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Turkey Hill

Turkey HillProtecting their town forest was the primary concern for a group of residents from Holbrook, Massachusetts. Overdevelopment near the oak and pine forest south of Boston posed a set of problems, as homes were being constructed closer and closer to the forest.

Years of neglect had taken their toll. The forest floor was a thick mat of leaves and pine needles and the forest was becoming a dumping group for yard and household waste. Confronted with the potential for fire, Friends of the Holbrook Town Forest, a nonprofit citizens group, sought out the assistance of the state of Massachusetts and its Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).

Turkey HillThe DCR responded and a fire patrolman, Mike Marquardt, made a presentation to the group about the Firewise Communities/USA program and the group learned from the Holbrook Fire Chief Edward O’Brien that portions of the forest were prone to wildfire. Friends of the Holbrook Town Forest, headed by Holbrook resident Dale Lewis, responded by assisting in the planning for a neighborhood assessment.

Turkey HillLewis, Executive Director of the Friends of the Town Forest, worked with Town Forest Committee Chairman Patricia Greely and Holbrook Selectman Katherine Connolly on a campaign to raise awareness of the potential wildfire problem. A DCR neighborhood assessment showed that yard waste was being stockpiled in many of the yards of homes abutting the forest. That waste equaled a dangerous fuel load. The group decided that a chipper day would be an ideal group activity and help the community achieve Firewise Communities/USA recognition status. The idea was to have homeowners in the area take their yard waste to the street for a truck to come by that would grind up the material.

After several meetings and discussions with Marquardt from the DCR, Greeley and Lewis worked with the local Boy Scout troops; they distributed fliers detailing the concept and what residents could do to make it all happen. The group followed up with a mailing and more than 30 homeowners surrounding the forest agreed to bring out their waste. A crew of volunteers assisted elderly residents who wished to participate.

Turkey HillOn Chipper Day, volunteer assistance came from many, including the Scouts and their parents. Local arborist and Holbrook Firefighter John West donated his truck, chipper, and a crew for the day. In addition, fire staff from the fire service department at the DCR headed by crew leader Marquardt and Holbrook Fire Chief O’Brien oversaw the safe disposal of the materials. Department of Public Works Director Tom Cummings also assisted in oversight. Volunteers worked for more than eight hours on the project and completed the work in a single day.