Cut the Bittersweet to Save the Trees

The Park needs your help. This fallen oak tree near the walking trail is an otherwise healthy tree killed by the invasive Oriental Bittersweet plant. There’s a lot of Bittersweet at Roberts Field, and it’s a fast growing vine that quickly grows into the tree canopy and either chokes or topples the trees.

To help, contact Katie Messer, Town Conservation Agent (978-250-5248) or me and we will meet you at Roberts Field and point out the affected trees and vines, and show you the right way to cut them. Or bring your loppers to a Work Event at the Park on Saturday, Jan 28th from 10am – noon, and we can work on it together. Snow date Sat, Feb 4th, 10am – noon.

Now is a great time to cut Bittersweet because the vines are easy to see. Just contact us to meet (or comment below), or join us Saturday, January 28th and help save the trees at Roberts Field..

For more information please comment below, contact Bill Askenburg at, or call the Town Conservation Agent’s office at (978)250-5248. 😀 Thank you!

Please share this message and help spread the word!

Chelmsford Selectmen Unanimously Vote No Cell Towers at Roberts Field

no cell towers at Roberts Field in Chelmsford MAConcerned residents in attendance of the January 9, 2017 Chelmsford Board of Selectmen meeting, were cheerfully happy to hear the Board unanimously vote to “not entertain a proposal to construct a cell tower at Roberts Field”.  Choosing to word their meeting motion carefully, the Board wanted to send a clear message about the placement of cell towers at Roberts Field.  “We’re not going there” said Selectman Bob Joyce regarding placing cell towers at the Chelmsford neighborhood Park.

In the days leading up to the Selectmen’s meeting, No Cell Towers at Roberts Field was the talk of the Park and neighborhood, as word spread of the proposal to locate a T Mobile Wireless Communication tower at the Park.  Facebook lit up with posts, comments and reactions about the proposed plan, some originating from the Friends of Roberts Field Facebook page.

The proposal brought forth by T Mobile Wireless Communications, offered a plan to build a 190 foot tall mono pole cellular antennae tower with stadium lighting near the Park’s pond shore.   The proposal was met with stiff opposition from Park users, neighbors and residents, some of who testified at the meeting that the T Mobile Wireless Communications cellular tower would negatively and significantly alter the Park’s character and create safety hazards at the Park and neighborhood.

Roberts Field is a family-friendly, neighborhood recreational park, located at 260 Old Westford Road, adjacent to the Town’s East Fire Station, and currently features baseball and soccer fields, ice skating area, Friendship Park Playground and a managed wildlife habitat including Pollinator Park and nature walking trails.

The video of the full meeting discussion and vote is below.

A Hoot at Roberts Field

After patiently searching the woods at Roberts Field over the past two years, I finally found a Barred Owl.  The natural areas of Roberts Field are maintained as a wildlife habitat, and include two Barred Owl nesting boxes with plans to add more within the year.

Barred Owl at Roberts Field in Chelmsford MA
Barred Owl at Roberts Field in Chelmsford MA
Author: Bill Askenburg
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Holiday Tree Celebrates Diversity of Wild Birds at Roberts Field

Roberts Field Holiday Tree-14
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The Holiday Ornament Tree at Roberts Field celebrates the great diversity of wild birds at the Chelmsford Park, with handmade wooden ornaments in the shape of birds commonly found at the Park including robins, nuthatches, herons, woodpeckers, phoebes, chickadees and more. The ornaments were hand painted by volunteers of all ages and will be on display through the holiday season and new year.

A limited number of blank ornaments are available at the Park, and can be found in the yellow box mounted on the trail head map kiosk behind the fire station on Old Westford Road. Park users are encouraged to decorate an ornament, sign it and hang it on the tree. The ornaments can be picked up after January 1st and before January 8th.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Scouts Work to Save Trees At Roberts Field

Early Saturday morning at Roberts Field, Chelmsford Boy Scouts from Troop 81 were busy cutting and pulling vines from trees, as they kicked off their Conservation Project to remove the invasive plants from the natural areas of the Park. This morning Scouts were targeting Oriental bittersweet, a particularly damaging invasive plant to trees that grows and climbs into the tree canopy, crowding and choking out tree growth, and raining down scores of berries and seeds to the forest floor to dramatically spread the plants’ creep.

