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upcoming events

Oct 6
Committee Meeting, 7-9PM
Arlington Town Hall, 730 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington - Selectmen's Hearing Room, 2nd floor
*Guest speaker on the East Boston Advancing Resiliency Report

Oct 19
MyRWA Annual Meeting, 6:15PM
Keynote Speaker Congressman Capuano
Tufts University, 51 Winthrop St., Medford


Special Presentation: East Boston Advancing Resiliency Report

From 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on October 6th, MyRWA will be joined by Jordan Zimmerman, an architect with Arrowstreet, who will present the findings of the East Boston Advancing Resiliency Report. The report is a publication of the Urban Land Institute Boston/New England chapter.

This technical assistance panel report is the result of work by a panel of professionals in architecture, public policy, real estate law, landscape architecture, engineers, and planning. The panelists focus was on identifying vulnerabilities due to rising sea levels and opportunities for resiliency and adaptation planning in East Boston.

This special presentation is part of the monthly Mystic River Watershed Association Committee Meeting. After the presentation the Committee will break into two groups: the Policy Committee and the Clean Water Campaign Committee. Please join us for this free, informational meeting!

Tuesday, October 6th, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
Arlington Town Hall, 730 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, MA - Selectmen's Hearing Room, 2nd floor


Somerville DePaving Party!


This announcement is from Somerville Climate Action.

We love the beautiful greenery in our neighborhoods, our sacred place, home to wildlife and all of us.

Help Barbara & Paul transform their yard so that it soaks up the rain! 

Join us at their Depaving Party!


WHEN: Saturday, OCT 3th (raindate: Sunday, Oct 4th), from 11:00 - 1:00.

WHERE: Depaving Party Hosts - Barbara & Paul's at 18 Kelly Rd., Cambridgeport

ORGANIZERS: Lenni & Cador from Somerville Climate Action


Please sign up:


** Massage Therapist Phil Buchanan will be generously offering FREE MASSAGE for depavers! **



* Reverse dehydration of the soil by allowing the rain to soak in

* Cool the air in the summer by decreasing the urban island heat effect through evapotranspiration

* Decrease water pollution by purifying stormwater naturally

* Increase air quality by removing particulate pollutants from the air

* Benefit from the beauty of a green space with a garden or habitat for birds & insects


Congressman Capuano to Speak At Annual Meeting

Please plan on attending the 2015 MyRWA Annual Meeting on Monday, October 19th at Tufts University. We are honored to have US Congressman Michael Capuano join us as Keynote Speaker. The Congressman will share his unique perspective on watershed protection efforts and his vision for the Mystic River Watershed. The evening's program will also include an entertaining update from MyRWA Executive Director, EkOngKar Singh Khalsa, an awards ceremony and voting for the 2015-2016 slate of Board of Directors. Read more here.


MyRWA Comments on Wynn Environmental Permit

Wynn Resorts rendering along the Mystic River in Everett, MA.MyRWA’s policy committee recently submitted comments on the Second Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Report (SSFEIR) filed for the proposed Wynn Resort Casino Everett. MyRWA has closely followed the progress of plans for this project over the past two years.  MyRWA is encouraged by the Proponent’s approach to site remediation, planning and design, which includes MyRWA’s suggested “living shoreline,” and by the stated commitment of the Wynn Resorts development team to set high standards of excellence with regard to environmental protection and restoration. Read the MyRWA comment letter and the Aug. 29 Boston Globe article.


2014 Metro North Land Use Priority Plan Presentation

At 7:00 p.m. on September 1st, MyRWA will be joined by Eric Halvorsen, AICP, Assistant Director of Transportation for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC). Halvorsen will provide an overview of the 2014 Metro North Land Use Priority Plan.

The plan identifies local, regional, and state-level priority development and preservation areas in the nine Metro North municipalities: Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford, Melrose, Revere, Somerville, Winthrop, and the neighborhoods of East Boston and Charlestown in the City of Boston.

This special presentation is part of the monthly Mystic River Watershed Association Committee Meeting. After Eric’s presentation the Committee will break into two groups: the Policy Committee and the Clean Water Campaign Committee. Please join us for this free, informational meeting!

