Wilderness Rebounds in the Heart of Kingston
For more information, contact:
- Joe Falconeiri, Southern New England Land Steward: 802.505.5594
- Sophi Veltrop, Outreach Coordinator: 802.224.1000
For immediate release: January 20, 2020
Kingston, MA – In the center of the suburbs, Muddy Pond Wilderness Preserve is offering a wild refuge for nature, wildlife, and people. The Northeast Wilderness Trust established the Preserve in 2018, and has been working to re-wild the land and connect students and residents with wilderness.
The Preserve sits at the northern reaches of the Atlantic Coastal Pine Barrens. This forest type is globally rare, and found only in New Jersey, Long Island, and Southeastern Massachusetts and its islands. The Pine Barrens are dominated by pitch pine and black, white, and red oak trees. While Massachusetts’ Pine Barrens survived European settlement because their nutrient-poor soils were not suitable for agriculture, they are now very rare due to suburban development. Several species live only in the unique Coastal Plain Ponds of Southeast Massachusetts, and are critically endangered or threatened.
As locals know well, suburban sprawl has boomed south of Boston since the 1980s. Most of the original Pine Barrens have since been destroyed or broken up into fragments.
“Plymouth County has lost most of its large, un-fragmented open spaces in my lifetime,” said Joe Falconeiri, the Southern New England Land Steward for Northeast Wilderness Trust. “In only a few decades, much of this globally rare ecosystem in our backyards has been forever altered and lost due to residential and commercial development.”
In 1995, Kingston was home to a stretch of unbroken forest totaling more than 2,000 acres. In the mid-90s, large developments began to eat away at its edges. And in 2004, Route 44 was built, splitting the forest in two.
South of the highway, the 322-acre Muddy Pond Wilderness Preserve is one of the remaining pieces of that original forest. It is owned by Northeast Wilderness Trust, and is open for low-impact recreation like hiking, bird-watching, and nature study.
Although safe from development, the Preserve is only bordered by 200 acres of forest. Some is state and town land and some is protected by The Wildlands Trust. Yet the rest is private land under threat of development. The Preserve’s only connection to 775 acres of woodlands opposite the highway (including Camp Nekon and the Kingston Town Forest) is one concrete tunnel under Route 44.
Decades of construction have added up. Today, the Pine Barrens are small, separated pieces of diminished habitat. As the forest disappears, so do the opportunities to connect with nature and experience the native landscape.
The Muddy Pond Wilderness Preserve offers a redeeming glimmer of hope in that patches of these forests do still exist; they are not yet gone forever. Within the Preserve, the nearby hum of traffic is muffled by songs of frogs, birds, or crickets. In early spring, amphibians lay their eggs, wildflowers blossom, and turtles dig nests. Through the summer, rare and endangered plants found only in this kind of ecosystem emerge from the waters of Muddy Pond. They bloom as fall sets in, while birds stop by for a rest as they migrate south.
Re-wilding is the practice of letting nature take charge. Joe Falconeiri is working with local schools and organizations to jumpstart the re-wilding process while teaching about wilderness values.
“When people visit Muddy Pond, they immediately decompress and become reconnected and centered within themselves,” said Falconeiri. “The social, political and environmental lessons Muddy Pond provide are profound for the community and region and these lessons will now be protected for future generations to come.”
Falconeiri works with residents to haul out trash, shut down old trails, and hang signs. More than 75 students have joined Northeast Wilderness Trust to lend a hand and enjoy the outdoors. Teenagers are becoming familiar with this native habitat as they gather data for biology class. Dozens of adults have joined hikes and volunteer days, too.
These citizens are redefining the relationship between people and the environment. Rather than treating the land as a resource to be used and extracted, they approach it as a source of knowledge, excitement, and beauty.
Your Guide to Muddy Pond
Parking is located on Bishop’s Highway, one mile west of Route 80. To protect this precious landscape, visitors are asked to respect the Preserve’s rules: Hiking and fishing are limited to designated areas, and dogs must be kept on-leash. Vehicles, bicycles, radios, fires, camping, hunting, and trapping are not permitted. Please note that the Preserve’s official hiking network is still being formalized.
To learn more or inquire about volunteer opportunities and events, visit www.newildernesstrust.org or contact Joe Falconieri at
About Northeast Wilderness Trust
Founded in 2002, the Northeast Wilderness Trust conserves forever-wild landscapes for nature and people across New England and the Adirondacks. The Wilderness Trust owns Wilderness Preserves and Sanctuaries, and also protects land through legal means such as conservation easements. The organization currently safeguards more than 35,000 acres of wildlands in six states.