Friends Myles Standish State Forest Banner

Friends of Myles Standish State Forest News Articles and Newsletters


On this page—recent articles about FMSSF

'Whoopsy’ Daisy!

Wanted: Civilian Conservation Corps alumni and family

Here fishy, fishy, fishy!

Letter to the Editor

Broke and broken

'Myles’ to go
Friends group begins work for state forest, but has a long way to go

Forest Friends Come out of the Woodwork


Typical Trail in MSSF.


Easthead Reservoir in Spring.




Tour of controlled burn site in MSSF.




Red pine plantation in MSSF.


Rod Fuquay teaches a young visitor how to fish during the 2nd Annual Take Me Fishin' event at MSSF.




Fearing Pond trout, stocked by Mass Wildlife for the MSSF fishing event.



DCR Fire Managers posing as Smokey Bear during the Friends of MSSF fishing event.


First Fish!


Whoopsy’ daisy!
By Bobbi Sistrunk

Plymouth Bulletin Thu Feb 21, 2008. To view on line click here.

CARVER - Myles Standish State Forest encompasses thousands of acres of sprawling Pine Barrens, ponds, trails, woodlands and open spaces along the southern sections of Plymouth and Carver.
Family camping, picnicking, bird watching, swimming, fishing, canoeing, along with biking, hiking and equestrian trails, make the forest a destination point for both Massachusetts residents and far away tourists alike. Horse camping is a popular activity because of the 35 miles of equestrian trails, and 13 miles of hiking trails take visitors on foot deep into the forest.

The Friends of Myles Standish State Forest (FMSSF) was created to help preserve the area’s natural resources, especially the coastal plain kettle pond that are extremely sensitive to trampling.

“We partner with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to help promote responsible recreational use of the Myles Standish State Forest while helping to protect and restore its natural ecosystems and enhance wildlife habitat,” FMSSF President Sharl Heller said. “This forest belongs to all of us. I started the Friends because I kept getting lost in the woods. It seemed to me the forest was not what it should be. The trails were not marked well, and the whole place felt unloved. I want to protect and preserve it. Every year it gets less and less from the state. The friends group can help where the state cannot.”

She explained that funding from camping permits and other park fees go into the state’s general fund, but monies raised by the FMSSF is designated solely for use within the specific area.

One of the main issues facing public lands across the commonwealth is the use of off-road vehicles (ORVs). Although no off-road vehicles are allowed within the park, it is virtually impossible to keep them all out.

They were banned several years ago because of the negative effects they have on the trails and the potential danger they pose to rare species. When tires spin out, they cause a build-up of dirt behind them and depressions in front of them. Over time, these built-up areas get very large, making a sort of roller coaster effect on the trails otherwise known as “whoops.”

While the whoops may be fun for off-road riders, they wreak havoc on hikers’ legs and knees and are extremely uncomfortable for horses to pass over. Recently, the FMSSF held a meeting with local equestrians to help decide what to do about all the whoops that remain in the park.

Thom Gifford, the equestrian director of the FMSSF, has been an integral part of the maintenance of the forest trails. Equestrians are the largest and most prominent user group at the forest, and many of the improvements are being directed toward improving the park for the equestrian users.

“I’ve been involved in the Myles Standish trails forever; from about the 80s on,” he said. Gifford also belongs to the Southeastern branch of the Bay State Trail Riders Association, also known as HERD, which recently signed on to help the friends group.

“We have a potential to do some real good at the forest,” he said. “I hope to be the liaison between equestrian users, equestrian user groups, the Friends of MSSF group and DCR management of the forest.”

The Bentley Loop in the forest was laid out by Carver resident Robert Bentley, and he marks and maintains it to this day. His concerns go beyond just removing the whoops; his concern is how they will be removed. An avid bird watcher and hiker, he feels the best way to fix the trail system is to painstakingly do it by hand.

“If they are planning to bring in machines to try and take care of the whoops, they will be shut down,” he said. “This should be done on a small scale.” He said he fears that once the trails are repaired, they will invite further illegal use by the ORV drivers.

The use of a Deschutes trail drag was suggested. But the machine, which measures 34 inches wide, is cumbersome and not easily maneuverable around curves in the trail. Bentley also reminded the group that many of the trails are just footpaths, and widening them several inches would encroach on habitat.

“Hikers want narrow, more natural looking trails,” he said. ORV users had offered to pay for the large machine to grade the whoops in the past when they were still allowed in the park, but the offer was rejected. “The paths it graded were much wider than the original trails,” Bentley said, “It essentially turned them in to roads. Manual grading and other less invasive options are more feasible.”