Please join us!

Tuesday, September 1, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
Arlington Town Hall, 730 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington - Selectmen's Hearing Room, 2nd floor


Mystic River Canoe Tour

Do you want a free canoe trip on the Mystic River? Are you looking to learn more about the watershed and its history? Well then you’re in luck! 

Join MyRWA and Professor Rick Beinecke for a one-time only, educational canoe tour of the Mystic River and the Amelia Earhart Dam. Beinecke is an expert on the Mystic River and its history, having written an extensive paddling guide and book on the watershed, The Mystic River – A Natural and Human History and Recreation Guide. The trip will be a fun and educational way to explore the river and will include a paddle through the lock system of the Amelia Earhart Dam to discover the salt water portions of the river. MyRWA will provide all canoes, life jackets, and paddles for this free event. Space is limited – RESERVE your spot today! 

When: 9:00 a.m., Saturday September 19th, 2015 

Rain date: Sunday, September 20th  

Where: Mystic Wellington Yacht Club (451 Fellsway, Medford, MA 02155

Why: Fun in the sun and information from an experienced professional


Final Water Chestnut Cleanup

The big groups have come through and done their baskets of work, but there are still a few water chestnuts left in certain stretches of the river! Given our ambitious and exciting goal of collecting 100% of the plants in the river, we are sending out a call for volunteers to help us collect the stragglers. If you have your own boat and can spend an hour or so of your time to help clean up the Mystic, please let us know!

Use the maps below to pick a section of river you would like to work on, then sign up for the respective section on this Google form:


How are we doing this?

                We are asking volunteers with their own canoes or kayaks to sign up for a portion of the river and search among the Lily Pads and Algae for the last few Water Chestnut plants. Feel free to sign up for as many sections as you'd like, we appreciate the help!

When should I try to complete this?

                The earlier the better, we are trying to pull the plants before they have a chance to reproduce. Ideally, we’d like every section to be cleared by August 21st.

Which areas are most important?

                While we are trying clear all of the water chestnut, in general the further downstream the area is, the more plants are left. Therefore, our top priorities are the lower numbers (i.e. 1-6).


How do I know what to pull?

                The water chestnut looks like this: and grows on the surface of the water. Grasp the plant just below the water surface and gently tug it to pull up the long roots. Then pull the plant into your boat. Be careful of the spiky seeds: If you see these floating in the water, no need to pull them out (they are defective) however, the plants can have seeds on them so be aware and wear gloves!


Why are we removing water chestnut from the Mystic River?

 For more information on the Water Chestnut and the problems it poses for the watershed, refer to this document:


What do I do with the plants once I pull them?

                You can throw them on the shore or put them in your compost or trash. Just don’t throw them back in the water!  

If you have any more questions, or can't find an open slot that works for you, don’t hesitate to email


Thank you in advance for your help cleaning the last of this invasive species from the upstream portions of the river!


Water Trouble: A Neighbor-to-Neighbor Dialog about Storms, Floods, and Water Quality Forum

Please plan on attending this forum hosted by the Belmont Citizens Forum and sponsored by MyRWA!

Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 7:00 p.m.
Winn Brook School, 97 Waterhouse Rd, Belmont, MA 02478

We will be joined by our Arlington and Watertown neighbors to raise awareness among our three connected communities. The goal of the Forum is to educate citizens to:

  • Take action to improve water quality through better stormwater management
  • Reduce the ill effects of flooding through green infrastructure

Our panel of experts will discuss stormwater projects and issues relevant to Arlington, Belmont, and Watertown, as well as green infrastructure, water quality and rivers, and infiltration strategies for urban soils.

Anne-Marie Lambert, BCF director and cofounder of the Belmont Stormwater Working Group, will facilitate the discussion.

If you'd like to volunteer for this event, please contact the Belmont Citizens Forum at  For more information about the Belmont Citizens Forum, visit


Canoemobile coming to the Mystic!

