In the center of the suburbs, Muddy Pond Wilderness Preserve offers a wild refuge for nature, wildlife, and people.
The Northeast Wilderness Trust established the Preserve in 2018, and has been working to re-wild the land and connect students and residents with wilderness. The Preserve sits in Kingston, MA at the northern reaches of the Atlantic Coastal Pine Barrens. This forest type is globally rare, and found only in New Jersey, Long Island, and Southeastern Massachusetts and its islands. The Pine Barrens are dominated by pitch pine and black, white, and red oak trees.
While Massachusetts’ Pine Barrens survived European settlement because their nutrient-poor soils were not suitable for agriculture, they are now very rare due to suburban development. Several species live only in the unique Coastal Plain Ponds of Southeast Massachusetts, and are critically endangered or threatened.
South of Route 44, the 322-acre Muddy Pond Wilderness Preserve is one of the remaining pieces of a forest that was once vast and unbroken. Today, the Pine Barrens are small, separated parcels. And as the forest habitat disappears, so do the opportunities for people to connect with nature and experience the native landscape.
Within the Preserve, the nearby hum of traffic is muffled by the songs of frogs, birds, and crickets.
Muddy Pond offers a redeeming glimmer of hope in that patches of these forests do still exist; they are not yet gone forever. The Preserve is open to the public for low-impact recreation such as hiking, bird-watching, photography, and nature study.
Within the Preserve, the nearby hum of traffic is muffled by songs of frogs, birds, or crickets. In early spring, amphibians lay their eggs, wildflowers blossom, and turtles dig nests. Through the summer, rare and endangered plants found only in this kind of ecosystem emerge from the waters of Muddy Pond. They bloom as fall sets in, while birds stop by for a rest as they migrate south.
Re-wilding is the practice of letting nature take charge. Joe Falconeiri, Northeast Wilderness Trust’s Southern New England Land Steward, is working with local schools and organizations to jumpstart the re-wilding process while teaching about wilderness values.
Falconeiri works with residents to haul out trash, shut down old trails, and hang signs. More than 75 students have joined Northeast Wilderness Trust to lend a hand and enjoy the outdoors. Teenagers are becoming familiar with this native habitat as they gather data for biology class. Dozens of adults have joined hikes and volunteer days, too.
These citizens are redefining the relationship between people and the environment. Rather than treating the land as a resource to be used and extracted, they approach it as a source of knowledge, excitement, and beauty.
Muddy Pond by Sophi Veltrop | Painted turtle by Shelby Perry | Pollen on vernal pool by Joe Falconeiri