Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Congregational Church, Maynard, MA 1852-2017

Congregational Church, Maynard, MA 1852-2017. Click on photo to enlarge.
The Union Congregational Church was Maynard’s first parish, established as a Evangelical Union Society in 1850, when eight locals decided to form a Sunday school. This predated the creation  of the  Town of Maynard by 21 years. Amory Maynard became the Sunday school’s first superintendent. The next step was to engage a preacher for Sunday services. Both school and services took place in the newly constructed train station. Prior to this, people walked or traveled by wagon the three miles to Stow’s Evangelical Church.

Within a few years these residents of Assabet Village incorporated as a church and selected a committee to find a site to build a house of worship. What came to pass is that Amory and his business partner William Knight donated land on Main Street (the same street they had petitioned Sudbury to build for access to their factory), and the building was built, financed by members. Buying in got these families reserved pews, as was a common practice of that era. The congregation dates it start to 1852, but did not move into the completed church building until spring of 1853. The cost of construction and furnishings came to $3,876. Rev George W. Frost was the first Pastor.

Stained glass window in chapel of Congregational Church, Maynard, MA.
Gift from Lorenzo Maynard in 1892, along with other windows.
A sampling of important dates: The steeple acquired a bell in 1855; the church its first organ in 1959; the church was enlarged in 1866. In the early 1890s, Deacon Lorenzo Maynard (son of Amory Maynard) contributed funds for stained glass windows in the church. Four of the windows bear the names of his daughters – Frances, Mary, Victoria and Hattie – who predeceased him. He also donated toward the addition of the building on the west side, to house a chapel and classrooms, including a glorious stained glass portrait of Jesus holding a lamb, over the words “I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD.” A similar window graces the Lorenzo Maynard family mausoleum in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, where Lorenzo, his wife Lucy and their five children are interred.

The building has no steeple from 1909 to 1920. The original had been blown off the building in a great storm on April 9, 1909. The church was officially renamed the Union Congregational Church in 1927. The bell was replaced by chimes in the mid-1940s.

1902 photo for 50th anniversary. Shows the
original steeple, and a picket fence bordering
the sidewalk rather than the current stone wall.
(Courtesy Maynard Historical Society)
A number of the students who attended services and the Sunday school at Congregational Church went on to find a vocation in the ministry, some in the armed forces in time of war. Corinna Shattuck, orphaned as a young child, was raised by her grandparents, in Acton. She was a member of the church 1866-1871, and taught Sunday school during that time. In 1873 she began missionary work in Turkey, where she remained – with interruptions to treat her health problems – until 1910. Miss Shattuck was in the city of Oorfa (now going by Urfa or Sanliurfa) in December 1895 at the time of attacks on Armenians and other Christian sects. She personally sheltered 300 men, women and children on or near the mission grounds, sparing them the fate of thousands of others. Afterwards she created shelters and schools and employment for orphaned Armenian children. She established a school for the blind. She was known and honored as the “Heroine of Oorfa.”

The closing of one church (Congregational 2017) or two (Methodist 2014) or three (Episcopalian 2006) is not unique to Maynard. Across the United States, what are referred to as the mainline Protestant churches have been undergoing a prolonged decline in attendance, membership and number of parishes since the 1960s. Estimates are that membership has dropped by half. In contrast, membership in Catholic and Evangelical Churches has been increasing, albeit not as fast as the population increase as a whole.

The re-use of church buildings as such is problematic, characterized by problems with an aged infrastructure, and a question of what use the main nave and altar space can be put to. Two churches in Maynard were deconsecrated and converted to private residences. One in Acton became home to a theater group. The future of the historic Methodist and Congregational Churches in Maynard remains to be seen.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Assabet River Rail Trail - August 2017

As of mid-August 2017 the 3.4 mile long Assabet River Rail Trail section between Maple Street in Acton (near the South Acton train station), to the bridge on the Maynard:Stow border is nearly complete. July saw paving in the north end of Maynard, paving in Acton, and completion of the bridge over Fort Pond Creek, in Acton. Landscape plantings beside the Trail, mostly to replace the hundreds of cut down trees, progresses.

Kayak launch dock at Ice House Landing, Maynard, MA.
The user gets into the kayak, then pushes backwards to
slide into the water. The notched railing on both sides allows
for the paddle to be placed across and used to push against.
July saw the installation of a kayak launch dock at Ice House Landing, at the end of Winter Street. A new parking lot provides a place for boaters to unload and load from cars, carry to the water, and launch. From the dock it is a short distance to the orange floats that prevent people from going over the Ben Smith Dam (photo, background). Heading upriver, there are miles of navigable water to explore, the great majority of it not developed. Sights on a recent voyage included bird sightings of swans, geese, great blue herons, green herons, an osprey, red-winged blackbirds and swifts.

There are still gaps in the Trail which hopefully will be resolved this fall, or by the latest, by spring 2018. In Maynard, south of Summer Street, there is a 100 yard section held up by the need for Eversource to install a new utility pole, as the existing pole is too close to the Trail. And north of Concord Street there is a stretch behind Artisan Automotive and Duncan's Beemers (the motorcycle shop) than needs complicated work because of past pollution and also flood control problems.

Northward, paving continues in August, in Acton, along with installation of mileage markers. Once completed, access in Acton will be from Maple Street and Sylvia Street, with some Trail parking at both locations. And access at the Paper Store office complex, but without parking.

Fort Pond Brook Bridge, installed, but as of August 1, 2017, not yet open
for traffic. The bridge is 70 feet long and 16 feet wide.

Mileage markers installed every quarter
mile, counting from southwest end to
northeast. Distance restarts as 0.00 at
each town line. Click on photo to enlarge.

In Acton, south of the Paper Store building, the Trail passes through a large
wetlands. Although hard to discern, the front is dominated by cattails, while
the back has been taken over by the taller common reed (Phragmites australis)
 an invasive species from Europe. The reed out-competes native wetland plants.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Writers on Writing - 13 Quotes

I recently attended the annual conference on all things Thoreauvian. I came away with the impression that in a room of 200+ people, it would have been hard to throw a book and not hit an author. Thoreau as topic is infinitely rich, and so fertile ground for those practicing the craft of non-fiction writing. Writers of fiction think of their product as art. Thus, they are more likely than non-fiction writers to muse on the nature of their artistic toil. A selection of quotes by writers on writing, gleamed from several websites:

We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to. - Somerset Maugham

Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.  - Robert Heinlein

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story - not Mark Twain, although frequently attributed to him.