Before starting work on the Conservation Project, the Scouts met with Wetlands Scientist Cori Rose to learn about the damage invasive plants can cause, how to identify them, and the best methods for their removal. Rose’s presentation included a hands-on lesson about invasive plant identification at the Park, and warnings about onsite plants to avoid like Poison ivy and Wild mustard, whose orange sap can cause skin blisters and irritation. After the presentation, Damien Gould, Senior Patrol Leader of Troop 81, led the Scouts to three hard hit areas of the Park, where invasive plants had been marked by Friends of Roberts Field Volunteers earlier in the week. Gould said that Troop 81 took on the project “because invasive species are destroying the Park’s natural environment, and it’s important to make sure that this environment can last.”

Following the day’s work, the Scouts pitched tents and set up a campsite to stay overnight at the Park, providing them an opportunity to earn their camping merit badges. Adult Scout Leaders, including Troop 81 Scoutmaster Kirby Nichols, supported the Scouts by delivering the Troop’s trailer of camping supplies and food. While preparing grilled cheese sandwiches for the Troop’s lunch, Scoutmaster Nichols said that the Conservation Project and overnight stay at the Park was a good opportunity for the Scouts to work as a team and build camaraderie, while being in such a close and familiar location.

Chelmsford Boy Scout Troop 81 was established in 1976, and has a long history of successful service projects in the community including many Eagle Projects. Senior Patrol Leader Gould said that he had been a Scout since first grade and especially enjoyed these types of scouting activities. Gould encouraged those interested in joining Boy Scouts to visit a Troop 81 meeting at Aldersgate Methodist Church, 242 Boston Road in Chelmsford any Wednesday during the spring, fall, and winter between 7:15-8:45 PM, or to visit for more information.

Troop 81 became aware of the need for the invasive removal project after seeing a Chelmsford Telemedia TV bulletin board message asking for Volunteers to take on the project. The project message was posted by the Friends of Roberts Field, a Volunteer organization committed to improving the neighborhood park. The invasive removal project is part of the group’s Habitat and Trail Maintenance Plan that was enacted with the Town of Chelmsford to improve the natural areas of the Park.

Pollinator Garden Brings new Life to Forgotten Space

CHELMSFORD — When most people think of Roberts Field, they think of Little League baseball diamonds and the Friendship Park playground.

The Friends of Roberts Field are changing that.

The group has rolled out a habitat and trail maintenance plan, recently approved by the town, that puts an emphasis on protecting and enjoying the natural beauty the field has to offer, according to Friends founder Bill Askenburg.

As one of the last open spaces in the area around Old Westford Road, he said Roberts Field is a prime location to strengthen the habitats and populations of pollinators like native bees and birds.

“Our goal here is to help educate people about the importance of pollinators, but also primarily to connect people to nature, to give them safe access to nature but at the same time help protect and also improve the habitat,” Askenburg said.

The plan calls for a number of improvements, including the removal of invasive species, responsible use by residents and their pets and increasing the diversity of native plants and wildlife. It was created in partnership with the Conservation Commission and Board of Selectmen, Askenburg said. He said the town has been very supportive of the group’s efforts.

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, pollinator species carry pollen from plant to plant as they collect nectar.
They play a crucial role in the reproduction of 75 percent of flowering plants and fruit and vegetable crops.

Last fall, the Friends called upon member Cori Rose, a professional wetland scientist and ecological gardener, for guidance in creating a pollinator park.

They took a forgotten patch of land, to the left of the fire station, that was overrun with invasive plants like poison ivy and bittersweet and turned it into a series of gardens that can be enjoyed by people, animals and insects alike.

The main garden has over 50 varieties of flowering and berry-producing plants, selected so that there is always something blooming throughout the year, Askenburg said.

