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The Walden Woods Project

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Arts & Culture, Environment, Historical Organizations, Land Resources Conservation

Mission: The Walden Woods Project was founded in 1990 to protect land of ecological and historic significance surrounding Walden Pond. At that time nearly half of the Walden Woods' 2,680 acres remained unprotected from development. Two large tracts of land (a total of 43 acres) were under immediate threat as developers sought to construct an office park and a large condominium complex in close proximity to Walden Pond. In January 1991, the Walden Woods Project raised enough money to buy the 25-acre Bear Garden Hill site. A few years later, the Project acquired a second parcel, known as Brister?s Hill. In 1998, the Walden Woods Project opened The Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods containing over 8,000 volumes and 60,000 items of Thoreau-related materials and launched its two trademark teacher education programs, Approaching Walden and Finding Walden.

Programs: Conservation:the walden woods project preserves and protects walden woods and thoreau country in recognition of their worldwide literary, historical, and environmental significance and their capacity to motivate others to identify, study, and protect the environment and historically significant areas that exist in their own communities. In 2014, the project purchased two houses and appurtenant structures on three acres of land that completes our acquisition of the farm at walden woods. The land and structures will provide increased capacity for our organic farming operation, new meeting and program space, facilities for farm staff, housing for program participants and maintenance facilities for farm operations. Land management:the walden woods project manages conservation restrictions on 61 acres of land, which prevents development of sites not owned in fee. Annual conservation restriction monitoring is done to ensure that the protections prescribed in the conservation restrictions are in effect. Invasive exotic plants are a major threat to the ecological integrity of our land. The project actively manages our properties to reduce the prevalence of invasive plants and to minimize the threat they represent. The project's programs support ongoing collaboration between a wide variety of civic and environmental groups who regularly provide volunteer invasive species management to our organization.

education:the education programs of the walden woods project serve an audience that includes students, educators, and life-long learners from around the globe. Our signature programs include our guided tours for groups visiting walden woods and the pond; the live deliberately essay contest for youth ages 13-21 from around the world; a week-long summer professional development program for teachers, approaching walden, and other professional development workshops throughout the year; vernal pool workshops; skype in the classroom sessions; the stewardship lecture series; and world wide waldens, an on-line community of youth working to conserve places in their own communities. All of our programs are inspired by the writings and philosophies of henry david thoreau and ask people to explore their own sense of place-their connection to their own community and other places in the world-and to develop an environmental ethic. As thoreau himself is a highly interdisciplinary subject, we address the topics of transcendentalism, social reform, writing, natural history and 19-century history in our programs, as well. In the 2014/15 academic year, we hosted over 600 students (plus nearly 100 teachers/coordinators with them) in our guided tours of the walden woods area (including the pond). We also host groups in our library at the thoreau institute at walden woods, which maintains the world's largest collection of thoreau-related documents, books, and artifacts, and serve approximately 1,000 students each year through our skype in the classroom program (for those who are too far away to visit the woods). Our approaching walden summer professional development program brings in 25 educators from across the country each year for an intensive, immersive study in thoreau's words and place. There is a competitive process to attend this program that receives high acclaim each year from its participants, with the 2014 feedback being no exception. Participants have the option of completing additional readings and assignments to receive 3 graduate-level credits for the course through fitchburg state university. Our 2014 stewardship lectures series included the following presentations: "walden's shore: henry david thoreau and nineteenth century science," with author of the book of the same title, robert m. Thorson; "who's watching you? : owls of the world," a presentation for all ages with live owls conducted by mark and marcia wilson of eyes on owls; "the transformation of american community," with mark dunkelman, author of the vanishing neighbor (this event was a festival forum as part of the concord festival of authors).

research and library:the thoreau institute library/archives, is owned and managed by the walden woods project and is located in walden woods. The library houses the most complete research collection by and about henry david thoreau, as well as other collections by american writers, including ralph waldo emerson. Staffed by a full time curator, the library is the premiere resource on a global basis for thoreau research and scholarship. Each year the institute welcomes a steady stream of interns interested in pursuing a career in library science, as well as volunteers with an interest in the history and literature of thoreau's time. Every year brings new people to the thoreau institute library, whether in-person or virtually. In 2014, we hosted visitors from canada, europe and asia. Translators from china, czechoslovakia, and iran have worked with the curator to provide accurate and representative translations. "skype in the classroom" sessions bring our curator into classrooms around the country via skype, reaching more than 1,000 students in 2014. We continue to publish many works electronically and update finding aids to our collections. In 2104 we acquired the kevin macdonnell collection, adding rare and unique items to our library.