Other suggestions include rerouting the existing trails, but Bentley said he totally disagrees with that idea. “There are too many scars already in this park,” he said. The FMSSF’s president Sharl Heller said the goal is to make sure the method of repair is amenable to all users of the park.

“I see getting rid of the whoops as a great idea,” Heller said. “But looking at the miles and miles of whoops that are out there is a daunting task.” She said she has received word that Gov. Deval Patrick is “very keen on engaging the friends group,” which should help the group in its efforts. “We need to ask what can we do for Myles Standish rather than what can they do for us,” she said. “We all need to work together.”

The group is planning some cookouts, trail rides and other events in the coming months to help raise funds to restore the trail system “Once a park has a friends group, (the state) knows there is interest in that park. They are more inclined to support projects,” Heller said.

For more information, or to join the FMSSF, log on to the Web site, or contact Thom Gifford at 508-789-3399 or e-mail

back to top


Wanted: Civilian Conservation Corps alumni and family
Plymouth Bulletin Thu Dec 20, 2007By Sharl Heller

- The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) operated in the years between 1933 and 1942. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) established the CCC as part of the New Deal Initiative, a program to end the Great Depression. Through this federally funded program, more than three million (100,000 in Massachusetts) young men found employment, and much needed food, clothing and shelter. As FDR was fond of saying, “We must spend to save.” And save they did – our forests, that is!

“We Can Take It!” was their motto, and using little more than shovels and axes, the young men of the CCC completed recreation and conservation projects on public lands throughout the United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. In Southeastern Massachusetts, the F. Gilbert Hills, Franklin, Freetown-Fall River, Manuel F. Correllus, Myles Standish, Roland C. Nickerson, Shawme-Crowell and Wrentham State Forests were all home to CCC camps with approximately 200 workers in each. These CCC companies built roads and fire towers, developed recreational sites and trails, and engaged in forestry and wildlife improvements. At all of these sites today, people reap the benefits of the work done by the CCC.

Next year, 2008, will mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the CCC. The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation wants to show our CCC alumni and their families its appreciation, on behalf of all our citizens, for the work done in forests and parks across the U.S., but especially in Massachusetts. If you are an alumni or your father was an alumni, you’re invited to the State House in Boston for a celebration March 31. If you can’t make it to the State House, that’s OK. We would still like to interview you or collect information from you for our archives. Call 508-833-3588 to schedule a personal interview or have a profile questionnaire sent to you.

Besides helping with the State House event, the Friends of Myles Standish State Forest (FMSSF) will hold local CCC events in 2008, starting with a display at the Plymouth Public Library in January. We are seeking memorabilia of the CCC for the display and for inclusion in a book about the CCC at Myles Standish State Forest and other forests in Massachusetts. If you have any CCC photos or documents to share with the community, please let FMSSF know by calling 508-833-3588.

Why does DCR want to celebrate the work of the CCC? Because the spirit of the CCC lives on. Today our legacy is in the stewardship of public lands through the Student Conservation Association, Friends groups like ours, and in you, the public. DCR will help maintain the legacy and spirit of the CCC by creating educational displays and holding events throughout Massachusetts in 2008.

For more information on how you can help celebrate the 75th anniversary of the CCC, contact Alec Gillman, visitor services supervisor at the Mount Greylock State Reservation, at 413-499-4262, or visit

back to top


Old Colony Memorial Letter to the Editor

Tue Oct 23, 2007

To the Editor:
I always read Plymouth Bulletin’s column, No Mand’s Land, by Frank Mand. I find him amusing and usually right on the mark with his observations about Plymouth. Since starting the Friends of Myles Standish State Forest Inc. (FMMF) six months ago, I feel an uncontrollable urge to speak up whenever I see or hear anything about our forest. And I must respond to Mr. Mand’s recent remarks about Myles Standish State Forest.

Mr. Mand, in Of time travel, rotarie, and jelly crullers (10/11/07), apparently “put [these] words in” Tiki Manoogian’s mouth: “I used to believe that there was no more confounding web of roadway in the world than the paths that bind the acres of our own Myles Standish State Forest together.” Tiki, Mr. Mand reported, went on to add, “To enter the Myles Standish without an experienced guide or a detailed map is to experience a true Hansel & Gretel moment.”
Well, Mr. Mand and Tiki, I would like you (and everyone else) to know that FMSSF, has officially begun the Trails Connection and Enhancement Project. This project, while it might not address the roadways (perhaps that will be our next project), will go far in helping people not in cars to find their way through our beautiful forest without the need for breadcrumbs.