There’s also a wildlife and seed foraging garden with a mix of plants grown to benefit birds and small mammals, and a natural flowering meadow full of native species like goldenrod and milkweed that attract pollinators, he said.

In the three short years since the Friends was established, there have been many small projects around the field and the adjacent forested area, from expanded trails to man made habitat boxes for bats and barred owls.

Much of the work has been accomplished by volunteers and donations, said Friends member Wolf Bartz, who lives in the adjacent neighborhood.

Most of the wooden trail bridges were constructed by local Boy Scouts and the skate shack, a small structure mainly used in the winter when the lake is iced over, was created by local Girl Scouts, Askenburg said.

Last Friday, Kronos employees took a community service day to help create a new garden of pollinator-friendly perennials by the skate shack and constructed a foot bridge over a muddy area on the trail.

“It has made a huge difference to how people use the park,” Bartz said. “They find out about the trails and their kids are excited about catching frogs or birding, or what have you. It was almost immediate.”

Askenburg also serves on the town’s Roberts Field Improvement Committee, a group tasked with creating a master plan for the redevelopment of the playground and other field amenities.

When the committee recently sought input from residents, more than 400 people responded to the survey, he said.

The committee hired consultant Howard Stein Hudson to create a concept plan in April, and is in the process of reviewing that document, Askenburg said.

Next, the Friends will work with another Boy Scout to add garden bee and bluebird houses, he said. They also plan to add placards around the field that describe the different habitats, the types of animals that use them and why they’re important, Askenburg said.

For more information and to get involved, visit and

Follow Alana Melanson at or on Twitter and Tout @alanamelanson.

The original article can be found here:

Fall Seed Drive At Roberts Field To Benefit Butterflies

monarch and milkweed

Monarch butterflies cannot survive without milkweed; their caterpillars only eat milkweed plants (Asclepias spp.), and monarch butterflies need milkweed to lay their eggs.

Help save the monarch butterfly and improve the park’s pollinator habitat by collecting and donating milkweed and wildflower seeds to the “Roberts Field Seed Drive” this fall.  The Seed Drive benefits Roberts Field in Chelmsford, MA, and is being organized by the volunteer organization Friends of Roberts Field.

Improving the diversity of flowering plants is a habitat goal for Roberts Field. Milkweed is essential to the survival of monarch butterflies (the only plant they eat), and wildflowers such as Black-Eyed Susans, Asters, Turtlehead and Coneflower provide food and habitat to pollinators like bees, moths and butterflies.  All of these native flowering plants (and more) produce seeds that can be collected locally or purchased, donated and then planted by volunteers at Roberts Field this fall.

Now through October 16 please drop your seeds at the Roberts Field box behind the Fire Station on Old Westford Road

Now through October 16 please drop your seeds at the Roberts Field box behind the Fire Station on Old Westford Road

Now through October 16, 2016, please drop your labeled and bagged milkweed or wildflower seeds in the seed collection box at the Roberts Field Trail Head Map Kiosk (behind the Old Westford Road Fire Station).  Please mark your collection bag with your name, the date, plant name, and the location of the collection. The seeds will be planted in the flowering meadow at Pollinator Park and near the pond shore at Roberts Field.  A list of suggested wildflower seeds to collect and donate can be found here.   Any questions about the Seed Drive and planting can be directed to Bill Askenburg at (978) 455-1405.

Purchasing and Donating Seeds

Seeds will be planted along the pond shore and in the flowering meadow in Pollinator Park.

Seeds will be planted along the pond shore and in the flowering meadow in Pollinator Park.

Regionally appropriate milkweed and wildflower seeds are also available commercially, and can be purchased online and donated to the Seed Drive.  The Vermont Wildflower Farm offers a variety of New England grown milkweed seeds and a Save the Monarch Butterfly Combo seed mix that fit Roberts Field’s growing conditions and habitat goals.  Purchased seeds can be dropped at the Roberts Field collection box, or shipped to Friends of Roberts Field to the attention of Bill Askenburg, 185 Westford Street, Chelmsford, MA 01824.