A blank piece of paper is God's way of telling us how hard it to be God. - Sidney Sheldon

I try to leave out the parts that people skip.  - Elmore Leonard

Most editors are failed writers - but so are most writers.  - T.S. Eliot

i never think at all when i write nobody can do two things at the same time and do them both well  - Don Marquis

The first draft of anything is shit. - Ernest Hemingway

I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter. - James Michener

One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple. - Jack Kerouac

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader. - Robert Frost

Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. - Flannery O'Connor

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live. - Henry David Thoreau

When I am asked "Why do you write?" I answer "It's a disease." I have heard the same answer for people in the restaurant or acting industry. These are professions rife with rejection and failure. The people who persevere are those who cannot imagine doing anything else.

Decades ago, struggling to write a college thesis, I realized that although a voracious reader, I had difficulties with writing. And yet, planning a career in science, I knew that I would always be in the explaining business. From 1975-1980 I took up writing outside my field of nutritional biochemistry by committing to write restaurant reviews, recipe columns and health articles. From 1980 onward, science career launched, my writing was either academic or corporate, i.e., not public.

Starting this LIFE OUTDOORS column in 2009 was a means of reentering the public writer's life. Writing non-fiction, I was told, is a matter of bricks and mortar. The bricks are the facts and the mortar the story tying the facts together. The craft is in managing the right balance of the two. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Thoreau's Thoughts on Walking

See also a March 2017 posting on poem "The Old Marlborough Road."

"If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again; if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man; then you are ready for a walk."

May 2017: U.S. Post Office issues a first class stamp honoring
the bicentennial of the birth of Henry David Thoreau.
Click on photo to enlarge.
July 12th was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Henry David Thoreau. [Actually, birth-named David Henry Thoreau after his deceased uncle, David Thoreau. Thoreau reversed the order of his names shortly after he graduated Harvard College, in 1837. Apparently, growing up, his family had called him Henry rather than David.] The Thoreau Society recently held its annual gathering of Thoreauvians, to discuss all things Thoreau, and to celebrate the bicentennial of his birth. Many newly published books, and the U.S. Post Office issued a stamp.

“Walking” was the title of one of his essays. His first public reading was at the Concord Lyceum on April 23, 1851. Between 1851 and 1860 Thoreau read from the piece a total of ten times, more than any other of his lectures. “Walking” was published in the June 1862 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, shortly after his death from tuberculosis at age 44. The essay’s length is slightly more than 12,000 words. Various internet sources have the complete essay available on line – some with researchers’ annotations. A few excerpts:

“The West of which I speak is but another name for the Wild; and what I have been preparing to say is, that in Wildness is the preservation of the world.” Thoreau felt that it was necessary for one’s soul to be able to walk in wildness every day. He was aware, however, that his Massachusetts terrain was not true wildness, but rather a post-colonial return of once-farmed land to wild meadow and forest. Thoreau's three excursions to Maine had brought him into true wildness ("grim"), so he knew the difference.   

Thoreau was not a casual walker. “It is true, we are but faint hearted crusaders, even the walkers, now-a-days, who undertake no persevering, never-ending enterprises. Our expeditions are but tours and come round again at evening to the old hearth side from which we set out. Half the walk is but retracing our steps. We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return; prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only, as relics to our desolate kingdoms. If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again; if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man; then you are ready for a walk.”

Thoreau’s opinions were not humble opinions: “I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits unless I spend four hours a day at least — and it is commonly more than that — sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields absolutely free from all worldly engagements… When sometimes I am reminded that the mechanics and shop-keepers stay in their shops not only all the forenoon, but all the afternoon too, sitting with crossed legs, so many of them — as if the legs were made to sit upon, and not to stand or walk upon — I think that they deserve some credit for not having all committed suicide long ago.”

Wooden dumbbells were a popular type of
exercise equipment in the 1800s.
Thoreau was aghast at the idea of exercise for its own sake: “But the walking of which I speak has nothing in it akin to taking exercise, as it is called, as the sick take medicine at stated hours — as the swinging of dumb-bells or chairs; but is itself the enterprise and adventure of the day. If you would get exercise go in search of the springs of life. Think of a man’s swinging dumb-bells for his health, when those springs are bubbling up in far off pastures unsought by him.”

Thoreau cherished the meditative rewards of wildness walking: “I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit. In my afternoon walk I would fain forget all my morning occupations, and my obligations to society. But it sometimes happens that I cannot easily shake off the village. The thought of some work will run in my head, and I am not where my body is; I am out of my senses. In my walks I would fain return to my senses. What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?”

A human trial conducted at Stanford University (Bateman 2015) concluded that walking surrounded by nature reduced risk of depression more than walking an equal amount of time in an urban setting.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Boston Post Cane - Maynard and Stow

The Boston Post was a popular and influential newspaper some 100+ years ago.  In 1909, Edwin Grozier, the publisher, decided to promote the newspaper by donating ebony shaft, gold-capped canes to the Boards of Selectmen of 700 towns in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.  Engraved on the top of the gold head of each cane were the words "Presented by The Boston Post to the OLDEST CITIZEN of __________ [name of town and state] (To be transmitted)."

The idea was that the towns would award these BOSTON POST CANES to the oldest male citizen for the remainder of his life, to be returned to the town upon his death, to be awarded to the next oldest, and so on.

Maynard's Boston Post Cane (click on photo to enlarge). This cane was
presented to Maynard in 1909, awarded to a series of men in honor for
being the oldest male resident, went missing in 1928 and was recovered
in 1981. Honoring the oldest resident (male or female) started again in 1999.
The canes were made by J.F. Fradley and Co., a New York City silversmith and cane maker. Joseph F. Fradley (1843-1914) began a silversmith business in 1866. His business had an excellent reputation. J.F. Fradley items appear for sale in  fine arts and crafts auctions. The business was managed by his son, George F. Fradley, at the time the canes were made. Although many of the newspaper articles about recipients of Boston Post Canes describe the cane heads as 14 karat gold, some of the internet photos show wear to reveal non-gold metal underneath, confirming that the cane heads were gold-plated rather than all gold. This makes sense. Gold, rather than gold plated, would have made the canes prohibitively expensive, even back in 1909.  

Women achieved the right to vote in 1920, but it took ten more years before The Boston Post approved a changing of the rules to allow women to be awardees.  