This fall, the National Park Service, Groundwork Somerville, YMCA Boston and Wilderness Inquiry will be hosting an exciting canoeing event on two of our important local rivers: the Mystic River in Somerville (September 22nd, 2015) and the Neponset River in Boston (September 23rd, 2015). The Wilderness Inquiry Canoemobile, a fleet of six 24’ Voyageur canoes, delivers place-based education on urban rivers and waterways that offers youth a chance to canoe, learn, and interact in and around their local rivers. As part of its national tour of 31 cities, the Canoemobile will be delivering 2 days of programming in Boston and Somerville.
The event is coordinated and funded by the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program, hosted by YMCA Boston and Groundwork Somerville and implemented by Wilderness Inquiry and a number of community-based organizations. The Canoemobile is a program of Wilderness Inquiry in partnership with Nature Valley and many federal, state, and local organizations that care about healthy lifestyles for today's youth.
The event will include water and land-based activities throughout the day. Each of the canoes (24-foot, hand built wooden boats) seats nine students and one environmental educator-canoe guide, allowing participants who have never been on the water to have their first paddling experience. Participants study water quality, climate change, and ecosystem restoration while on the water. Partner organizations facilitate interactive land-based curriculum stations, which typically includes environmental education (i.e. water quality and wildlife ecology), outdoor recreation (i.e. pitching a tent, building a small raft or tying knots) and historical/cultural interpretation (i.e. learning about the history of the river).
For more information:

Journey Down the Mystic Sept. 12!

Mare Liberum, a boatbuilding and waterfront art collective based on the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, will be leading a day-long journey down the Mystic River on September 12th. The journey will be punctuated by stops to meet with environmental, advocacy, and citizen scientist groups doing work on the river, including MyRWA, Public Lab, Clean Water Action, and Chelsea Collaborative. As part of their residency and exhibition at the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts, entitled Or, the other island, Mare Liberum will be holding workshops from September 3rd-11th to build a small fleet of their newly designed plywood punts for the journey. Members of the public are invited to sign up for a spot on the punts, or bring their own human-powered boats along for the journey on September 12th. If you are interested in joining for the journey and/or boatbuilding workshop, please contact Sunita at

Additionally, Mare Liberum is interested in any expertise members of the MyRWA community have about the river to help prepare for the trip. Historians, scientists, boat-clubbers, and paddlers with experience on the river who are willing to share some of their knowledge should please also contact Sunita at


Greening the Malden River - Upcoming Community Charrettes!

As part of the Urban Waters Malden River Partnership, MyRWA is hosting two public meetings to gather community insight and input on where to implement green infrastructure, such as a rain garden. All are welcome to attend these meetings to learn more about the project and share their community knowledge!

Community Charrette: Greening Malden & Everett to Improve the River
Tuesday, August 18, 7:00 p.m.
Malden Senior Center auditorium, 7 Washington St, Malden, MA 02148

Community Charrette: Greening Medford to Improve the River
Wednesday, August 26, 6:00 p.m.
Andrews Middle School, 3000 Mystic Valley Pkwy, Medford, MA 02155


Recreational Flagging Program Funded

MyRWA was one of 12 grant recipients from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust (MET) for projects to protect and restore rivers, watersheds, and wildlife across the Commonwealth.  $60,405 has been awarded to develop a Mystic River recreation flagging system. The Mystic River Watershed Association and Tufts University will develop a system in the watershed to alert recreational users to safe or unsafe conditions. The project will increase understanding of conditions of Mystic and Malden Rivers; protect public health; increase attention to sources of pathogen contamination; and increase recreational use of the Mystic River. Read the press release here.

Since it was founded in 1988 as part of the Boston Harbor cleanup, MET has awarded more than $20 million in grants to organizations statewide that provide a wide array of environmental services, from supporting water projects in communities to protecting coastal habitats. Funding for this program comes from the sale of the state’s three environmentally-themed specialty license plates: the Right Whale Tail, the Leaping Brook Trout and the Blackstone Valley Mill. Support this program by ordering a Specialty “Preserve the Trust” License Plate today!


MyRWA Receives Funding for Water Chestnut Removal Program

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, through the Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program, announced their support of water chestnut removal on the Mystic River. MyRWA was one of 64 community-led wetland, stream and coastal restoration projects across the nation to be selected. The Five Star and Urban Waters 2015 winners were selected from a highly competitive pool of more than 280 applications.

