SRWA 2017: The Year in  Review

Posted on December - 21 - 2017

Dear SRWA Family,

After a poignant and prosperous year for the Shawsheen River Watershed Association, the time has come both to reflect on our accomplishments and plan new and ever ambitious goals for the future. While recent years have proven very challenging for us as an organization, I am thrilled to inform you that the SRWA is now thriving once again. From new additions to the Board of Directors, to drastic spending cuts after dissolving an unnecessary and cumbersome insurance policy, to a reduction of our physical inventory – we are now able to remain at a sustainable and functional level of production. In other words, we have returned to our roots: focusing heavily on advocacy and cleanup efforts and relying primarily on volunteer participation to achieve our goals. This downsize has been very practical, as it has given us the ability to focus on only what is truly important: a clean Shawsheen, from its headwaters to its confluence with the Merrimack.

The SRWA has for some years centered its activities primarily in the town of Andover. It is the belief of the current board that our efforts must include the entire watershed, from Lexington to Lawrence – and as you will soon see, our actions as an organization over the past year reflect that belief. We also believe it essential to keep you informed of the events we have hosted and participated in, as well as the progress made to rid the Shawsheen River, its tributaries, and all connecting waterways of trash and debris. This year’s achievements are an immense source of pride for us, and we are excited to share them with you. Attached, you will find a chronologically organized list illustrating the work that you helped to fund during 2017.

Our work carries right on into 2018, and we are excited to see what improvements the new year will bring to the watershed. We hope you can take some time to visit the river, reflect at its banks or take a paddling trip with friends and family. Most of all, we hope you will continue to help restore this magnificent and crucial waterway to its natural pristine state. We strongly encourage you to visit our website and to like our Facebook page, (both listed below), for real time updates on our activities and plans. We always need new volunteers!  Thank you again for your support, and we are humbled by the opportunity to hold your trust as the keepers of the Shawsheen River.


Please  join us  for another year of fun while improving the quality of the Shawsheen River.

Go to: How to be Involved.



Justin Damon

President – SRWA

Online at:

Mail to:                     Shawsheen River Watershed Association

P.O. Box 126 Pinehurst, MA 01866


Events & Accomplishments


13 April                  Our first cleanup of the year took place at Sandy Pond in East Billerica. This little pond plays a vital role in the watershed, as Jones Brook empties into it and then flows back out of it, where it meanders through the neighborhoods and into the Shawsheen. Illegal dumping has been a significant issue here and we try our best to mitigate it and report it to the town. Items removed include hypodermic needles, tires, traffic cones, large toy cars, furniture, and lots of trash.

18 April                  On this wonderful afternoon, it was our pleasure to introduce Dr. Johnathan Way. He is an expert on wolves and coyotes who traveled from Cape Cod to the Billerica Library for a presentation on these incredible creatures’ life patterns and habits, the facts and fiction of the stigma attached to them, and his work to protect them and educate the public. You can find his book Suburban Howls online or at one of his presentations. The SRWA looks forward to hosting Dr. Way again in the future.

22 April                                   The SRWA participated in Tewksbury’s Earth Day events. Many projects were tackled around town, but the SRWA and other volunteer groups helped to clean up and establish a new canoe launch on the river at 2000 Whipple Rd in Tewksbury. Trash removal, tree and shrub plantings, and other landscaping was completed.

23 April                                    SRWA members participated in the Shawsheen River Greenway Dedication, where the acquisition and protection of two parcels of land along the Shawsheen River were celebrated!

6 May                      On this day, we participated in Billerica’s Cleanup Greenup Day, where we were assisted by the Appalachian Mountain Club Paddlers and many other volunteers in the removal of 12 tires and more than 10 bags of trash from the banks of the Pace gas station in Pinehurst as well as the river itself.

24 June                                    This perfect evening, the SRWA hosted a public paddle to celebrate the 2017 Summer Solstice in Andover. The love for the Shawsheen shined bright as our members and guests enjoyed the calm waters and cool, light breezes.

28 June                                    A heartfelt thanks to Evelyn Retelle for her presentation of her journey to The Galapagos Islands at our annual meeting. Her pictures of the wildlife and scenery should motivate everyone to try and take a trip there. Also, the SRWA welcomed two new members to the Board of Directors: Laurie Hartwick of Tewksbury and Thomas “T.J.” Karis of Billerica. Their appointments helped to bring about the fresh new face of the SRWA that you see today. We would also like to bid farewell to Ken Doran, and to sincerely thank him for his many years of service to the organization and his ongoing passion of keeping the river navigable and enjoyable.

31 July                    An ongoing, year-long cleanup of illegally dumped materials was finally completed by the SRWA and other volunteers in Bedford. It was discovered that over 1,000 rubber rings, some nearly 3.5 feet in diameter, were dumped into the river just upstream from the Middlesex Turnpike. What these rings were used for remains unknown – as do the names of any responsible parties. Our Billerica volunteer team got to work, and filled 33 contractor bags with these rings. We used canoes to ship them downstream to the turnpike bridge, and the Bedford DPW picked them up for disposal. We still monitor the area for leftover rings popping up from under the shifting sands of the riverbed.

26 August             Members, volunteers, and neighbors met in Tewksbury to tackle the monstrous task of clearing several large trees creating an impassible dam just downstream from the new 2000 Whipple Rd launch point. A healthy mix of chainsaws and elbow grease cut gaps in these fallen trees to allow kayaks and canoes to safely pass. A large amount of trash was also removed.

30 September   Again, SRWA members and volunteers flocked to Bedford for a long overdue cleanup at the Stop and Shop on Great Rd. Three shopping carts, a bicycle, numerous cans and bottles, and lots of plastic and Styrofoam were removed from the river and what little floodplain abuts the parking lot. The shopping carts were so entrenched in muck that we had to tow them out with a Jeep.

21 October          Tewksbury’s Halfway to Earth Day event was an enormous success. We worked along the banks and in the water behind the Knights of Columbus to remove chairs, tires, and other debris. We eagerly anticipate further cooperation with the people of Tewksbury.

28 October          SRWA and a local environmental steward from Billerica spent hours chipping away at Mixon Brook and its wetlands in the Riverbank neighborhood of Billerica. In total, 11 tires and 7 contractor bags of trash were extracted. Unfortunately, there is still a great deal of work to do.

4 November        We carried our tributary cleanup work over to Jones Brook in East Billerica. Artificial bridges made of pallets were obstructing the flow of the brook. In addition to restoring flow and improving water quality, their removal also helps to also manage mosquito populations.

9 December        Our final cleanup of the year was also completed in Billerica. Sandy Pond, the site of our first 2017 cleanup, required some serious work once again before the big freeze. Our fantastic volunteers removed tires, traffic cones, a mattress, a hockey net, lots and lots of trash, some wooden fencing and all sorts of other wooden debris.


Thank you again to our many volunteers, supporters, and members! We couldn’t do it without YOU!