The Boston Post went out of business in 1956, but the Boston Post Cane tradition continues in many towns. As years went by some of the canes were misplaced, stolen, sold, lost or destroyed. Some went missing for years, decades even, only to surface again. In time, most towns decided to keep the original cane in a town office or at the local historical society, and either discontinue the practice entirely or else award a plaque to the oldest resident in lieu of the cane. 

The Boston Post Cane Information Center [], maintained by the Maynard Historical Society has become a clearinghouse for all things BPC. The starting point was a 1985 article written by Maynard historian Ralph Sheridan. After his death in 1996, David Griffin took up the traces, and still gathers news of canes lost, found and awarded.

Side view, showing ebony shaft of the cane. "Ebony"
comes from the heartwood of several species of tropical,
slow-growing trees. It is black or near-black in color, and
extremely dense (will sink in water). The tree species are
endangered, and in many countries, harvesting or selling
of ebony is illegal. Well known uses include the
black keys of pianos, and parts of stringed instruments.
A few facts plucked from the BPC website: As of last count, 517 towns continue or have resumed honoring their oldest citizens. Most have the original canes gifted them in 1909, but some are using brass-capped mahogany replicas purchased from the Town of Peterborough, NH. Some towns stipulate that to qualify, a person must be a current resident and living in the town the past 10 or 15 years. Watertown's cane went missing in 1910, and did not return until 99 years later. At the time Mary Josephine Ray of Westmorland, NH, passed away, age 114.8, she was not only the oldest ever holder of a Boston Post Cane, but also the oldest person in the United States.

Stow's Boston Post Cane is kept in the Town Vault in the Town Hall building, along with other historically important artifacts. Recipients are presented with a Boston Post Cane lapel pin. The cane had gone missing 1951 to 1971. Actually, it was in the Vault all the time, but misplaced. Since 1971 there have been 12 recipients. The most recent was Dr. Donald Freeman Brown - awarded the cane when he reached 99 years. He passed away in 2014, age 105. The honor and lapel pin have not yet been awarded to a new oldest resident.

Top of cane showing non-gold metal. This may be silver. If so,
there may have been layers of copper and nickel between the
silver and gold, to prevent tarnish bleeding through the gold.
Maynard's Boston Post Cane is on permanent display at the town building. It had gone missing around 1928, not recovered until 1981. In 1999 the Maynard Historical Society decided to revive the tradition of honoring Maynard’s oldest citizen by presenting him or her with a plaque from the Maynard Board of Selectmen. The most recent five: Elizabeth Dodd, Dorothy Barlow, Arlene Cook, Mildred F. Duggan, and currently Ben Sofka. Ben, a life-long Maynard resident, received his plaque in February 2017, and is at present 101 years old.

Stow's and Maynard's neighbors do and do not continue the Boston Post Cane tradition. Hudson, Harvard and Sudbury awards plaques to their most senior citizens. Acton is considering restarting the same practice. Bolton and Boxborough apparently do not participate, either because these towns had too small a population to get a cane back in 1909, or because the original canes went astray. Starting in 1962, Concord decided to change to an annual Honored Citizen Celebration. The awardee is steward of the Boston Post Cane for a year and leads the Patriots' Day Parade.  

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Ticks: Lyme, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis

From left to right: larvae, nymph, adult male, adult female.
Nymphs and adult females are the vectors for human infection.
Ticks get on your shoes, socks or legs when you brush against
vegetation. Ticks do not drop from above. The CDC website
recommends chemical repellants, also how to do a tick check
and how to wash and dry clothes to kill ticks.
June and July are the prime months for contracting a tick-borne disease. During these months the vector is the nymph stage, which is about the size of a poppy seed. There is a lessening incidence in August, September and further into fall and winter, as the vector becomes the more easily seen adult female tick (the size of a small apple seed), and also because people spend less time outdoors with the onset of colder weather.

An observation here: the term 'bite' is not descriptive. If not detected, a nymph will latch on for 3-4 days for a blood meal before dropping off; adult females stay attached for 7-10 days. Adult males are not on you for a meal. Rather, they are wandering around looking to find and fertilize a female. This meet-and-mate part of the tick's life cycle is the reason that deer are integral to a region harboring a serious tick disease problem. Small mammals (mice, chipmunks, etc.) are vectors for the larval and nymph stages to become infected, but a large mammal species such as deer is essential for the mating and final blood meal that allows the fertilized adult female tick to lay up to 3,000 eggs.    

Lyme, Anaplasmosis and Babesiosis are the big three for New England, but the full count for tick-borne diseases now overtops a dozen. More information on tick-vector diseases can be seen as the Centers for Disease Control website: The CDC has great information on the tick diseases, and also on practical matters such as how to avoid getting bitten by a tick, and what to do once you have been bitten.

Lyme starts subtle. If the stricken person missed the actual bite, then the first sign is often but not always the signature "bull's eye" rash. Moderate fever, chills, fatigue, muscle ache and a headache may accompany the rash. Only months after the rash and the initial set of symptoms are gone is there a possibility that really bad consequences set in: arthritis, partial facial paralysis, meningitis, limb weakness, and so forth.

Anaplasmosis is not subtle. The symptoms are more akin to being run over by a car, having it circle around to hit you again, and then one more time to park on your head. Some 7 to 10 days after the bite the symptoms arrive all at once: extreme fatigue, high fever, uncontrollable shivering alternating with profuse sweating, night sweats, headache, nausea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, muscle pain, cough, mental confusion, and extreme fatigue. Really extreme.

Babesiosis is not subtle. Symptoms, arriving 10-30 days after being host to a tick, are akin to those of Anaplasmosis, plus it destroys red blood cells and platelets. From the latest data published by the CDC, Massachusetts has more cases of Babesiosis than any other state.

The CDC uses the term "malaise," but this does not convey the soul-crushing lethargy of either of these full-speed infections. Not everyone exhibits all the symptoms, and many of these symptoms overlap with what people expect if they have the flu, causing many people to delay seeking a medical evaluation, or doing so, getting a misdiagnosis.

Actually, these days, diagnosis and treatment are straightforward. Do you have some or all of that litany of symptoms, especially fever and fatigue? Were you in any place a week or four ago where there might have been ticks? That's it. A blood sample will be taken, but especially early in the course of the infection the test results can be false negative (says you don't, but you do). Standard medical practice is to start antibiotic treatment immediately. Treatment should never be delayed until the lab results are back. These days, there is an assumption that more than one disease is transmitted from the same tick, so for Babesiosis, doctors may prescribe multiple antibiotics.

