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Hidden with code "Submitted as Feature"
News :: Environment
Earthworks and Better Tomorrows
17 Sep 2004
“This program is experimental by nature”, muses Ben Crouch, Program Director for Earthworks Boston. “We are documenting our work to track the results of how the land is adapting to what we’re doing. We want to help inform Boston on how to better manage the natural areas of the city”. If this sounds like a science experiment, done on the green spaces of our Boston cityscape, that’s because it is. And like any good experiment it is being done to further a process of understanding. However, this experiment is taking more into consideration than just science.
Earthworks and Tomorrow
Earthworks Boston was founded in 1989, and since its inception the organization has been reviving unused urban spaces all over Boston.

“We connect urban residents with nature in the city through three programs,” says Crouch, “Urban Orchards, Outdoor Classroom, and Urban Wilds.”

Each initiative changes the landscape of the neglected corners of our Boston neighborhoods from trashed out vacant lots into valuable communal places of repose and aesthetic beauty, while involving the community in the process.

Earthworks has forty-seven Urban Orchards throughout our city growing both fruit and nuts. This year, the Outdoor Classroom program will be bringing fifteen-hundred students, K-12, predominantly from public schools, out into green spaces to give them insight into the ecology of their surroundings. Some of the areas they will be visiting are part of the Urban Wilds initiative, spaces that have been created by Earthworks in partnership with Boston Parks and Recreation.

Ten urban wilds are currently being worked on this year, and 39 bear the mark of earthworks' 25 years of labor. Volunteers for Earthworks spent this summer removing invasive plants and trees and replacing them with native species.

“invaded areas aren’t good for native wildlife and they can also cause soil erosion” informs Crouch.

The parks in the Urban Wilds' program have great importance to their communities and are an important facet in our city’s overall ecological health.The presence of these spaces offer benefits to our cityscape which traditional parks don’t.

“These areas have a density of vegetation unlike more wide-open traditional parks. The effects of dense vegetation on the city include the production of cleaner and cooler air, helping to cool the city as a whole,” Crouch remarked, “dense vegetation also slows runoff from hills and reduces sediment building, helping to prevent floods. Highly managed parks are more labor intensive as well, costing the city more money. These spaces also exist without the use of herbicides or pesticides commonly used with traditional parks.”

The eyes of community members have been noticing beautiful spaces that they can call their own, a phenomenon which has raised a few questions. “People are surprised about all the plants and wildlife in this area, thriving on public lands,” said Crouch. Some folks are just discovering access to the urban wilds, while others have been using them for years. Awareness about public accessibility has raised the question of responsible behavior.

“People are worried about youth going into the wilds to drink,” Crouch reported. Hopefully, the areas that foster pride and connection within the community would divert such negative activity.

Stewardship is the mantra for Earthworks Boston, through the coordination of volunteers and a few staff, this small environmental group creates a greater awareness of our natural setting and common spirit. More volunteers are always needed to help the process along. “Volunteers have done everything from actually getting their hands dirty to being neighbors who offer their bathrooms to people on site,” Crouch relayed.

Removing all those invader species has cleared the way for as many as 500 new plantings, and Earthworks is calling for volunteers to help them out with this rewarding task. To sign up your group, please go to and click the
"Calendar" link and find an open date. Individual volunteers can sign up to help out on October 16 and November 7. Individuals have to call to sign up.

In addition to volunteering, Earthworks is guiding a number of urban nature walks
(September 19, October 3, & October 17, 1-3pm) at three urban wilds in
Boston and hosting their annual meeting (Sunday, September 29, 5-8pm). They ask that people call or email to confirm attendance with at least two business days ahead of
time. Directions and maps to each event site are available via email.

Check out and check out the Calendar for days to sign up. Or call Ben Crouch directly at 617.442.1059.

This work is in the public domain