Read the press release.


Enjoy Pizza and Bowling for a Cause!

On Tuesday, September 15th head to Flatbread Pizza at Sacco's Bowl Haven in Davis Square for a Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) fundraiser. That’s right, the more flatbread you eat the more money will be raised to support the Mystic River Watershed Association and our efforts to protect and restore the Mystic River Watershed!

Eat at or get take-out from Flatbread Pizza, 45 Day Street, Somerville, between 5pm and 11pm and a portion of your flatbread cost will automatically be donated to MyRWA.

Reservations are accepted for groups of 10 or more.


Update on the Mystic River Reservation Master Plan

Mystic River Reservation Master Plan Update, June 18, 2015 –

A Report from DCR’s Dan Driscoll – by Ivey St. John-Charlestown Waterfront Coalition


In 2009, the Department of Conservation and Recreation published a conceptual Master Plan for the renovation and improvement in the Mystic River Reservation,  defining the plan area as from Belmont’s and Arlington’s Alewife Brook along the Mystic Valley Parkway, to Medford & Somerville, to the Alford Street Bridge in Charlestown. 

The area includes both sides of the Mystic and the Malden River, but does not include Mary O’Malley Park in Chelsea at the base of the Admiral’s Hill development.  In the six years since publication, some exciting steps have been taken despite budget cutbacks.


Alewife Brook Area:

The Minutemen bike and pedestrian pathway from the Alewife T Station along the Alewife Brook section of the Mystic has been completed, thanks to shovel ready construction drawings and the 2009 Stimulus Program.  The federal stimulus funds regulations drove significant ecological improvements along the trail.  In addition, the Department of Transportation has supported the trail by including new lighting,

and pedestrian and bike improvements to the bridge at the confluence of the Mystic River and Alewife Brook.


Pathway along Mystic Valley Parkway:

Dan reported that he needs $250,000 to $300,000 to do detailed design and construction drawings for pathways along the Mystic, and to create a multi-use path welcoming to the disabled. 

In addition, he estimates up to $1 million is needed annually to keep all pathways in the Reservation in good shape.  In today’s frugal environment, that goal does not yet seem achievable.


Auburn Street Bridge to Craddock Dam:

This area is a little hard to define.  Some who travel Rt. 16 north and then east regularly will be familiar with the U-Haul Garage and parking lot, followed by the MBTA Commuter Rail Bridge.  The next crossing into Arlington is the Auburn Street Bridge.  The Craddock Dam supports the roadway into Medford Square from Rt. 16/Mystic Valley Parkway and Mystic Avenue.

In this area, the City of Medford has restored the pathways, moved the parking area near the Condon Shell back from the river, and built canoe access.  Historic markers note the Middlesex Canal and Medford waterfront history of constructing clipper ships. Further improvements await significant new funds to take down the Condon Shell and replace it with a disabled access shell and repaired and reconstructed bike lanes.  Medford has set aside $450,000 to develop a master plan for the area, including expanded bike lanes.  The City expects to hold a public meeting on that plan in September.


Craddock Dam to Rt. 28 Bridge:

This area is largely taken up the McDonald Park, a DCR Park that was poorly designed at its inception.  The Mystic River Watershed Association and local businesses and residents are forming a advocacy group to press for significant improvements to the park.  It is requires major reconstruction and will need significant financial support.  Pathways need to be redesigned, the State Police Station should be moved, and invasive species cut back and controlled.

East of the Rt. 28 Bridge, the Mystic shore and park (Baxter Park) along Assembly Row has been beautifully reconstructed and improved by Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRIT).  Members are encouraged to stroll the park when visiting Assembly Row stores.


Wellington Greenway:

This pathway stretches from the Rt. 28 Bridge at Station Landing along the north edge of the Mystic, under the Orange Line Bridge, and will ultimately be open all the way to the Wellington T Station just south of the Rt. 16 Bridge over the Malden River. The Rt. 16 Bridge is slated for reconstruction, and will have two pedestrian/bike underpasses on each side of the Malden River.