Neither casual contact nor intimate sexual contact will pass on any of these diseases, but receiving a blood transfusion has been a confirmed vector. There are no laboratory screening tests to verify that donated blood is not infected. 

Not treating infections in a timely fashion can have very serious consequences. Delayed treatment may require hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics. Especially in older or immuno-compromised people there are risks of compromised breathing, kidney failure, nerve damage and death. A practical point - your guests can contact a tick disease here, then travel to regions where doctors may not have tick disease awareness. Your parting words might include "Safe travels, and if you develop a rash or become ill, tell your doctor you were in tick territory."

Monday, July 3, 2017

Hidden History of Maynard


128 pages. 54 illustrations 
Publisher: The History Press
ISBN: 978.1.62619.541.7
Price: $19.99 (e-book $9.99)

The book is available in Maynard at The Paper Store, ordered on line, as an e-book, or directly from the author. If from the author, the author makes a $10 profit and you get a signed book. Any other venue and the author (me) gets 70 cents.

Maynard resident David A. Mark brings his years of experience as a writer to create this fact-populated collection of fifty short essays gathered into seven theme-linked chapters. The contents were originally published 2012-14 as Mark’s column in Maynard’s newspaper, the Beacon-Villager.

I continue to write for the newspaper.
My more recent columns are posted at

In this, his second book, the content is 100% history. Chapters again cover the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, plus a focus on the unusual people and unusual businesses that prospered here. So, from the question as to why there was a mink ranch in Maynard, to whether Babe Ruth came a-drinking here when he lived in Sudbury, here is David Mark with his well-researched and entertaining answers to those questions.  

Only in Maynard
Meet the Maynard Family
19th Century
20th Century
Unusual Businesses
Unusual People
21st Century
Click on photo to enlarge


MAYNARD: History and Life Outdoors (2011)
128 pages. 53 illustrations 
Publisher: The History Press
ISBN: 978.1.60949.303.5
Price: $19.99

Maynard: History and Life Outdoors mixes 2/3 local history with 1/3 observations on nature and local recreational activities as a means of exploring what Maynard, Massachusetts offers to anyone willing to get away from too much time looking at screens and not enough time spent seeing, hearing, touching and smelling the life going on outside. History starts with eighteenth century stone walls, then carries forward to twenty-first century river clean-ups and farmers’ markets. Nature spans skunks to skunk cabbage, deer to deer ticks, and birds to bird food. Recreational sports essays range from describing the slow-motion, nightmarish feel of snow shoeing to how to avoid overhydration – the potentially deadly opposite of dehydration.

Author selfie, one fine cold morning (5º F, 45% humidity)
Maynard – Why “Outdoors”
Eighteenth Century
Birds and Bugs
Nineteenth Century
Assabet River 
Twentieth Century
Marble/Whitney/Parmenter Farm
Twenty-first Century

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Mansard Roofed Houses, Maynard, MA

The image of impoverished writers, starving for their art and living in garrets, predated the era of Paris as a city of garrets tucked under mansard roofs. Garrets were attic living spaces - hot in summer, cold in winter - fit quarters only for servants or the poorer sort of tenants. The British artist William Hogarth, renowned satirist, painted The Distrest Poet in 1736 as an image of a writer awash in poverty - he sits at his garret desk, pen in hand, while his wife is darning clothes and a milkmaid stands in the doorway, demanding payment of debts. [An observation: When Hogarth published and sold engravings of the image, the black-and-white prints were a mirror image of the original oil painting, so that the distressed poet switched from being right handed to left handed.]   

As to what is and why called 'mansard,' the style originated with a French architect, Francois Mansart (1598-1666). He was an builder for the wealthy aristocracy, and even for them a tribulation, as he at times changed his plans in mid-construction and insisted the building be torn down and started over again. He fell out of favor with the royal court and others when the foundation for one of his buildings cost more than his original estimate for the entire project.

The Paris of mansard-roofed buildings (and garrets) dates to what is referred to as the "Second Empire Style" of French architecture  (1855-1885). Emperor Napoleon III ordered a reconstruction of Paris that swept away the medieval street plan of Paris, resulting in the elegant city we are familiar with today. Boulevards were lined with stone-faced, five-story buildings capped by a mansard roof. This top space was in effect a sixth floor walk-up (elevators not yet invented).

Mansard roof design calls for a nearly vertical roof that slants in on all sides. At a height similar to a floor of the building all sides of the roof continue at a very shallow upward slant. The steep part of the roof is punctuated by dormers. The net effect is a habitable living space under the roof rather than an additional floor of the building. Decorative details are ornate rather than spare.

The Lorenzo Maynard mansion on Dartmouth Street. Built 1870s.
In the U.S., Second Empire Style houses and public buildings came into vogue during the time of  post-Civil War prosperity, especially among the wealthy merchant class. Houses had two or three floors capped by a mansard roof. These houses typically had extensive porches, sometimes a tower, and a carriage house, also with a mansard roof. In Maynard, the best existing example is Lorenzo Maynard's mansion, at 7-9 Dartmouth Road. It still has the original stained glass windows. The modest house to the west was Lorenzo's carriage house. There are two more on Dartmouth - the next house over (#13) and an 1960s-built apartment complex at the site of what had been Amory Maynard's even larger mansard roofed mansion.    

Four other 1870s mansard-roofed houses grace Maynard. Three are on Maple Street. One has a similarly roofed carriage house. The largest of the three is now four apartments, but once was the dwelling of the Case family, owner of W.B. Case & Sons, Dry Goods - now the Outdoor Store. The last is a house just west of ArtSpace, on Summer Street.
Gambrel roof house (internet photo)

A mansard roof is related but not the same thing as a gambrel roof. The latter are common in Maynard. Gambrels are seen more often on rectangular buildings which have only one story below the roof. The shorter sides rise straight up from ground to peak, while the roof on the long sides starts steep, often punctuated by windowed dormers, then continues with a less slanted roof to the roof beam. The architectural style is called Dutch Colonial. Many of the homes in the part of town with streets named after Presidents have gambrel roofs. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Traditional Arabic Medicine

Women shopping at an herb and spice store,
Aleppo,Syria, 2007. Click on photos to enlarge.
Traditional Arabic Medicine (TAM) is far less well-known in the U.S. compared to other “traditional,” i.e., non-Western medical practices such as traditional Chinese medicine or traditional Indian (Ayurvedic or Unani) medicine. Per the World Health Organization, “Traditional medicine refers to health practices, approaches, knowledge and beliefs incorporating plant-, animal- and mineral-based medicines, spiritual therapies, manual techniques, and exercises applied singularly or in combination to treat, diagnose and prevent illnesses or maintain well-being.”