Collecting Milkweed Seeds

Seeds can be found in the “wild” on private lands, public right of ways and roadsides – but always remember safety first!  Always ask permission and explain politely what you are doing and why.  Positively identify the plant before collecting the pods. Milkweed seeds look alike in most species and are very difficult to identify by the seed alone.

Please collect only regional seedpods, leaving some pods to insure the plants continue to propagate and thrive in the found area. A good rule of thumb is to take 1/3 and leave 2/3. To collect the seedpods from a milkweed plant it is best to pick them when the seed inside is brown. Do not collect pods when seeds are white or cream colored. If the center seam of the pods pop with gentle pressure, they can be picked.
It is best to collect pods in paper bags, avoiding using plastic bags because they attract moisture and foster mold. Store seeds in a cool, dry area until they can be dropped off at the Roberts Field collection box.

Collecting Other Wildflower Seeds

If collecting and donating wildflowers (see list) outside of your garden, please ask permission and take no more than 1/3 of the available seed.  Please strip the seed from the flower head and store the loose seed in paper bag.  Please put each type of plant seed in its own unique, labeled bag.

Helping To Plant The Seeds

If you would like to help us plant the collected seeds this fall, please contact  Bill Askenburg at (978) 455-1405.

The Friends of Roberts Field is a non-profit volunteer group founded in 2013 to encourage greater appreciation and public use of the Chelmsford, Massachusetts park located at 260 Old Westford Road. The volunteer organization is comprised of neighbors and residents committed to enhancing and protecting Roberts Field Park for the enjoyment of everyone, and with the cooperation of the Town of Chelmsford and Conservation Commission, recently enacted a Habitat and Trail Plan to preserve, protect and improve the natural areas of the neighborhood park.

The Birds of Roberts Field

All of photos were taken at Roberts Field in Chelmsford, Massachusetts.

Photo credit:  Bill Askenburg 2016

Kronos Service Project at Roberts Field

Kronos Community Service Project Works For Roberts Field

On Friday, June 24, 2016 Kronos held a community service day at Roberts Field to build a trail bridge and plant a pollinator garden.  The Kronos group worked in teams to successfully build the 16′ bridge on the trail around the pond, prep and plant the pond side pollinator garden, and plant grass sod at the trail head behind the Fire Station.

The new bridge was built and placed in a seasonally wet area on the north side of the pond, using pressure-treated materials and anchored into place by steps with metal pins.  The new bridge will provide safer access to people on the trail, while working to protect the park’s habitat.

The new pollinator garden is near the Roberts Field pond and adjacent to the skate shack.  The sod was cut from the garden and used to fill in bare spots near the trail head.  The garden was designed by a wetlands scientist, and features nearly 40 different varieties flowering perennial plants donated from Chelmsford gardens and a local nursery.

Thank you Kronos for your hard work and terrific contributions to Roberts Field!

Enjoying and Protecting Nature is the Plan for Roberts Field

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Known mainly for its little-league baseball fields and Friendship Park playground, Roberts Field is now a Chelmsford park designated to the protection and enjoyment of nature.

The newly adopted Roberts Field Habitat and Trail Maintenance Plan is designed to preserve, restore and enhance the natural areas of the park. These areas include its pond, wetland and forested areas, and most recently, Pollinator Park, a certified-wildlife habitat.
The guiding principle of the Plan is to provide people with safe access to experience the natural areas of the park, while conserving the habitat of the resident wildlife. Roberts Field features a one-mile nature walking trail and is home to a healthy diversity of wildlife including many species of birds, insects, frogs, fish, snakes, turtles, birds, deer, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, bats and more.

The Plan sets out to enhance wildlife habitats by creating “snags” (standing dead or dying trees that pose no threat to person or property), building small brush piles, adding species-appropriate nesting boxes, and increasing the variety of native grasses, and flowering and fruiting plants in the park. To improve the park’s ecosystem, the Plan calls for the removal of noxious invasive plants like bittersweet, autumn olive and poison ivy, while increasing the variety of beneficial native plants like goldenrod and milkweed. The Plan also calls for regular upkeep of the walking trails to guard against erosion and to ensure they are safe and enjoyable.