Community Stories

58 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I love bringing students to Walden when my junior English students study Thoreau, Emerson, and Hawthorne. Working with the Walden Woods Project gets better each time. Whitney, who coordinated our recent trip was terrific. Jeff (Thoreau scholar) and Matt (field biologist) showed us different sides of Thoreau in their complementary ways that made the visit meaningful and memorable.
ECraig-Olins

Client Served

Rating: 5

I am so impressed with the Walden Woods Project. I am a teacher at a local high school, and I called to see if I could bring my students to visit Walden and Brister's Hill. Everyone I spoke with was incredibly helpful in making this visit happen. They arranged a carefully planned out day, provided experts to guide us, and even supplied us with a writing prompt based on Thoreau's journals.

My students loved the day, and I did too. It made an exciting way to connect with Emerson and Thoreau. It's wonderful that they make themselves so available to helping teachers bring these authors to life.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I participated in the Walden Woods Project seminar "Approaching Walden" this summer. It provided, hands down, the best professional development I have ever had. I learned from educated members of the staff, and the select participants who joined me on my journey. The program was well thought out, diverse, and thoughtfully executed. I will forever value the time I spent in Thoreau's woods and am grateful for the opportunity.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

This summer I had the great pleasure of attending The Walden Woods Project's 'Approaching Walden' seminar for teachers. The professional development I received was far beyond my expectations. The multi-day event was carefully and thoughtfully developed, with a tremendous amount of learning packed in to each day. The staff was knowledgable and willingly shared their expertise. Experiencing the artifacts curated by the Walden Woods Project, as well as having time to explore the area, was just incredible. Interacting with other educators in this inspiring setting allowed me to deepen my thinking about my own practice. I particularly enjoyed the way the seminar was geared to multiple disciplines; there truly was something for every content area. The work that this team does is invaluable . . . and they do much more than just this outreach to teachers. An amazing organization!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

The Walden Woods Project provides a program for teachers called "Approaching Walden." I cannot speak highly enough about this program. On a daily basis, I implement something that I learned at the seminar in my classroom.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I participated the the Approaching Walden Summer Seminar and this was the best professional development opportunity I have participated in. The speakers were incredibly knowledgeable and the activities were worthwhile. It renewed my interest in Thoreau and gave me lots of things to bring back to my classroom.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Walden Woods Project is a tremendous asset: 1. educationally providing lectures and various activities including summer programs and web-sites for teachers. 2. making available a top-notch library and curator preserving collections of materials by Thoreau and others. 3. Acquiring and preserving land around and in Walden Woods whenever feasible 4. Developing and maintaining a Thoreau Walk at Brister's Hill that is both beautiful and enlightening. 5. Advocating for projects and laws that preserve the environment. And there is certainly more...

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Over the last few years, I have worked with the wonderful staff of the Walden Woods Project on several cutting-edge educational projects, and these experiences have been some of the most fulfilling of my entire career as a teacher. There are countless reasons to both praise and recommend this organization to others, and as many people have already attested to here, these reasons would not be limited to education. However, what is evidently of central concern to all of those who are involved with the WWP, is this institution’s unique ethos of stewardship, education, and conservation.

One would be hard pressed to name any other figure of comparable prestige, whose life and philosophy are so inextricably linked to a particular place, as is Thoreau’s. My students know this intuitively, their work constantly bears this out, and perhaps tellingly, it is those from other countries and cultures who seem to appreciate this special status most fully. They are a constant reminder that we should not take this wonderful legacy and land for granted, and like me, are grateful to those who are working to secure this jewel for future generations of students.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have volunteered and have donated my time, energy, and a little money to the Walden Woods Project from shortly after its birth in April 1990! Back in time, before WWP, I found it devastating to have read that Walden Woods and the surrounding area were under the threat of development. I was then equally relieved and ever so thankful when I read The Walden Woods Project was formed to prevent such a calamity of development. I immediately contacted "The Project" to see how I could help be a part of the solution.

The Walden Woods Project is an outstanding non profit. They have a terrific staff of caring, dedicated people and a great core group of volunteers; they truly get things done. I am honored to have had the opportunity to have been a small part of the team.

I am truly grateful to Mr. Don Henley for his insight, thoughtfulness and courage in creating The Walden Woods Project and for all those who have and those who continue to labor tirelessly to secure the integrity of this historically important area.