Much of the roots of Traditional Arabic Medicine stem from the Alexandrian conquests and the subsequent hundreds of years of rule by Greek colonists in the Hellenistic States, stretching from what is now Egypt to the western edges of what is now India. The medical works of Hippocrates and Galen laid the foundations for medical practice in the Middle East. Greek-derived medicine survived the Roman conquests and was later formalized by the translations of Greek texts into Arabic in the 8th century A.D. Major Ayurvedic texts were also being translated into Arabic at the same time, and Ayurvedic practices were melded into Arabic medicine

Advances in medicine during the Abbasid Caliphate (8th to 13th centuries) included the establishment of hospitals, surgical methods, medical encyclopedias, medical schools and the standardization of botanical preparations. The western reaches of the Islamic empire reached into what is now Spain, with centers of learning in Cordoba and Granada. Toward the end of the 12th century, translations from Arabic to Latin of such works as the Canon of Medicine and the Comprehensive Book on Medicine laid the foundation for the development of “Western” medicine in Europe.

Current use of TAM varies widely across the Middle East, and within countries by socio-economic status and education. Ethnobotanists have identified 200 to 300 plant-derived products in common use. The list includes: anise, black seed, cardamom, chamomile, cherry, cinnamon, clove, coriander, cress, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, flax, frankincense, galingale, ginger, Greek sage, henna, laurel, licorice, mastic, mint, mustard, nutmeg, olive, parsley, pepper, pimento, rosemary, saffron, senna, sumac, Syrian rue, turmeric and wormwood.

As an example of how one of these might show up as a modern dietary supplement ingredient, frankincense (Boswellia serrata) contains various boswellic acids, which can be concentrated into a Boswellia extract. Boswellic acids have been shown to inhibit the inflammation pathway. In clinical trials, Boswellia extracts have demonstrated promising effects in osteoarthritis, colitis and asthma.

In many cultures, traditional medicines include animal
parts in addition to plants. This shop has starfish and
turtle shells in addition to herbs, spices and food.
The 21st century future for TAM is not as strong as it is for traditional Indian or Chinese medicine. A 2006 visit to Damascus and Aleppo found herb-selling traditional Arab pharmacies in the souks, but in the suburbs there were cars double-parked in front of modern pharmacies where consumers raced in to buy glucosamine, ginkgo and other non-indigenous complementary and alternative medicines.

A survey of Arab practitioners in the Middle Eastern region provides evidence that TAM does not have this forward-looking momentum. Practitioners considered to be knowledgeable in their trade inherited the practice from their fathers or male relatives, or learned it as an apprentice. The survey's authors mentioned that the number of practitioners they were able to locate was fewer than reported in earlier surveys. There was limited exchange of information among healers, and no systematic instruction of the next generation of healers. The healers either sourced their herbs from the wild - limiting them to what grew locally - or purchased products from traditional Arab pharmacies. On average, each healer used only 22 botanical products in their practice - far fewer than the 200-300 that ethnobiologists had identified as still in common use. On the bright side, there are attempts to establish re­search/teaching centers, including gardens for medicinal plants.

To remain vibrant, any traditional medicine requires schools to continue to graduate practitioners, agreed upon definitions for botanical materials, stable sources of those plants and a population of consumers seeking traditional treatments. Given the current world dominance of “Western” medicine, advocates of traditional medicine may also try to apply evidence-based research methods to traditional practices. This typically involves identification of the active compounds in plant extracts, followed by evaluation through human studies. This approach can be conducted at regional universities. Or students from the region who have moved to other countries to complete their advanced education could conduct research there on treatments they were familiar with from childhood.

Black Seed (Nigella sativa) is one of the most commonly used botanical products throughout the Middle East. It is also an example of “Prophetic Medicine” - referring to health and disease statements found in the Holy Koran and in the Hadith - writings, sayings and traditions from Mohammad, the Prophet of Islam. An English translation of one statement: “There is healing in black seed for all ailments, except death.” Usage is oral consumption of the crushed seeds, sometimes mixed with foods (especially honey), or else oil extracted from the seeds. Traditional uses include treating  asthma, allergies, bronchitis, gastro-intestinal problems, to increase milk production in nursing mothers, and others. Placebo-controlled human studies suggest that Nigella extracts might lower blood pressure, cholesterol and fasting glucose.   

And because what's old is new again, local pharmacies carry dietary supplements containing ingredients such as chamomile, cinnamon, fenugreek, frankincense, garlic, ginger, turmeric...

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Salt-Cured Meat and Fish

Before refrigeration, before commercial development of the ice business, before canned goods, salting and/or drying, with or without smoke, were the major means of preserving meat. The idea was to make the food inhospitable to bacteria and mold, yet still edible. Hog killing time was in the fall. Yield included hams, bacon, sausage and a barrel of pork meat submerged in strong brine. What we call salt pork now is a small fraction of what went into a barrel back then. With careful planning the brined meat would last a family through the winter. In a novel set in colonial times, James Fenimore Cooper wrote: "I hold a family to be in a desperate way, when the mother can see the bottom of the pork barrel."

Late fall, after the first frosts, was hog killing time for a few reasons. Colder weather meant less of a problem with flies and risk of rot while the meat was being processed. Piglets from the spring's litter would have become hogs weighing 150 to 200 pounds. There was no reason to keep/feed hogs over the winter (except for the breeders, which reached an adult weight of 400 to 600 pounds, and ate 6,000 calories a day). Meat was packed in salt and let sit for weeks, with holes in the bottom of the basin for water to drip out. From here, some went into the smoke house for weeks of drying, while other cuts went into a barrel of brine. Either way, non-refrigerated storage was good for months and more. In Italy, air-dried Prosciutto hams are aged 14-30 months before going to market.