Our top-notch trails committee is working with Don Matinzi, the Southeast District Supervisor for the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Soon they will begin using GPS mapping technology to define trails that will eventually connect the recreational areas of every part of the forest. We are starting the project by connecting the trail that begins and ends at the Upper College Pond Road parking lot (Bentley Loop) some 4 1/2 miles to Curlew Pond. One day, in the near future, all the official trails in the forest will be well marked and inviting.

We want more than anything to change MSSF’s reputation of containing the world’s most confusing paths because we want folks to fully appreciate the wonderful resource we share. Now that the IRS recognizes Friends of Myles Standish State Forest Inc. as an official, nonprofit organization, we hope that we will be able to count on the community to help as we turn MSSF into one of the state’s finest parks. Certainly the potential is there!

Mr. Mand, give us time. We are already thinking about those “dead-ends, bridge-outs, frost heaves and nameless ponds” you mentioned.

Sharl Heller
Friends of Myles Standish State Forest Inc.

back to top

Here fishy, fishy, fishy!
by Casey Meserve - Plymouth Bulletin. To view online click here.
Wed. Sep 26, 2007

Plymouth - All licenses will be suspended Saturday – all fishing licenses that is, at least at Fearing Pond. That’s because the Friends of Myles Standish State Forest is hosting a fishing event, a fishing party you could say, for anyone who likes fishing, wants to learn to fish, or just likes the forest.

“Take Me Fishin’!” is an all-day event to show people just what activities are available in the largest piece of publicly owned conservation land in Massachusetts.
Friends President Sharl Heller is nervously looking forward to Saturday when the Friends group hosts its first major event.

“Part of this is because its national Public Lands Day, and events are happening all over the state, but the primary importance of this is to get people to care for the outdoors while they recreate in them, especially kids,” she said.

Pine barrens, the type of forest found in Myles Standish, are especially susceptible to wildfires, Heller explained. Even Smokey the Bear has taken notice and will be on hand to spread the message of caring for the forest and to hand out fire-safety kits.
There will also be a bird-watching activity, canoe rides on Fearing Pond, and biologist Carol “Krill” Carson will direct some nature activities.

But the day is primarily about fishing. The pond is even being stocked with trout for the occasion, and expert anglers will be on hand to teach novices how to hook a worm, cast, set the hook, and even how to fly fish.

Volunteers from Trout Unlimited, a nonprofit group working to restore coldwater fisheries and watersheds, will demonstrate the fine art of tying fly lures and the Fly Fishing Federation will have certified fly-fishing trainers teach people to cast a fly rod.

Both groups promote the catch and release approach to fishing. But for this event, catching and keeping will be allowed. Volunteers will even help fishermen to gut their catch and put them on ice so they’ll be fresh when it’s time to go home. Heller said if the weather is good Saturday, the Friends may also hold a small fish fry “for a taste test.”

And for those who would rather release their fish, the Fly Fishing Federation will teach people the best way to return a fish to the pond. Instead of keeping their catch, participants can even make a print of their fish with a technique used by Japanese fishermen who wanted to prove how large their fish were even if they had to sell them. Gyotaku, or fish printing, involves covering the fish with nontoxic ink and pressing it against a piece of paper creating an image of the fish before releasing it, unharmed, into the water.

There will even be a contest for the biggest fish, with the winner receiving either a deep sea fishing trip, or a whale watching trip courtesy of the Capt. John Boats. “I think it’s going to be a hoot,” Heller said.

The entire event is free. Heller said the event is not about making money. “It’s about getting kids into nature and outdoor activities,” she said. “We really feel strongly that if we don’t get kids out there, they won’t grow up with an appreciation for the outdoors. Kids spend so much time indoors in front of the TV or the computer that we feel it’s important to show them that there are things to do outside.”

But “Take Me Fishin’!” isn’t just for kids, Heller said. “I want this to be a community event we hold every year.” She’s encouraging people to bring a picnic basket, as the Friends will only provide small snacks. The area around Fearing Pond does have charcoal grills and participants will be allowed to use the grills.

Heller said she gets a delightful reaction, particularly from children, when she tells them about this event. “Their eyes just light up as if they’re imagining what it would be like to be out fishing,” she said.

Mass Wildlife is providing rods, reels and bait, but participants are also encouraged to bring their own equipment. Fishing licenses are not required during the event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., After 3 the license requirements go back into effect.

To get to Fearing Pond, enter Myles Standish State Forest via the entrance at Long Pond Road in Plymouth or the one on Cranberry Road in Carver and just follow the FISH signs.

back to top

Myles’ to go Friends group begins work for state forest, but has a long way to go

August 01, 2007 | Plymouth Bulletin
By Casey Meserve, CNC Newspapers

Tim Scholz rides his mountain bike at parks across eastern Massachusetts, but there is one place he rides where others won’t - Myles Standish State Forest.

