For a behind the scenes look at how we installed final content in all six kiosks, click HERE.
As one of the most vital rivers in the North Shore area, the Ipswich River’s waters once provided bountiful fish to the Native Americans who lived near its shores. Today, the river plays an even more vital role in modern Essex and Middlesex counties. It provides clean drinking water to more than 330,000 residents living in 21 communities on the North Shore. This is done through direct pumping from the river as well as wells located in the Ipswich River’s watershed. Yet the Ipswich River is a waterway in trouble. Today it is more of a series of ponds than a free-flowing river due to the more than 70 man-made and beaver dams located in its watershed. Because of the dams, more than 14 native fish species that once proved bountiful to Native Americans have now been mostly replaced by species that can withstand the harsh conditions, including American Eel, Pumpkinseed, and Redfin Pickerel. Excessive municipal water consumption within the river’s watershed is now constantly taking a toll on the river. Parts of the waterway now repeatedly run dry year after year. This only hinders the wildlife species that have managed to survive the changing conditions. Up to 35 million gallons of water are withdrawn from the Ipswich River each day. Of this, between 20 and 25 million gallons of water never return to the watershed, a dangerous process on the river known as water export. On top of all of this, oncoming development on the river and in its watershed is constantly posing a threat to the river’s health. In 1997, the river was designated as one of the “20 Most Threatened Rivers in America” by the American Rivers organization. The river was then reevaluated, and in 2003 it was listed as the third most endangered river in America by the same organization. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has the river and its watershed listed as “impaired waters”, citing low oxygen levels in the summer and rising levels of mercury found in fish living in the river. Additionally, the river was deemed “highly stressed” by the Massachusetts Water Resources Commission in 2001.
The problems that the Ipswich River faces are now many, but there is still a light at the end of the tunnel. One of the most powerful tools that can be used to save the river is education. Hundreds of people travel down the river each year in canoes and kayaks, yet few are aware of the problems that the river currently faces. The first step towards combat is to promote sustainable recreation (canoes and kayaks) on the Ipswich River to show travelers the river’s beauty and what there is to save. The second step is to educate river travelers on the issues the river faces and what they can do to help combat them. My project, entitled the Ipswich River Recreation Project, has been designed to carry out both of these steps, by “promoting conservation and recreation on the Ipswich River”. The overall perspective of the project was to create and install six informational kiosks at six existing canoe launches, in Middleton, Topsfield, and Hamilton, all communities that the river travels through. Each kiosk is a double sided Lexan case with a post on each side to go into the ground and a roof on top to protect the case from the weather.
One side of the kiosk features conservation and safety messages pertaining to the river, which will be updated periodically by local authorities. These include current river flow rates, safety rules and regulations, mileage markers between kiosks, project information, canoe launch information, and photos of the installation of each respective kiosk. Additionally, organizational information showcasing the various non profits that function along the river has been added to acquaint river travelers with the organizations that have an impact on the Ipswich. This side also features a river map printed by the Ipswich River Watershed Association with each of the kiosks pointed out on the map. The opposite side of the kiosk features a permanent display with conservation issues and recovery projects pertaining to the river. Each display has a different central theme and message, with themes including the story of the Great Wenham Swamp, the story of water withdrawals on the Ipswich, the birds of the Ipswich River Watershed, the fish of the Ipswich River, the wetland plants of the Ipswich River Watershed, and the story of how the river was formed after the retreat of the Wisconsin Glacier. Six hard working students from Masconomet Regional High School’s AP Environmental Science department provided all of the research for the six displays, while a class twenty three Masconomet graphic art students worked together to compile the research and create final artistic designs for the displays. Each kiosk has a different display so that travelers will be educated in various aspects of the river before they reach the project’s end.
My project has been sponsored by the Middleton Stream Team, a small non-registered non profit which seeks to protect the rivers, water bodies, and wetlands of Middleton, MA and surrounding communities. The financial agent for the project has been the Ipswich River Watershed Association, a larger registered (501)(c)(3) non profit based out of Ipswich, MA which seeks to protect the Ipswich River and its watershed. Major funding for the project has been provided by a $1,250 grant from the New England Grassroots Environment Fund, a regional grant agency based out of Montpelier, Vermont. I personally applied for this grant with the help of the Middleton Stream Team in the fall of 2009, which consisted of a 6 page application and 10 supporting pages of documents. In addition to this grant, I also applied for an equal grant from the Boston based Cricket Foundation, which did not pass due to the yearly large amount of applications. Additional funding for the project has been provided by a grant from the Topsfield Historical Society, donations from members of the Middleton Stream Team, and donations from various local community members.
In addition to the previously mentioned agencies, I have also had the pleasure working with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, the landowner for the Bradley Palmer State Park kiosk in Topsfield, the Essex County Greenbelt Association, a local non profit based out of Essex, MA and landowner for the Rowley Bridge Road kiosk in Topsfield, the town of Middleton, the landowner of the Thunder Bridge/East Street kiosk, and the state Mass. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, the landowner for the High Street/Route 97 kiosk in Topsfield. In addition to these agencies, I have also partnered with Foote Brothers of Ipswich, MA, a local canoe rental business and landowner for the Colt Island kiosk in Hamilton, as well as Mass. Audubon’s Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary in Topsfield, which provided canoes for travel purposes along the river. In the approval process for these kiosks, I have had to fill out applications for and appear in front of the Topsfield, Middleton, and Hamilton town conservation commissions. Finally, in order to publicize the event, I was given an interview and feature story with photographs in the May 20, 2010 edition of the local Tri-Town Transcript, as well as a feature story in the winter 2010 edition of Ipswich River Watershed Association’s quarterly newsletter The Voice of the River.
My project has given 809 hours of service back to local communities, including 276 hours of work from the graphic art class at Masconomet and 110 hours from the six researchers in Masconomet’s AP Environmental Science department. This amount does not include an estimated 200 extra hours of work for preplanning purposes.
In conclusion, my project has done an amazing job at completely surpassing my original expectations. I have had the opportunity to find a spring internship through a project contact, work with a handful of state, regional and local agencies, teach a variety of carpentry skills to a great group of project volunteers, personally learn how to turn research into a piece of art, and give back to the communities which have provided me so many opportunities over the years.