Salt beef was another food common to the era before refrigeration, especially aboard sailing ships, as barrels of this commodity would keep for months. Nowadays we are reduced to corned beef and pastrami, the key difference between the two being that the latter is dried and smoked in between the initial brining and the end-stage cooking. Much of the land in Ireland was given over to cattle for the British Navy and merchant fleets, leaving the native Irish to the cities, and potatoes. The Irish Potato Famine of the late 1840s, caused by a potato wasting disease, forced many to emigrate to the Americas, locally to work in factories.    

Salt cod. Click on photo to enlarge. (Internet download)
Salt cod is third example of a once common New England food, now less so. In Catholic neighborhoods, especially, markets would have these air-dried, salted, unrefrigerated fillets on display. The buyer would soak the cod in fresh water for at least 24 hours, changing the water several times, in order to rehydrate, and remove most of the salt. In Norway there used to be five different grades of salt cod: superior extra, superior, imperial, universal and popular. Top quality came from the fish being caught on a fishing line, bled while still alive, beheaded, gutted and immediately salted. This versus netted - which probably meant the fish was dead a while before being beheaded and gutted - then frozen on the ship, then thawed, salted and dried once ashore.

While all Catholics were eating salt cod during Lent, the local Finnish population had started eating lipeäkala (lutefisk, i.e., 'lye fish') before Christmas. Same salt cod, but after the rehydrating water soak, soaked a couple of days in a strong lye solution, them more days of water soaking to remove most of the lye. First-timers describe is as either soapy tasting fish or fishy tasting soap. Either way, a strong odor and an acquired taste.     

'Pork barrel politics' is a metaphor for the appropriation of federal or state government spending for projects designed to bring money to a representative's home district. Construction, defense spending, and agricultural subsidies are the most commonly cited examples. A famous Massachusetts example was the Big Dig, a multi-billion dollar, federally funded, traffic improvement project shepherded through Congress by Thomas 'Tip' O'Neill, Jr., then representing Boston and serving as Speaker of House of Representatives. Closer to home we have the Assabet River Rail Trail, primarily funded by the Federal Highway Administration from the federal fuel tax. Your (and other people's) tax dollars at work.

"Bottom of the barrel" has other origins. When wine is stored in barrels, solid materials composed of grape skin fragments, dead yeast cells, tartaric acid crystals and precipitating tannins (the last from the grapes and also the wood of the barrel) settle to the bottom and are referred to as dregs or lees. Modern-day bottled wines are filtered, so there is much less of this, and thus less need for decanters, but even then there can be some post-filtering precipitates. Back in the era of unfiltered wine, the well-off got the good stuff and the poorer class of people drank wine from the bottom of the barrel. Present day usage means something being of poor quality. There is a belief that beer drawn from a fermentation tank is progressively darker toward the bottom. Not true.   

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Maynard News, 1917

One hundred years ago the local weekly newspapers, The Maynard News and the Maynard Enterprise, both served the towns of Maynard, Hudson, South Acton, Stow and Concord Junction (West Concord). Annual subscriptions cost $1.50. Advertisements for wicker baby buggies listed prices of $10 to $45. Automobiles started at $700.   

Although the 'Great War' [World War I], had started in July 1914, the United States did not enter until April 6, 1917. From an editorial: "War has been declared between the United States and Germany. On Friday, the House voted 373 to 50 in favor of war, thus authorizing the President, as Commander-in-Chief... it is probable that an army of at least 500,000 men will be raised immediately, and others will follow..."  By the war's end, 19 months later, close to five million men had entered the armed forces, and there had been 53,400 combat fatalities and 63,100 non-combat fatalities. The total represented one-tenth of one percent of the country's population. In contrast, The United Kingdom lost two percent, and France and Germany, more than three percent (not counting civilian deaths).

Stow and Maynard would have a combined total of 428 serving in the armed forces, with 13 fatalities. In Maynard, the American Legion Post, on Summer Street (its building sold in 2016 and converted to condominiums), was named after Frank DeMars, the first of eight Maynard residents to lose their lives. Bronze nameplates on posts in various locations about town honor those men. Maynard's Memorial Park - dedicated in 1925 - has a plaque listing all enrollees. Stow's War Memorial, in front of the Randall Library, also identifies those who served and those who died.

An item in the paper in August noted that Maynard resident Toivo Alto drowned while bathing at Vose Pond. He had immigrated from Finland to the U.S. ten years earlier, and worked at the mill. He, his wife, and children had gone to the pond, a popular bathing spot. Although he had been seen going under the surface, and was brought up to the surface in a little over a minute by other bathers, he could not be revived. The doctor ruled cause of death as heart failure and drowning.

Maynard High School baseball team, Spring 1917. The man in the suit was
Principal Horace F. Bates, graduate of Harvard and coach of the team. 
1917 was the first year for high school seniors to graduate from the new high school. That building is currently the east wing of ArtSpace, on Summer Street. The graduating class numbered only thirteen students. Maynard's population at the time was 7,000. Stow's was 1,100. Maynard's Annual Report recorded 111 deaths, 92 marriages and 236 births. There were 188 dog licenses issued, and taxes collected for 151 horses and 129 cattle. Cars and trucks were not yet tallied or taxed.

The Town of Maynard Annual Report adds a bit more detail to life at that time. The fire department was debating replacing the horse-drawn ladder wagon with a motor truck. It had been a quiet year, with only ten fire calls for the entire year. The police report for the year included 88 arrests for drunkenness, 44 for assault and battery, 6 for larceny and 3 for profanity. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Assabet River Rail Trail - May 2017

Ground-breaking ceremony for Assabet River Rail Trail - July 2016
May 27, 2017: Footbridge over Assabet River now open. Approaches still need some work. Mile marker post shows 1.25 miles from bridge to Stow/Maynard border. All paved and open.

At a July 2016 ceremony in Maynard, representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the towns of Acton and Maynard met to oversee and celebrate ground-breaking for the $6.7 million construction of 3.4 miles of the Assabet River Rail Trial (ARRT) in the two towns, to run from the Stow/Maynard border in the southwest to the Acton train station in the northeast. Completion of this part of the trail is planned for spring of 2018. The contractor for this multi-year project is D'Allessandro Corp., a Massachusetts-based company with lots of experience in road, sidewalk, park and water management projects.

