Coburn Meadows

Wet Meadow Restoration

If you have driven along Church Street lately, you may have seen that the Conservation Commission has recently cleared over 3 acres of a wetland meadow that had become overgrown with trees and shrubs (mostly by invasive species but also by some native species).  The clearing project is part of the Commission’s plan to restore this wet meadow to provide early succession wetland habitat, which has been declining in eastern Massachusetts.  

In addition, this project will restore the meadow to its historic appearance, thereby preserving the historically open aspect of this scenic and well-preserved part of Weston. The Commission hired Wilkinson Ecological Design last fall to assess the existing conditions of the field, compile a long-term management plan, and assist with permitting this work in the vicinity of wetlands.

 Coburn Map

Historic aerial photographs from decades ago show that Coburn Meadows was once 24 acres in size.  Over time, the field edges have grown in and  the meadow has shrunk to only 7.2 acres.  The Commission is in the process of pushing back the invasive buckthorn (below) and red maple edge between 20 to 100 feet and restoring, as much as possible, the edges of this historic wet meadow.  

The Commission’s initial management work will consist of brush cutting and tree clearing followed by a few years of intensive mowing to keep the invasive species in check. Eventually, once the woody vegetation has died back, the Commission hopes to maintain it with an annual mowing regimen.  If it is needed to control persistent buckthorn, the Commission may consider the application of herbicides after the initial cutting.

invasive buckthorn

By restoring Coburn Meadow as a wet meadow, the Commission will be expanding a type of wildlife habitat that has become scarce in this area.  In New England, most land becomes forested over time in a predictable progression of grass, shrub, and tree species.  Cleared grasslands, which ecologists call “early succession habitat” because these lands have not yet been taken over by shrubs and trees, provide habitat for grassland plants and animals. 

Historically, forests carpeted the Northeastern U.S., with the exception of areas cleared by wind, fires due to lightning strikes and controlled tree clearing by Native Americans. In the Colonial era, European settlers further reduced the forested expanse by clearing much of the Northeast for agricultural uses. Grasslands were once a common feature of the Colonial New England landscape, but now they are rare.  In the mid 1800s, 75% of New England was cleared for crops and pasture.  As farmers abandoned New England and suburbanites moved in, these fields yielded to the forest: New England is now about 65% forested.

Restored Coburn Meadow

The loss of open meadows in our region has resulted in the disappearance of the creatures that live there. By reclaiming a parcel of wet meadow that would otherwise revert to forest, Coburn Meadows may provide habitat for grassland birds such as Bobolinks and Woodcock.   Birds of prey, such as American Kestrels and red-tailed hawks can hunt for small mammals living there.  Butterflies such as Tiger Swallowtails, Monarchs, and Fritillaries may feed on wildflower nectar found in meadows. 

Reclaiming this parcel of land as a wet meadow will have the added benefit of restoring a historic pastoral landscape in a section of Weston that provides a vivid reminder of our agricultural heritage.

fritillary butterfly

The Conservation Commission captured video of the brush cutting in action, which can be viewed online.

Should you have any questions about this project, please contact the Weston Conservation Commission at 781-786-5068.  

Powered by CivicSend - A product of CivicPlus