This area is extraordinarily beautiful, and abuts the Tufts Boathouse and John Preotle’s River’s Edge mixed use development.  The Malden River, despite its badly contaminated sediment, is a lovely pastoral sight, and worth a visit.


Draw 7 Park to Alford Street Bridge:

This area includes the drafted but still not certified plan to build a pathway from Draw 7 Park in Somerville to Rt. 99/Alford Street along the edge of the Mystic River.  Federal Realty Investment Trust has pledged $500,000 for use to develop Draw 7 Park. There is an effort being made to connect Draw 7 and Assembly Row by multi-use path to Sullivan Square through the MBTA yard downstream from Draw 7. To address a failing headwall on the edge of this proposed path, the MBTA has received a large federal grant with which it can complete the required structural improvements. 

Dan and the MBTA have been brainstorming ideas for the repair of this collapsing Mystic edge bulkhead in order to stabilize it to allow the pathway connection between Draw 7 and Alford Street.  Dan believes the T will have to build out into the river some in order to achieve retaining wall stability.  Here, there may be an opportunity for a much wider path then originally planned.

An additional note, Dan has approached the Wynn team about a grant of $8 to $10 million to fund construction of a pedestrian/bike bridge over the Mystic just above the Amelia Earhart Dam.  If Dan is successful in coaxing that grant out of Wynn, he reports that with the reconstruction of the MBTA bulkhead pathway adjacent to Alford Street, a complete circle will be open so that bikers can travel in a circle of connecting pathways around the Charles and Mystic Rivers. 




Citizen scientists document dramatic changes in number of herring at Mystic Lakes Dam

Since 2012, the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) has been working with hundreds of volunteers to count river herring passing through the fish ladder at Mystic Lakes Dam to spawn in Upper Mystic Lake. In 2015, the citizen scientists were able to document that an estimated nearly half a million river herring swam through the fish ladder to spawn – a 100% increase over the counts in the previous three years.

River herring collectively refer to two species of herring, Blueback (Alosa aestivilis) and Alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus).  These two species are referred to as “anadromous” fish as they live the majority of their life in salt water but lay eggs (spawn) in fresh water. The billions of river herring eggs that are produced in Upper Mystic Lake will develop into juvenile herring within just a few days. These juveniles will stay in the fresh water for up to 4 months before swimming downstream to live in estuarine waters.  The river herring that survive will reach an age to reproduce after 3-4 years and usually return to the same waters where they were born.

The Mystic River is one of 78 river herring runs in Massachusetts. River herring are an important component of ocean fisheries, and they need access to freshwater systems to survive.  Over the past several decades, populations of river herring have dramatically declined.

The Mystic River Watershed Association works each year to train a set of volunteers to perform visual counts at the fish ladder Mystic Lakes Dam. The volunteers agree to perform at least one 10-minute observation each week.  Volunteers in the 2015 program performed 680 ten minute observations and counted 57,617 fish.  The observations and counted fish are plugged into a sophisticated model developed by the Division of Marine Fisheries that yields the population estimate of 477,827 +/- 40,674 for 2015.

The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries released a statement on the outcome of the 2015 Mystic Count: 

The Division of Marine Fisheries is very pleased to see the excellent return of river herring to the Mystic River this year.  The large increase in returning herring gives us confidence that the restoration of access to Upper Mystic Lake has benefited this population.  The Mystic River is now one of the largest runs in the Commonwealth and even more so as it has both alewife and blueback herring in the run.  The Mystic River Watershed Association has done an excellent job coordinating a very well run volunteer count and acting as stewards of the river.  Information about the abundance of herring complements the biological sampling DMF does on the river and also provides context about Boston Harbor runs in the context of a statewide monitoring effort led by DMF.  We look forward to working with MyRWA, DCR, and all other partners to benefit river herring and other diadromous fishes in the Mystic and Aberjona watersheds. 

The question that is on everybody’s mind is “What is the explanation for the dramatic increase in the number of fish observed in 2015?” The Mystic River Watershed Association and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (MA-DMF) are exploring this question. One explanation might be that since large numbers of river herring were not able to access the additional habitat in Upper Mystic Lake before 2011 when the new dam and fish ladder were completed, we might be witnessing a true increase in the adult population that results from providing additional quality habitat for spawning.  The fish count in 2016 will contribute to an understanding of this year’s numbers. If the numbers stay high, it may be evidence that the population has increased in a sustainable way.