May 2017 is seeing efforts to complete much of the trail in Maynard. Starting from the south end, the trail is receiving the second/final layer of asphalt pavement, street crossing lights, signage, a parking lot at Ice House Landing, mileage markers, benches, bicycle racks, stone dust shoulders, topsoil and landscaping. The footbridge behind the post office, installed in February, is expected to be opened soon. Farther northwards, there is a bit of unfinished business just south of Summer Street, and then the soon-to-be-completed part of the Trail extends as far as Concord Street

Stow/Maynard border, looking toward Maynard. Stone posts show distance in
miles from the border, going north. Click on photos to enlarge.
The southwest end terminates at an entrance to the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, which offers 15 miles of trails, half open to bicycling. ARNWR has parking lots near the north and south entrances. Walkers and cyclists are also permitted to travel 1.85 miles farther west on the unpaved, privately owned "Track Road," which ends at Sudbury Road, Stow

Going the other way, all of the Trail north of Concord Street is an active construction project, not open to the public. There has been tree clearing and pre-paving leveling, but construction is expected to continue through the summer and into the fall before any parts of this are finished.

Map of Track Road section.
All of the current project is the north end of a planned 12.4 mile trail. The south end, 5.8 miles in Hudson and Marlborough, was completed years ago. Connecting the two along the route of the original railroad, which would include Track Road, would cover 3.2 miles and cross the Assabet River twice. An alternative would be to go through the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge south before turning west. This would add many (scenic) miles to the originally proposed length, but obviate the need for the two bridges. Either way, the connection project is years away.

New benches at Mill Street. Route 117 in background.
An oft-asked question is whether the Acton end of ARRT will be connected to the Bruce Freeman Trail (from Lowell, through West Concord, to Sudbury). There is no disused rail right-of-way between the two, and thus no good option for an off-street connection. One possibility would be to create a three mile long bicycle lane on School Street and Laws Brook Road

Bruce Freeman Trail is also a work in progress. Construction is nearing completion for a bridge over Route 2A, but not as far south as over Route 2. That, and the extension to West Concord and points south are in the future.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Wolves Repopulate Massachusetts - NOT!

Before Europeans arrived in North America, what is now the 48 contiguous states, i.e., all but Alaska and Hawaii, was home to an estimated 250,000 wolves. And 10 to 20 million deer. Nowadays the estimates are 5,500 wolves, and 25 to 30 million deer. There has been lobbying to restore wolves to the east, much as was done for bald eagles, but no action expected in the near, middle or distant future. Because it is one thing to restore the national symbol, and another to have the big, bad wolf wandering about the Berkshires.  

The anti-wolf movement started ten years after the Mayflower landed. In 1630, the Massachusetts Bay Colony approved a bounty for each wolf killed. Other colonies followed suit, at times switching back and forth between bounties paid to anyone and professional hunter/trappers. The first cause for this animosity was to stop depredation of domestic animals - cattle, sheep and pigs. Wolves had been eradicated in England and Scotland long before colonization to the Americas, so while the settlers had folklore of the depredations of wolves, actually losing livestock was a rude jolt.

By 1840 there were no more wolves in Massachusetts. Henry David Thoreau had lamented that of New England's wild life, nothing larger than foxes remained. Wolf extirpation followed in neighboring states, so by 1900 there were no more wolves in New England.

The practice of killing wolves to make land safer for pastured sheep and cows shifted west as Americans moved west. In time, a second cause evolved. The early decades of colonization treated wildlife as an inexhaustible resource. Deer were hunted for family consumption, but also for the market for meat that grew as cities grew. In time, game became scarce, hunting for market was banned and the concept of licensed sport hunting matured. Wolves were hunted, trapped and poisoned so there would be more deer and elk to be shot for sport. Anti-predator attitudes extended to mountain lions and coyotes.  

What was learned, slowly, was that without apex predators, herbivores will multiply to beyond what the greenscape can support. Starting in 1994, a great experiment was conducted in and around Yellowstone National Park. Thirty wolves were trapped in Canada and released in the Park. Within ten years the population peaked at approximately 300. It has since declined to half that due to pack-to-pack competition for territory and out-migration. The elk population declined from 20,000 to what may be a stable 5,000. Mule deer, moose and bison populations showed little change. Spending by hunters is way down, but is more than compensated by wolf-related tourism. 

There have been other interesting consequences. The coyote population has been halved, but the grizzly bear and cougar populations stayed stable. Bald eagles and ravens - scavengers at wolfkills - increased in number. With the end of over-grazing by elk much plant life recovered, bringing biodiversity.

The concept of "ecology of fear" came out of this experiment. When animals continuously fear predators, behavior changes. More time spent on surveillance and staying nearer to safe havens means less time eating. Less time eating slows growth and reproductive success. Locally, our examples of animals without fear include turkeys and geese.       

Looks like lunch! (Internet download, click on photo to enlarge.)
There are proposals to restore wolves to upstate New York and northern Maine, which in time would result in populating surrounding regions. A big question: Will wolves attack people?  Nineteenth century newspaper accounts describe wolf packs attacking and eating children, adults, even armed adults who managed to kill some of the wolves before dying. Wolf attacks on humans are very rare now, but the main cause is that wolves are rare. What is being reported are increasing numbers of attacks on dogs. Hunters that use off-leash dogs for licensed bear hunting are reporting dog kills in Idaho, Wisconsin and other states. Pet dogs have been taken in parks in Minnesota.

There is an argument for a net benefit from restoring wolves to the east. Currently, 150-200 people die each year from vehicle collisions with deer. Restoring wolves would reduce that number, perhaps at the cost of 1-2 deaths per year from wolf attacks. Logical? Yes. Emotionally reassuring? No. One solution would to be equip a wolf or two per wolfpack with a GPS device and have a wolf app on your smart phone.

Not in the newspaper column: In 2007 a wolf was shot in Shelburne, Massachusetts, after reports of an animal killing sheep and lambs. DNA testing confirmed the 85 pound male animal as a gray wolf. The nearest known wild wolf population was in Canada, some 350 miles away. Back in elk country, the estimates are that wolf packs will kill 22 elk or other large ungulates per wolf per year. Deer being much smaller, it could mean more than 50 deer per wolf per year! Meanwhile, there have been scores if not hundreds of documented coyote attacks on humans, sometimes by rabid animals and sometimes not. Two attacks have resulted in deaths - a three year old child (1981), and a 19 year old woman (2009). Rabies more commonly affects raccoons, skunks and foxes, but can cross to coyotes. A common sign of rabies is a loss of fear of natural predators (and humans), abnormal behavior, such as being active during daylight hours for a species typically nocturnal, and aggressive biting.      

