things. Patches Conservation area is turning into one giant stand of Japanese knotweed;
  • The sheer volume of yard waste poured into brooks, wetlands, ponds, and lakes fills them in and reduces the water quality. Why might you care? Well, this is a bummer for folks who fish, or like to see fish, or to imagine fish might be able to live here. It reduces the presence of wildlife. Since Worcester closed its neighborhood pools all of the yard waste dumping right here along the Tatnuck Brook messes up water quality of the swimming area at Coes Reservoir for everyone.

But more than all of that, The world now requires each of us to know where we get our stuff and to know where it ends up.
Making our yard look pretty by making somewhere else look ugly is an act that is selectively blind to everyone and everything around us.

But we are Lucky!
Our trash is incinerated to create electricity. What remains, much smaller by volume is recycled or landfilled.
Our recyclables are picked up from our curb for free, and we don't even need to sort them any more!
Our yard waste is received for free and magically transformed into something good.

The old world notion of "out of sight, out of mind" is dead.
We own the responsibility for what we use and what we discard.
Even our leaves and yard waste.

We are blessed with a very progressive City that twice a year comes and clears the streets of leaves and small branches for free, and then, miracle of miracles, composts it, and then much like a dream, offers the compost back to its citizens FOR FREE!

Three areas of the City have public days designated for yard waste drop off FOR FREE, and again, these things all become free compost!

If those times do not work out for you there is a central City drop off for yard waste where you can make an appointment to bring your stuff.

Don't like that for convenience? The City frequently sells backyard composting kits for a reduced rate. No kidding!

To think that you can walk across the street, or push it over the back line of your yard and it "goes away" is to play a game of pretend, and one that we can no longer afford as a community.
But with all of the options we have it is an act of selfishness not to try. It is an act of violence against others.

But it takes a different mind set.
It takes thinking beyond our yard.
It takes caring about how we leave the world.
It also takes neighbors willing to speak to their relatives, friends, and neighbors about all of the great options, and unwanted impacts folks tend not to think of.

This last part is the most complex.
I know.
I have to face it frequently.
I had to do so today.
It is a pretty tense moment even with a gentle touch for some folks.

But if we love our trails, our parks, our streams, our forest, the fish, the hawks, the swimming holes, the beavers, even the crazy bears and moose who come by to visit our City from time to time,
If we want others to see the natural beauty in where we live and to want to join us and stay,
If we want to leave this place better than we found it,
We have no other option.

It is worth it.
That much I know.

Outrageously beautiful!

I ought to be more worried for larger climactic changes, but I can not help but enjoy today!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Clear & Windy

Peak wind as of 9:15 - 9:17 is 31.5mph!
Skies are blue;
The sun is full;
The temperature is 31.6° F and rising;
The humidity is 48% and falling;
The pressure is 29.62" of Hg and steady;
No prior measured rainfall.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

New Chip!

This past week there has been a crew of really amazing Clark students at Cascading Waters whipping up a storm of activity! They have been:

* stenciling, routing, painting, and sanding signs!
* cutting and moving brush!
* hewing timber!
* building stone wall! &
* raking out chip in the parking area!

Their generous gift of their break has left Cascading Waters looking truly fresh and ready for spring.

This whirlwind of action is what is most heartening about today's students. They really do see the nature we live in as important and they give of themselves.

Thank you guys!

Come and see their work!

Thursday, March 08, 2012


Well, folks, if you were waiting for spring, you've got it!
We are expecting that it will be in the mid-sixties by noon today, so get out there and enjoy it!
Should you be coming through here, do know that several days of melting means that trails are extremely muddy. In the places where the line between trail and brook is somewhat foggy (Silver Spring comes to mind), expect water. So long as you're prepared for that, great weather for it!
We also are lucky enough to have a spring break crew here from Clark for a second day, doing some timber shaping. This is in addition to our stalwart "every other Thursday morning" volunteers, who are routing some signs.
At 10:45 am it is 58.8 degrees and rising.
The humidity is 60% and falling.
The barometer stands at 29.35 inches of mercury and steady.
We currently have about 9 mph of wind

Sunday, March 04, 2012


Yesterday's drizzle and melt froze solid overnight creating an interesting footing with a cereal 'crunch' to it.

8:00 am conditions at the Lodge:

Overcast skies;
The anemometer is covered in snow and ice so it is out of commission but there appears to be stillness with no wind;
31.3° F and rising quickly;
87% humidity and steady (very damp!);
28.85" of Hg pressure and steady;
The rain gauge has a reading but what is drizzle from yesterday and what is melt is unknown;
The fire danger is NONE.

the forecast calls for overcast, warm, with a breeze. Expect funky footing out on the trails but pleasant temps to enjoy them.