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Friends of Robinson Park mend fences with DCR

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM It would seem as though the Friends of Robinson State Park and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) have finally mended the tattered fence of their relationship.

In May of 2007 the Friends watched as the DCR removed approximately 105 dead or dying red pines from the North Street park entrance, while other healthy red pines were tagged for harvesting.

Rick Sullivan, commissioner of the DCR said the cutting of the healthy hardwood was proposed to offset the costs of cutting the dead and dying red pines, which posed a safety risk to park goers. However, adamant opposition from the Friends halted the cutting of the healthy hardwoods.

"The Friends are really committed to Robinson State Park," Sullivan said. "In talking with them and talking to the foresters the project was reduced to a cut that everybody agreed was appropriate."

Sullivan noted that there is currently "no active cutting" in the park.

When asked if the park could be earmarked as conservation land, he said, "I can safely say that has not been ruled in or ruled out."

"We're on the same page right now," Lucy Gionfriddo, a member of the Friends said. "They have discovered that the park does have a lot of biodiversity and that there are a lot of things that should be protected in the park, as opposed to a place to obtain lumber."

Ray Weber, a founding member of the Friends of Robinson State Park said, "We are very much appreciative to the new commissioner's stance on the park and his careful reviews of all decisions made [in regards to] the park."

In an effort to showcase the bountiful benefits of Robinson State Park, the Friends has come together with the DCR and the Westfield River Watershed Association to host the first free Community Environmental Day on June 21.

The day will feature a variety of presentations, including a bird walk, vernal pool tour, Native American stone tool demonstrations, guided bird and nature walks and a presentation of "The Watershed Waltz" by Marmalade Productions.

Kathie Breuninger, member of the Friends said they were looking for activities that could highlight the park on a variety of levels for people of all ages.

She added that those in attendance will learn how to determine the health of a stream by scrubbing rocks for micro organisms at the Rapid Bio-Assessment of Streams tour. The tool demonstration will show park goers how Native American arrowheads are made as well as other weaponry and their significance in battle, Breuninger said.

Weber, who will be conducting the Vernal Pool Tour from 9 - 10 a.m., explained that the tour will showcase the species living in the vernal pools and also explain the importance of the area as a breeding ground for various species.

"People should really see the beauty of the park and what they can do on any given day for enjoyment and really no cost," Breuninger said.

The complete list of events for the Robinson Community Environmental Day at Robinson State Park are as follows:

8 a.m. Bird Walk with John Hutchison

9 a.m. Rapid Bio-assessment of Streams, including a demonstration and participation with Rod Parlee, of the Conservation Commission and John Calandrelli of the Sierra Club

9-10 a.m. Vernal Pool Tour with Ray Weber

10-11:30 a.m. Native American Stone Tool Demonstration by Rob Leverett

10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Kayak Demonstration by Westfield Water Sports

10:30 a.m. Interactive site assessment activity with Environmental Compliance Services Inc., Agawam

11 a.m. - noon Demonstration - Newcomb's Wildflower Field Guide by Barbara Farrington

11 a.m. - 4 p.m. Agawam Rotary Club food and beverage sale

1-2 p.m. Life in a pond by Springfield Public School's ECOS instructor

1:30 p.m. Nature Walk (plant and spiritual) with Charlie Spencer

2-3:30 p.m. Native American Stone Tool Demonstration by Rob Leverett

3 p.m. Wetlands Presentation with Sheryl Becker of the Agawam Conservation Commission

4:30-5:30 p.m. The Watershed Waltz by Marmalade Productions Puppet Show sponsored by the Westfield River Watershed Association. This production is a story of a healthy watershed, appropriate for ages seven - 12.

Hourly Walks Various ongoing hourly walks such as a tour of the vernal pools, Tulip Poplar Trees, the waterfall, old growth trees, the CCC camp with the Friends of Robinson State Park as well as with Matt Largess crowned Preservationist of the Decade by Yankee Magazine (2006) will also be taking place. Check the park entrance and schedule boards inside the park on June 21 for times and maps.