"The earth I tread on is not a dead, inert mass. It is a body, has a spirit, is organic, and fluid to the influence of its spirit, and to whatever particle of that spirit is in me. "
Journal, Dec 30, 1851
Henry David Thoreau

Richard69

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

The Walden Woods Project is the type of organization that I can really appreciate! They have helped save Walden woods, the land that Henry David Thoreau lived on, wrote about and loved throughout his life. Because of the WWP the land that Thoreau knew so well has been saved and preserved from over-development and destruction! This is where the modern conservation movement got started and it is safe from harm because of the WWP's involvement. This is something that is so important that it can not over overstated. Generations of people can now see the land Thoreau wrote about, and experience it as he would have. That's HUGE!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I’ve been volunteering for, and donating to, the Walden Woods Project for 14 years now and am impressed with the results achieved over the years, especially when it comes to the conservation of important lands adjacent to or near Walden Pond, and to the great work they have done and continue to do with educators and students. The library at the WWP’s Thoreau Institute is a repository for one of the greatest collections in the world devoted to Henry David Thoreau and people from all over the world go there to study and do important research. The Walden Woods Project has also been a great supporter of the arts and artists, and hosts a Stewardship Lecture Series with a variety of presenters that is free an open to the public.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

Have been involved with The Walden Woods Project over 10 years and have seen the important parcels of land they are preserving for future generations . . . a great organization doing great work! Not just talking the talk, but also walking the walk. Keep walking!

Client Served

Rating: 5

The Walden Woods Project sets an example, acts as a resource, and offers some environmental solutions and hope to my high school students and to fellow educators. My students can see protecting the environment in action, all the work that must be done on the local as well as national political scenes from protecting the landfill from becoming a bus parking lot, to purchasing and protecting the land. I have had students volunteer at the Thoreau Institute, part of the Walden Woods Project, students, under the guidance of another teacher who took a course for educators on Thoreau, actually build a replica of his cabin. Several teachers from our school have taken courses there and availed themselves of the speaker series. The Walden Woods Project has also become part of our school's Senior Service Day. Students learn about invasives from the staff and spend time clearing sections of the woods. Other students have taken part in their essay contests on the environment and also have taken part in the student global initiative to exchange environmental ideas. The project is a steward for Walden Woods so future students may learn there as well and an educator for present students to learn the value of its environment and to become its protectors in the future. The educational resources are amazing.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I first began volunteering with the Walden Woods Project well over ten years ago and since then have continued to volunteer intermittently and have attended a number of the Project's events. I also follow the Project through the local news. I am so grateful that this organization has quietly and persistently worked to protect historic and environmentally sensitive land in Concord and Lincoln. This is not only important to those of us who live here, but also to anyone who cares about American history and literature, as Walden Woods is central to the history of Transcendentalism and the environmental movement. The WWP raises public awareness about important environmental issues and supports education about Thoreau and environmentalism both locally and worldwide. Ever since I first volunteered back in 2000, I have felt so appreciated by this organization. It has been a privilege to work with them.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

In Defense of Open Space

I would like to rebut the criticism of the vote to maintain the Concord Land Fill as a natural open space, which was posted on April 10, 2013. I am not a resident of the area, so I cannot address all of the points brought forth.

However, I believe that the need for natural open space is greatly underestimated and misunderstood in the United States today. Because an area contains grasses, weeds and wildflowers does not mean that it is useless and should be developed.

Americans seem to have a conception that trees are the only useful flora. This idea was unintentionally created. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the country was quite deforested. The intensive focus and extensive and somewhat successful campaign for reforestation has caused open spaces to be forgotten.

Although construction still occurs by removing trees, a somewhat limited psychological barrier seems to exist (except among developers) against cutting them down. However, no such inhibition occurs in regard to open fields, which are frequently perceived as wasted land, simply sitting there, and encouraging unwanted pests. Plus, they are cheaper to develop.

However, a healthy ecosystem cannot exist without such areas. Meadows are an integral part of the food chain. By providing food, shelter, and areas for nesting and courtship, this habitat attracts a multitude of wildlife. Most of which is not seen (insects and microbes) or is disdained by humans (mice and ticks).

An even more neglected place is edge habitat, which has been lost by the destruction of meadows and trees. As Aldo Leopold notes, “The variety and density of life is often the greatest along edges.” Hence, this habitat provides more benefits than forest and grassland alone, creating a complex community. Some species specialize and thrive in this area, including endangered and rare ones.

Next, the idea of NOT preserving land associated with Thoreau, because it was clear cut in his lifetime is simply flawed. It is still a historic place, associated with the writer, and can be used as an example of a bad use of land, now being rectified.

To focus specifically on the individual's comments regarding the bus depot, I disagree with the statement, "There won't be any runoff from the buses to the pond." The only major method to stop runoff would be if the proposed parking lot and the roofs of any buildings would be permeable surfaces. Most average builders do not understand the concept of permeable asphalt and green roofs. Most likely, the town of Concord (like other governments) would select the lowest possible bidder on the contract for the project, which would mean the use of oil based asphalt, which does not absorb water. Hence, rain could run from the developed area to the pond or to the road, where it would flow to the nearest storm drain and into a probably overloaded water treatment system. Storm water rolls across land and streets, picking up contaminants, such as chemicals from coal tar pavement sealants, that are environmentally dangerous and harmful to humans.