"The scale of this herring migration shows the Mystic River to be a living, breathing ecosystem, filled with life," says MyRWA Executive Director, EkOngKar Singh Khalsa. "It may be hard to see that life from Interstate I-93, and it is easy to take this urban river for granted.  But the herring run speaks to the importance of treating natural spaces in urban areas with great respect and care. We can live alongside nature, if we are thoughtful."

Work is underway to build upon the successes of the 2012-2015 counting programs. MyRWA is working with MA-DMF and local river herring advocates to see a fish ladder installed at the Center Falls Dam in Winchester center to allow herring access to Wedge Pond and potentially Horn Pond. MyRWA is working with local municipalities to identify opportunities to improve habitat and water quality throughout the watershed.


What's Happening to Carp in the Mystic?

Many big carp have died recently on the Mystic.  Dead carp have been sighted all up and down the river, from Lower Mystic Lake all the way to the Amelia Earhart dam.  We have reported the event to state agencies including the Department of Environmental Protection (Mass DEP) and had conversations with fish experts at the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

The state experts' best understanding of this is that it is a natural die off resulting from stresses from spawning in combination with some environmental factor (changes in water temperature, bacteria or virus that specifically affects carp, etc.).   

An important clue here is that seemingly all the fish are one species (carp) and one size class (large).  This leads the fish scientists to ask what might affect a group of fish at once like this, in this pattern.  Spawning is a huge energy cost to fish, and the stress of spawning leaves them vulnerable to infections and other stresses from the environment.  All the fish we are seeing may have been in the same physiologically stressed condition and all intolerant of whatever led to death. If these were spawning fish subject to stress or infection that has spread through their community, this would explain both why we see one size class and why they are dying more or less all at once.

We do not believe that there is evidence that this die-off is the result of pollution. In the past two weeks, two slicks were reported to DEP at specific locations in the lower stretches of the river, something MyRWA has also been tracking.  But the fish die-off phenomenon extends all up and down the river and affects only large carp.  If a pollutant were the cause, the effect would not be limited to one species and one size of fish.  So this event calls for another kind of explanation.  

We also do not believe that the cause is low dissolved oxygen levels (another common cause of fish kills).  There is no evidence of dramatically low dissolved oxygen levels along the length of the Mystic, and carp are, in any case, among the most resilient fish in the face of low oxygen.    

So the evidence suggests that is a rare, but essentially “natural” die-off, affecting only one species.  It’s a dramatic event.  These are large fish.  But we do not believe that it is the result of water quality issues in the Mystic, and we do not think that wildlife in general or people are at risk from whatever is causing it.

We are keeping an eye on the situation for sure.  We will report any new information in our website.  The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has a web posting that has information that covers similar ground.  

Please let us know if you see significant mortality among other kinds of wildlife, of course.  Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife has a web page on fish kills, and a number to call to report information.   

For more information on fish that seem to be doing extremely well this season, see our River Herring Monitoring page.  


Posted by Andrea Ritter



A Glance Inside the 2015 Root Cause Social Innovation Forum

                                                                                                                   2015 Social Innovators, Photo by SIF

This year, the Root Cause Social Innovation Forum named the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) as one of seven nonprofit organizations in Greater Boston to receive more than $135,000 in cash and capacity building services from Root Cause and its partners.  MyRWA was chosen to join the team of 2015 “Social Innovators” for the Urban Sustainability: Greener and More Resilient Cities social issue track, sponsored by the Schrafft Charitable Trust. Other Social Innovators that were chosen include: Catie’s Closet, Company One Theatre, Courageous Parents Network, Massachusetts Public Health Association, Press Pass TV, and Waypoint Adventure.

The objective of the Social Innovation Forum is to help nonprofits become more professional and more effective organizations. Root Cause and the Social Innovation Forum create a rich network of successful and innovative nonprofits, Boston area philanthropic foundations and individual professionals who want to support social change by effectively deploying the resources they have available.

