Concord is the land of three rivers – Concord, Sudbury and Assabet. Now, the local advocacy group that has been keeping a close eye on the Assabet for 25 years will help protect all three.
On April 4, Organization for the Assabet River (OAR) members voted overwhelmingly to add the Sudbury and Concord rivers to its mission and to change its name. The organization will be known as OARS: For the Assabet, Sudbury, and Concord Rivers.
At a special meeting held at the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in Sudbury, more than two-thirds of its members voted, either in person or by proxy, to make the change on the organization’s 25th anniversary.
The 31-mile long Assabet and 32-mile long Sudbury Rivers join at Egg Rock in Concord, to form the Concord River.
Since 1986, OAR has been encouraging the protection, preservation, and enhancement the natural and recreational features of the Assabet River. Using a cadre of some 200 trained volunteers, the group provides water-testing data that it uses to advocate for cleaner rivers, commenting on development projects and state policy and regulations that could affect the watershed and the river. Such comments from advocacy groups, municipalities, citizens and other stakeholders are part of the final permitting process by the EPA and DEP.
OARS will continue its science-based advocacy to heighten awareness of threats to all three rivers. These threats to water quality, and natural plant and animal populations are primarily the result of human development. Invasive plant species, high levels of nutrients in the waters from development and wastewater treatment plants, and increasingly from pharmaceuticals that have been flushed all affect how the rivers flow, support life, and are enjoyed by people.
“Twenty municipalities relate to the Assabet watershed, 36 with the addition of the Concord and Sudbury,” Alison Field-Juma, OARS’s executive director, told Patch. “Our goal is a Class B river."
Class B waterways are safe for swimming and fishing, she said.
OARS is a membership organization with just under 1,000 members, and anyone can join. Some members help with water testing, but that’s not required. The group’s next water quality testing training session takes place May 12.
OARS also promotes greater use of the river – now rivers – through increasing public access to the river.
“We’re working with some Eagle Scout projects in this area,” said Field-Juma.
Westvale Meadow and the Old Calf Pasture on Lowell Road provide public access to the Assabet and Concord Rivers, respectively. OAR hosted its second Annual Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival at the Fine Arts Theater in Maynard in March, and will break out the fish hats, butterfly and dragonfly puppets on April 30th as part of the Musketaquid Earth Day Parade.
“People protect what they love,” said Field-Juma. “They won’t love it unless they know it’s there.”