Also, the bus depot would bring another environmental hazard to the area, the much revered suburban monoculture known as the lawn. Currently planted turf grasses have shallow roots, in comparison to meadow plants and grasses. Hence, the creation of a lawn ends soil stablization and water absorption, causes runoff and erosion, and creates a lack of biodiversity, as well as the need to mow with polluting lawnmowers.

The writer states that "the buses will have to be kept in another town, at great expensive and much larger *local* gas emissions and pollution." A closer examination should be made of this situation. For maximum benefit, the buses would have to operate on natural gas or propane or be flex fuel vehicles. Routes would have to be carefully planned; bus sizes carefully selected. Pickups would be for multiple students, not stopping at adjacent homes. Furthermore, a more forward looking plan should be discussed. Due to the increase of cyber schools and home schooled students, the need for buses for may be reduced fairly soon.

While no charity is perfect, the Walden Woods Project has maintained its focus on land preservation and purchased property to that end. Once land is developed, it remains so, especially on the densely populated East Coast. I have never seen anyone tear down a housing development to build a forest.

1 Barbara Z.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Saving and keeping Walden Woods is an extremely important task. I firmly believe that over the years the Projects goals and work has been wonderful. The Project is not only holding on to Thoreau's vision and the lessons he left for us to learn, it is helping protect a vital piece of our history. In this country we have seem to have lost the importance of our past. We are so busing running to get to the next best thing, instead of appreciating what we have.

I have been a visitor to the Woods for years now and never found the pond to have an odor. And the idea of closing it off to the public is exactly what Thoreau would be against. He encouraged us to go out there and learn from nature. And yes it is separated by a major road, however I still am able to lose myself in the woods and begin to hear my own heartbeat again as well of the planets'. I feel sorry for those who are unable to connect with the woods in this manner. It is very special.

I am so proud to have been a supporter of this project since the beginning, I have planted many trees and bushes and there is a special feeling I get knowing that even after I am gone there is a small part of me there and will always be there to keep it special. I will continue to support this project strongly and am glad I am not alone.

3

Donor

Rating: 5

He writes: "The Town of Concord is building a parking lot on the old dump." The old dump? Anyone find that ironic? Thoreau who: "went into the woods to live deliberately," ended up with a dump litering these same woods? Really? As I remember the WWP helped get the dump closed and cleaned up several decades ago. So today, there is no dump, no office project, no affordable housing, no ballfields, no shopping malls, no Dunkin' Doughnuts. Just green space. A place to go and reflect or hike or swim.

The WWP has been at it up there for nearly 25 years. What work they have done with the money that they have raised has come mostly from private donations and grants. From real people. I'm glad that they are there, because clearly we tend to do some foolish things in the name of progress.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 1

I live very near Walden Pond, which is actually in Concord, MA, and never swim there, because the beach smells, due, it is believed, to overuse as a state beach.

I just received a mailing from the Walden Woods project. On the front of the postcard is a photo, carefully angled to show the "closeness" of a proposed school bus parking site to the Pond (the site is on a capped landfill) while hiding the fact that there is a major commuter road between this site and the pond. There won't be any runoff from the buses to the pond.

The other side of the card has one outright lie, where they state that a town committee concluded that the school buses should remain at the High School, despite the fact that the committee actually said that parking the buses at the school was not an option.

There is also a lie by omission, which ignores the reality that no one has found another useable site to park the buses in town, despite a large number of searches. If we don't build a lot, the buses will have to be kept in another town, at great expensive and much larger *local* gas emissions and pollution, which would certainly adversely affect the pond.

A number of years ago, this group derailed an affordable housing project, claiming it would interfere with Walden Woods. They promised to buy and give to the town a better, larger site. Now, many years later, they have facilitated a donation from the state to the town of surplus land, land that has a potentially toxic site and might wetlands on it, tests aren't yet complete, and it is unclear if it will even be buildable.

Several years ago, they attempted to stop the building of playing fields, claiming that the area was part of Thoreau's Walden Woods, although the area had been clearcut for firewood in Thoreau's time.

The most useful thing that the Walden Woods Project could do, would be to lobby the state to close the Pond as a state beach, or at least, restrict access to it, including pedestrian access, since many park illegally and walk in, to avoid the full parking lot, which is currently the only restriction of access to the beach.

The town of Concord is building a parking lot on the old dump, which 1) will be screened from the State Reservation, 2) will have no runoff to affect the woods or pond, and 3) will save energy and be less environmentally invasive than any other option, which is the smartest and least harmful option to the woods and the pond in the long run. Since there is no other place in town to build the parking lot, not building it at the dump would be harmful to the town's environment, which includes Walden Pond.