On Tuesday, May 5, the 2015 Social Innovators were given their first opportunity to showcase their work to leaders from the local public, private, and nonprofit sectors at the Root Cause 12th Annual Social Innovator Showcase.

                                                                                                                                                    EkOngKar Singh Khalsa presenting, photo by SIF

Each Social Innovator was given just five minutes to make a targeted appeal to modern philanthropists who were excited to learn about the work that they do.

“Every word during that five minute pitch was carefully selected.”

- EkOngKar Singh Khalsa

EkOngKar Singh Khalsa (also known as EK), the Mystic River Watershed Association’s Executive Director and MyRWA’s Deputy Director, Patrick Herron along with a team of support spent dozens of hours paring down a 20 minute speech into a five minute informative, engaging, and result driven presentation given in coordination with a professionally prepared PowerPoint and - without the use of a single note card!

“It took a great deal of work to shape the presentation.”  - EK

MyRWA was supported by Tanya Inwald, a consultant engaged by the Social Innovation Forum, who worked with EK every step of the way. Tanya evaluated the mission, short and long term goals, strategic plan, funding, and operations of the Association. She asked the tough questions: what exactly was MyRWA accomplishing and how well was the association fulfilling its mission? Following Tanya’s thorough investigation, and graphic arts support from Lily Robles of Opus Design, a powerful PowerPoint presentation was created.

The next step was to concentrate on the delivery of the presentation. Julie Pierce, Managing Director of the High Lantern Group, donated her time and experience by providing strategic communications counsel and support. Julie helped EK discover the best possible way to craft his message to engage stakeholders and advance MyRWA’s objectives. Margie Zohn, Facilitator and Executive Coach from the Ariel Group donated her time to help EK strengthen his presentation skills and presence.

“It was a powerful experience to do this work. It reshaped our understanding of how best to share with the general public, colleagues, and supporters what it is we are doing and how we create social change. One of the strongest realizations we had during this process was to recognize the tremendous impact our work has on the hundreds of thousands of people who live in Mystic River communities.” - EK

As you will see in this video shot by Team SIF, EK’s presentation was a triumph: 2015 Social Innovator Showcase: Mystic River video.  

The showcase itself also turned out to be a smashing success with over 300 attendees eager to learn more about each of the 2015 Social Innovators and the work they are currently doing and plan to do with the right amount of funding and support.

“It was interesting to see the confluence of interests we have with other innovators and their work.” EK

Through the remainder of this 24-month long project, MyRWA staff will continue to receive extensive professional consulting, executive coaching, legal counsel, and other in-kind services. MyRWA will also have the opportunity to participate in various networking events, becoming part of the Social Innovation Forum’s growing circle of nonprofit, business, government, and foundation leaders.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the Mystic River Watershed Association to reflect, grow, and then launch ourselves into the next chapter of our work with the extraordinary support and guidance of the Social Innovation Forum.” - EK

MyRWA couldn’t be happier about this exciting partnership. We are thrilled to be a part of the SIF Team including so many wonderful innovators that came before us. Thank you to all those that have helped us thus far on this new journey and to all those that will continue to believe in us and invest in us in the future.

“MyRWA is the voice of this river and is leading the way to a healthy Mystic for everyone!” EK


Posted by Andrea Ritter


Outreach for Impact

                                                                                                                                                             Photo by David Mussina

At the Mystic River Watershed Association where our mission is to protect and restore the Mystic River and its tributaries including 44 lakes and ponds and serving 22 communities, it is impossible to do it alone. Therefore, we look to our community of conservationists to help create awareness of the need for aid in healing the Mystic River and to promote the value and importance of this beautiful natural resource. 

Every year, MyRWA joins other innovative and impactful non profit organizations at local fairs and neighborhood festivals to spread our mission and invite community members to do their part in cleaning up the Mystic.


Community volunteers with an interest in education and outreach sign up through MyRWA's volunteer site to help the Mystic River Watershed Association in the capacity of acting as a liaison at local events.