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Bald Eagles Repopulate Massachusetts

Bald eagles don't have to be fast, only strong. The majority of their diet is either fish or stuff already dead, competing in the latter situation with vultures, ravens and crows. Adults weigh 9-13 pounds (females are larger than males), and can easily lift a 3-5 pound fish out of the water. An eagle that ends up in the water - perhaps after grasping a too-large fish - can take off from the water's surface. Bald eagles also prey on young Canada geese, ducks and small mammals. And steal food from other predators, such as ospreys.

Bald eagle, Lake Boon 2011 (Martin French)
Bald eagles are in the genus Haliaeetus, common name sea eagles, of which the Steller's Sea Eagle* is the largest. Of the some 60 eagle species worldwide, our bald eagle does not make the top five for weight or wingspan. All eagle species are long-lived. For the bald eagle, lifespan in the wild often exceeds 20 years. In captivity, lifespan has been known to exceed 50 years.

During nesting season the mated pair are both involved in egg-sitting and bring food to the young - typically two - eaglets. The parents each need close to a pound of food per day, and the growing eaglets not much less, so an adequate food supply is essential to raising a family    

According to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, there were 56 nesting pairs of eagles in the state in 2016, up from 51 the year before. The process of restoring eagles to this state began in 1982. Over a six year period, 41 eagle chicks were collected in Canada and released in the Quabbin Reservoir area. The chicks fledged, i.e., reached flying age, at 11 to 12 weeks. Most survived the next critical period of six weeks during which hunting, flying (and landing) skills were improving. In a normal situation the young chicks would have been fed every 4 to 5 hours by their parents, but in this relocation program the human caregivers wore a hand puppet that looked like an adult eagle's head. The effort to restore eagles to Massachusetts was part of the federally funded Northern States Bald Eagle Recovery Plan. 

Bald eagle with a fish (Internet photo). Click on photos to enlarge
The effort worked. Young eagles take four to five years to reach sexually mature adulthood, including a slow transition from juvenile all-brown tones to adult coloration, during which time they wander hundred of miles but tend to return to the general area where they were born to seek a mate and start raising families. By 1989 the relocated eagles were starting to nest in the Quabbin region. Since then, nesting sites have been spreading east and west. The nearest to us is in Framingham. Any local eagle sightings are of wanderers - either juveniles that have not yet paired up or adults during the non-nesting part of the year, which runs from mid-July to mid-January.

Juvenile bald eagle lacks the white feathered head and  tail,
and beak has not yet turned yellow. (Internet photo)
In Colonial times, an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 bald eagles populated what would become the continental United States, i.e., excluding Alaska and Hawaii. But by the 1970s, through a combination of hunting, loss of habitat and the unexpected effects of DDT spraying for mosquitoes, the number of nesting pairs had dropped to under 500. Through a combination of banning of DDT in 1972, the Endangered Species Act (1973) and the relocation programs, nesting pairs now exceed 10,000 and the species is no longer considered endangered. It is still protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.**

Lead poisoning continues to be an issue. The most significant hazard to wildlife is through direct ingestion of spent lead shot and bullets, lost fishing sinkers, or through consumption of prey containing lead shot or bullet fragments. While lead was federally banned for waterfowl hunting in 1991, its use in ammunition for other hunting remains widespread.

For many years, I half-remembered, or perhaps remembered half, of a short poem about birds of prey. While not specifically about bald eagles, it does capture a predator's sudden brutality. As remembered:

In the woods, I heard a scream.
Whether it was bird of prey
   or prey of bird,
I do not know, I only heard.

And then, while working on this column, I remembered the book I had read it in. So, as actually written:

After midnight I heard a scream.
I was awake, it was no dream.
But whether it was bird of prey
Or prey of bird I could not say.
I never heard that sound by day.
   - Robert Francis

*Steller's Sea Eagle: Georg Wilhelm Steller (1709-1946) was a naturalist on a Russian expedition to the Bering Sea in 1740. This eagle is 1.5 times the weight of the bald eagle. Adult females are known to top 20 pounds. Diet is mostly fish. In addition to the sea eagle, other species bearing his name are the Steller's Jay, Steller's Sea Lion, and Steller's Sea Cow. The last, a relative of manatees and dugongs, was hunted to extinction within decades after Steller's identification of the species.
Adult Golden Eagle (Internet download)

**The Golden Eagle is native to North America, but unlike the Bald Eagle, not limited to North America. Golden Eagles prey primarily on small mammals, and prefer open plains and mountains to densely wooded terrain. But they do wander east as far as Massachusetts, and can be mistaken for immature Bald Eagles. The original federal Act (1940) protected only Bald Eagles, but was extended to cover Golden Eagles in 1962.  

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Assabet River Rail Trail - April 2017

See May update: footbridge open to traffic even though fencing and landscaping not complete.

New photos on status of Assabet River Rail Trail, Maynard and ActonMassachusetts. The replacement footbridge in Maynard was installed February 8th (photo). Work on the approaches, including the loss of parking spaces behind the post office, began April 10. The bridge remains closed to traffic.

February 8, 2017: A crane starts to lift and then lower the Assabet River Rail Trail
bridge at the same site where a wooden footbridge had been since 1989, previously
 the site of a railroad bridge, 1850-1979. 
In Acton, the focus has been on the boardwalks over wetlands in front of and to the north side of The Paper Store building, on Route 27. Farther north, the old Acton bridge, over Fort Pond Brook, has been removed. Grading and filling ongoing. Nothing paved yet north of Concord Street, Maynard.  

Older sets of construction photos posted in November, October, December and January. The overall schedule calls for the complete 3.4 miles from near Acton train station to Maynard:Stow border to be completed by fall 2017, with landscaping (tree planting, etc.) wrapped up in early 2018.

Click on any photo to enlarge:

The bridge to cross Fort Pond Brook is being assembled near Maple Street,
Acton. It will be trucked to the site and lowered into place by crane

The bridge is 70 feet long. Like the Maynard bridge, it is to be 16 feet wide.
To be installed summer 2017. Maynard bridge will have lights. Not this one.

At the Paper Store office complex, on Route 27, Acton, a boardwalk is being
constructed over a small retaining pond and over wetlands. The Trail here has
left the original railroad right-of-way to be between the building and Route 27.

The boardwalk makes a right angle turn around a kiosk to connect with the
Trail, which resumes its route on the original railroad right-of-way
in the woods off to the left of the photo. SAAB dealership visible on right.