Sunday, April 25, 2010

Between-blogs events

Green goings-on

Groton Local school gardens program -- Thursday, April 29, 7 to 8 p.m.

The Groton Local Farm-to-School group will be holding its Breaking New Ground program this Thursday at the Groton School. Panelists will be Jed Coughlin, food service director at Groton School; Amy Gifford, expert on school gardens projects and curriculum; Jane Hirschi, educational director of City Sprouts, the Cambridge-based school garden project; Ann Cody from the state Farm-to-School Program, and students from Project Sprout, the Great Barrington high school community garden project recognized to be the first student-initiated, student-run community garden in the country. For more information, visit

Afternoon hike in Fitchburg, Saturday, May 8, 1:30 to 3 p.m.

North County Land Trust, the Nashua River Watershed Association and the Mass Audubon Society are jointly sponsoring an afternoon exploration of Fitchburg’s northern watershed areas. These include over 2,400 acres of protected open space, located just a half mile from downtown Fitchburg. The hike will set off from the Crocker Conservation Area kiosk at the top of Flat Rock Road in Fitchburg. Reservations are required: call 978-466-3900 or e-mail North County Land Trust.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

More April news

Ayer looking for title of "Green Community"
What's in a name? Well, if Ayer achieves its goal of being designated a "Green Community," what's in that name is a shot at state funding to help pay for a range of potential projects that would increase our town's energy efficiency and cut its greenhouse gas emissions. But first, Ayer has to earn the name by demonstrating its green commitment.

The push to earn the Green Community designation comes out of the Green Communities Act Governor Deval Patrick passed in 2008 in a bid to put Massachusetts in the forefront of national energy reform efforts. Towns who meet the criteria set forth in the Act and earn the right to call themselves Green Communities become eligible for state funding for programs that can help propel them to even greater energy efficiency.

Five criteria

There are five criteria Ayer and other towns pursuing the title of "Green Community" must meet:

  • Ensuring zoning laws are written to permit key kinds of alternative energy projects around town.
  • Expediting approvals that will allow work on such projects to progress.
  • Determining Ayer's energy use baseline and coming up with a plan to reduce usage within five years.
  • Shifting as much as possible of the town's fleet of vehicles to energy-efficient models.
  • Guaranteeing that new residential and commercial construction be more energy-efficient through code changes and additional inspections.
As a first step in Ayer's progress toward becoming a Green Community, the town's Energy Committee hired energy-efficiency consulting firm Johnson Controls for an energy performance contract.

Under this contract, Johnson Controls recently completed an energy use audit of town buildings (including Town Hall, the police station, fire station, schools and library). Next, the firm will suggest and help implement ways of streamlining these facilities' energy use.

"This is really the heart of the program," says Selectman Carolyn McCreary, one of the Green Communities effort's champions.

Solar project in the works
The town is paying for Johnson Controls' work through a combination of Federal stimulus funds and grant money. As things progress, the contractor will also receive part of its payment from the energy savings that come out of its recommendations. One project related to these recommendations will be a ground-mounted solar array on town-owned land near the Department of Public Works office. Once installed, the new solar setup will generate energy for Ayer's municipal buildings.

Ayer also has access to funds to pursue energy use cuts from the Regional Energy Greenhouse Gas Initiative (REGGI) -- in essence, collected carbon tax.

On the agenda at BOS meetings

Johnson Controls was due to present its snapshot of the town's energy consumption at a meeting with the Energy Committee on March 30; however, that meeting had to be rescheduled due to emergency meetings about the town's water situation. It is now due to present its plan for reducing the town's energy consumption at the Board of Selectmen meeting on Tuesday, April 13 at 7:30 p.m. Kelly Brown, regional Green Communities coordinator, will attend the following week's BOS meeting (4/20).

If Ayer is able to meet all the criteria in time -- some criteria have been met, while the town is reviewing others -- the first chance to receive the Green Communities designation will be this May.

Residents' support key to moving forward

"Becoming a Green Community is a great opportunity for Ayer," says Selectman McCreary. "The energy reductions we'll be pursuing will mean cost savings for the town. And if we succeed, we will be allowed to apply for grants to take our alternative energy and energy reduction efforts even further. Also, it means Ayer is being a good environmental citizen.

"We hope residents will let us know they support our Green Communities work by attending Board of Selectmen meetings," she says. "The more citizens get excited about this and show their support, the sooner we're likely to make our goal."

Green goings on

Free trail walk and vernal pools exploration April 17, 9 a.m. to noon

Outdoorsfolk of all ages are invited to meet at the trailhead of Pine Meadow Pond Conservation Area on Groton Harvard Road in Ayer for a chance to get acquainted (or better acquainted) with the Pine Meadow Pond and Science Trails, courtesy of the Ayer Greenway Committee.

The trails offer nice water views and interesting geological formations. Stops at vernal pools may turn up salamanders, wood frogs, egg masses and other creatures. Hikers are advised to bring water, dress appropriately for the weather and wear sturdy walking shoes. For more info, call

Nashua River Watershed Association vacation offerings

Whether you're thinking of the imminently approaching April vacation or the only slightly less-imminently approaching days of summer, it's time to book spots for the kids in the Nashua River Watershed Association's kids' activities.

From one-day programs that give area school kids a great taste of what spring has to offer in and around our local woods and waterways to a spring peepers program for tadpoles of the human variety to summer Eco-Adventures and more, NRWA has everything your budding naturalists could want. For a more detailed rundown of their offerings, visit the NRWA
website and contact Lauren Parente, Eco-Adventures Coordinator, at (978) 448-0299, or send her an e-mail.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A correction

Near the end of the story "Amping up the energy at Page-Hilltop," is a line reading "The Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust Fund comes from an electric- bill surcharge we all pay toward promoting renewable energy." Actually, that surcharge is optional. Customers can check a box on their bill and pay a few dollars per bill to support alternative energy sources -- or not.