“People don’t feel safe in Myles Standish,” he said. “There are not enough rangers there. The trails are not patrolled enough. It could be a scary place.”

Scholz is working to change that.

He’s vice president of the Friends of Myles Standish State Forest, a group formed to help make the 15,000-acre forest a place everyone can appreciate; a place that is safe with marked hiking, biking, and equestrian trails, and clean, well-kept campgrounds and swimming areas.

It will take a lot of work to get to that point, but the fledgling group all ready has a plan.

Sharl Heller, a Plymouth resident who walked the hiking trails of Myles Standish every week, formed the group in May. She was disgusted by the illegal dumping on the trails, and worried about the small number of forest rangers patrolling the forest.

“Basically, the problems stem from the decline in budgets, and it’s showing the neglect,” Scholz said.

Scholz, a member of the New England Mountain Bike Association, joined the Friends to represent bicyclists who use the forest’s 16 miles of paved biking trails. Others joined to represent the interests of hikers, hunters, equestrians, boaters and environmentalists in the state forest.

The object was to get a range of forest user groups together, joined in their common interests, instead of against each other.

“We want to keep all the competing groups interested and not at each other’s throats,” Scholz said.

Probably the one thing that all the groups can agree on is the trails. The forest has more than 60 miles of trails but many of them need repairs or signs. That’s where the Friends decided to start.

In May, the Friends took part in the state Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Park Service Day and cleaned up the Easthead Nature Trail, one of the most popular hiking trails in the park.

With that success, the Friends are looking to bigger things. They recently submitted a proposal to the National Parks Service.

“The goal is not to get any money from the Parks Service, but to get their aid,” Scholz said.

The long-term goal is to create a trail network connecting various campgrounds within the park.

“Some of those campgrounds are separated by four or five miles,” Scholz said. “Curlew Pond, Bartlett’s Pond and Charge Pond right now are not connected by any trail network.”

The Friends also want to place markers on existing trails. “There are tons of trails out there, but they’re not marked.”

A project of this size requires assistance, especially since the forest was designated a forest reserve by the state’s Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. It is the largest tract in the state with that designation. Myles Standish includes rare habitats including coastal plain ponds, fire-adapted pitch pine and scrub oak forests known as pine barrens, and the Plymouth-Carver Aquifer. Endangered species such as the red-bellied cooter, the spotted turtle, and the Plymouth gentian can also be found in the forest.

The Nature Conservancy is working with the Friends to ensure a balance between recreational use of the forest and protecting the rare habitats.

Robb Johnson, the Nature Conservancy’s Program Director for Southeastern Massachusetts, recently made a presentation to the Friends.

“We have a lot of overlap,” Johnson said. “We have a shared interest in policy and enforcement in the forest.”

He said the biggest thing going for the Friends is its diversity. “Diversity is a strength, and one of the challenges in a large well-loved space can be the way different user groups interact.”

Johnson said the forest reserve designation will take on increasing meaning as the process carries on. Part of the designation means removing nonnative species, including several species of trees, grasses, and flowers.

The designation will also begin to mean more to the Friends.

“We’re hoping management policies will protect the forest from the development of additional buildings, expansion of pavement, and the introduction of uses that might threaten habitat type,” Johnson said.

He said one of the big problems facing Myles Standish is the use of off-road vehicles, which are illegal to use in the forest. “That is a use that has potential to damage sensitive habitats,” he said. “If it’s a free-for-all, ATV's and dirt bikes can create erosion situations.”

Johnson said the Nature Conservancy is taking this chance to be part of the first planning stages for any new trails in the forest.

“There are some things in the forest worth directing trails around,” he said. The Friends walk a fine line with the Conservancy on policies and initiatives, but both are working towards the betterment and benefits of Myles Standish.

back to top

Broke and broken

The Boston Globe, The Observer
DCR needs to show it won't botch funding hike
By Sam Allis, Globe Columnist | July 22, 2007

In 1995, the Observer reported a story about a troubling trend in public education. The traditional compact between citizens and government that tax dollars would cover school costs had busted. Across America, communities were raising serious private money in all sorts of ways to cover budget cuts in local schools.

In Kenilworth, Ill., parents raised $92,000 for a new playground at an elementary school. A parent in the tony Brentwood section of Los Angeles loaned her landscaper to her kid's school. In Brookline, parents kicked in $30,000 for computers at the Driscoll Elementary School .