Cori Rose, a Wetland Scientist and wildlife garden designer, believes that it is important to provide a variety of nesting places and food sources for pollinators (animals that assist plants in reproduction such as bats, bees, beetles, birds and butterflies) and points out that pollinators are in decline. “With habitat loss from suburban development, exotic invasive plant competition, overuse of pesticides, and the shifting climate, native plants that many of these animals rely upon are being wiped out. Loss of these populations could be catastrophic to agricultural food production and the health of our environment.” However, Rose notes that recent research, including a 2006 report from the National Academy of Sciences provides evidence of the value that suburban greenways, community gardens and park conservation programs can have for wild pollinators. “By shifting our land management practices to take into consideration protection and enhancement of naturalized areas and supplementing suitable sites with an enhanced diversity of pollinator-friendly native plants, pollinator populations may have an opportunity to grow. The management practices in this Plan will help Roberts Field work towards this goal, and make the Park a nice place to enjoy and learn about nature.”

The Habitat and Trail Plan was created in cooperation of Town officials and the Friends of Roberts Field, a volunteer group founded in 2013 to encourage greater appreciation and public use of the Chelmsford neighborhood park located at 260 Old Westford Road. The volunteer organization is comprised of neighbors and residents committed to enhancing and protecting Roberts Field for the enjoyment of everyone.

The group’s founder Bill Askenburg, sees the Habitat and Trail Plan as a way to support the park’s natural areas and wildlife, and to engage other users in volunteer activities. Askenburg said, “Since we started work in 2013, there’s been a lot more interest in Roberts Field and especially in the natural areas of the park. This plan uses best practices for habitat management, maintains safe access for users to enjoy nature, and identifies park improvement projects for volunteers to take on.”

Volunteers have contributed greatly to the park recently, and none more than Chelmsford Scouts. The pond-side skate shack was built as a Silver Award Girl Scout project, and the walking trail boardwalks and bridges were built by Boy Scouts as Eagle Scout projects. Other park supporters have also stepped up to make improvements. Last fall, dozens of volunteers planted hundreds of plants to establish Pollinator Park on the corner of Westford Street and Old Westford Road, turning a neglected open space overwrought with invasive plants into a sunny, welcoming public park with a picnic table, flowering meadow and butterfly gardens. Pollinator Park now has over 50 varieties of native flowering and fruiting plants and shrubs, butterfly gardens, a wildlife and forager garden, a shade garden, a natural flowering meadow, and a grassy area.

The Habitat and Trail Plan outlines available volunteer-improvement projects at the park, such as removing invasive vines, building stairs on a segment of the trail, and adding bird and bee houses. An improvement project planned for later this month will have employees of a local business volunteering to plant two new pollinator gardens near the park’s skate shack and building a new boardwalk in a wet area on the pond trail.

Alice Johannen, park neighbor and frequent visitor, appreciates the work being done and the focus on nature at Roberts Field. “What comes to mind for me is how many young children I’ve seen recently exploring the trails with their parents,” said Johannen. “I can always hear them before I see them, because they’re usually so excited. But while there are definitely more people now getting into the woods and enjoying a little bit of nature, it’s not crowded by any means. My dog and I still find solitude and peace there.”

The Friends of Roberts Field will be responsible for implementing the Habitat and Trail Plan with the cooperation and support of the Town of Chelmsford. “The Friends of Roberts Field have done a fantastic job in improving the natural area and wildlife habitat at Roberts Field,” notes Chelmsford Town Manager Paul Cohen. “This has been a cooperative effort with the Town of Chelmsford Conservation Commission and Department of Public Works. We welcome everyone to enjoy the area and to contribute to its care.”

For more information about the Plan and volunteer efforts at Roberts Field, please email Bill Askenburg or join their Facebook group page.

A copy of the Roberts Field Habitat and Trail Maintenance Plan follows.