MyRWA volunteers are given both informative outreach materials and fun participatory activities to take to festivals such as: enlarged maps of the Mystic River Watershed, urban trail maps, newsletters and brochures, a magnet board that teaches kids how and what is recyclable through a hands on activity, river herring fish to color and place along the paper river, and lots of giveaways to take home. Volunteers also invite attendees to sign up for more information about the Mystic River Watershed Association and learn how they can get involved with the organization.

The photos to the left are from MyRWA Volunteer, Sarah Braun, who volunteered to table at this year's Fresh Pond Day in Cambridge hosted by Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation and the Cambridge Water Department. Fresh Pond Day was a successful and well attended event that received a great deal of positive feedback from the community! 


Winchester Town Day was another incredibly successful event that exceeded all expectations thanks to MyRWA volunteers and support from John Kilbourn of the EPA. 

At this particular event, MyRWA and John's main goal was to create awareness of the need for a fish ladder in Winchester. River herring life cycle posters were placed at the Winchester Main Street Bridge which provided context to this year’s historic herring run. Thousands of river herring whose upstream impulse was impeded by the Mill Pond Dam could be seen from the bridge. Adults from Winchester spoke to our volunteers about how they had never seen anything like this; children were in awe.

                                                                                                                                               Photo by David Mussina

According to MyRWA Volunteer, David Mussina, "John had the perfect setting to talk to a spellbound audience, Senator Pat Jehlen among them, about the proposed Winchester fish ladder thanks to our third and fourth year returning herring, clearly thriving in the their expanded habitats of the Upper Mystic Lake and Aberjona River. I even heard several people at the bridge talking about the need of a fish ladder at Horn Pond. Most heartwarming and significant for me was hearing from people how the abundant return of the river herring gave them for a change some “good” news."

                                                                              Photo of river herring near the proposed fish ladder by David Mussina

Thanks to the support of John and MyRWA volunteers like David Mussina at Winchester Town Day, the following Monday the storm drain located within Winchester’s future fish ladder was opened. The draining of Mill Pond created a channel enabling the herring to swim upstream!

So far this year, MyRWA Volunteers have tabled at: Earth Day Celebration at Menotomy Rocks Park, Fresh Pond Day in Cambridge, Spy Pond Fun Day in Arlington, and Winchester Town Day

If you would like to join our incredible team of education and outreach volunteers and do your part in being the voice for the Mystic River fill out this form and make an impact with us!

Posted by Andrea Ritter 


River Herring Numbers Continues to Rise at Upper Mystic Lake while Depleting Elsewhere



For the past three years, the arrival of spring has brought not only the river herring to the Mystic Lakes to spawn, but also dedicated monitors observing their passage up the fish ladder. Each year the herring count has steadily increased from the 21,025 herring initially reported in 2012. This past year amounted to an impressive 31,063 river herring.

Yet, never before has the count increased at the dramatic rate observed this year. The first herring sighted in the Upper Mystic Lake arrived on April 30th, since then monitors have counted an incredible 42,982 herring! This mass migration has shown no signs of slowing and we are excited what the rest of the counting season holds. 2015 is proving to be a monumental year to observe the river herring at the Mystic Lakes!

Why are we seeing so many fish this year?  Other sites are seeing unusually low counts this year (read about it here).  One exciting possibility is that we are seeing the positive result of building the fish ladder at Upper Mystic Lake.  At the age of 3 or 4, herring tend to return to the fresh water areas in which they were born.  This is now the fourth year since the fish ladder installation.  

What we may be seeing, then, is a real increase in the adult population of herring that call the Mystic their spawning home. By effectively expanding the breeding habitat into Upper Mystic Lake, we may have provided more opportunity for more juvenile fish to successfully survive to adulthood. It is probably too early to come confidently to this conclusion, but if it’s true, it would be a tremendous success story of local wildlife conservation, documented entirely by citizen science volunteers.   

For more information about the herring life-cycle see the Gulf of Marine Research Institute's explanation, linked here. Stay tuned.  We will be consulting with experts at the Division of Marine Fisheries over the next weeks and month, and let you know what their interpretation of these exciting numbers is.

In the meantime, keep up the amazing citizen science work!

Posted by Andrea Ritter