The same dynamic has hit the state Department of Conservation and Recreation. The assumption that the department can meet its core mission by itself has collapsed. Where many volunteer groups in the past had adorned the DCR effort to maintain its properties, they now have become essential to its core mission.
The shift is profound. Without them, the department would face disaster.
"It's true," says new DCR Commissioner Rick Sullivan. "The volunteer makeup is different. Twenty years ago, things might have been done by the DCR. We need more help." When does the situation cross the red line? "We're already there."
"That's right on the money," Kathy Abbott, the agency's commissioner from 2003 to 2005, says about the changing role of volunteers.
There are, according to the department, 105 "friends" groups across the state who work as volunteers -- such as the Friends of Myles Standish State Forest in Plymouth and the Esplanade Association along the Charles.
They do God's work, where they choose to. The problem is that isolated, less-attractive state properties get ignored. "It's not equitable to have public parks privately funded," says Abbott, head of field operations for the Trustees of Reservations. Indeed.

Continued at

back to top

Forest Friends Come out of the Woodwork”
By Erin Doherty, Plymouth

Sharl Heller knew the Myles Standish State Forest had some behind-the-scenes friends, but she wasn’t prepared for just how many.

Approximately 35 outdoor enthusiasts turned out for the first meeting of the newly-formed Friends of Myles Standish State Forest group last Thursday, May 3, at the “barn” near MSSF headquarters on Cranberry Road in South Carver.

Heller, an avid hiker in the forest, started the group last month, with the aid of Robert (Bob) MacKenzie, Supervisor of MSSF, and Margie Lynch, Director of Partnerships for Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).

“I called Bob after I got lost on one of the trails, to ask if the Forest had a group of volunteers who helped out,” Heller explained.

When MacKenzie replied that there wasn’t, Heller began to set things in motion.

“I thought the forest looked a bit unloved, and offered to start a Friends group,” she said. “Bob said that he’d wanted to see one started for years, and put me in touch with Margie Lynch at the DCR. The very next week we met and planned the group.”

Apparently Heller isn’t the only one who’s been concerned about the declining condition of the forest. Though she only had time to get the word out to a few organizations before the meeting, the news of a friends committee forming spread like wildfire. The result was a spectacular showing that spanned several communities and a plethora of user interests.

“The enthusiasm and support [of Bob and Margie] gave me courage, so I scheduled the first meeting. But I was really only expecting about six people to show up. I was totally overwhelmed by the turnout!” Heller said.

A reality of the relatively unregulated forest environment is that users with often conflicting interests must learn to share the same area.  Hikers, bikers, motorbikers, horseback riders, campers, swimmers, fishermen, kayakers, skiers, and hunters all lay claim to some part of the forest. And they don’t always appreciate feeling the presence of some of the others. The Friends group hopes to help resolve these tensions.

Thursday evening Heller and MacKenzie skillfully moved through a full agenda that included discussion on cleaning up trees and brush resulting from recent storms; mapping out trails; placing clearer trail markers; and forming an on-call volunteer work crew to help with general maintenance. The continuing unauthorized ORV problem generated the most heat.

“Allowing or not allowing ORV's in the Forest will not be an issue for us. As a Large Tract Forest Reserve, the MSSF is off limits to ORV's. What is an issue is the illegal use of these vehicles. We will try to have a representative from the Environmental Police address the ORV problem at our next meeting,” Heller said.

By the end of the evening, five subcommittees had been formed to work on publicity, mapping out/marking hiking trails, cleaning up equestrian trails, designating work crews, and forming a 501(c) non-profit status.

The first official event of the Friends group will be to assist the DCR with Park Serve Day on Sat., May 12 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. All those interested should meet at the MSSF Headquarters parking lot on Cranberry Road in South Carver.

Work will be done on the Easthead Nature Trail around East Head Reservoir. Bring work gloves, rakes, lunch, and water. Please leave pets and small children at home. Friends of MSSF and the DCR will provide some light snacks.

The next Friends meeting is scheduled for June 7 at 7 p.m. at the “barn”, MSSF Headquarters.

For more information or to join the Friends, contact Sharl Heller  at (508)833-3588 or; or call the MSSF Headquarters at (508)888-2526. You can check out their blog at, or their web site at Friends has a Yahoo Group Site at

Friends of MSSF is a volunteer citizen advocacy group in partnership with the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation.

back to top



Contact Us

About Us



Equestrian Page

Photo Contest 2009 - all entries

Photo Contest 2009 - winners

Featured Projects

Upcoming Events

Past Meetings

Quick Link to Latest Newsletters

April 20, 2010

April 9, 2010

March 19, 2010

February 8, 2010