Mystic River


From 2010-2012, Groundwork Somerville, in partnership with the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA), the Friends of the Mystic River, and area yacht clubs, began an intensive effort to remove Eurasian water chestnut from the Lower Mystic River. The water chestnut is an aggressive non-native aquatic species that has grown exponentially in the Mystic over the last four years, choking out native flora and fauna, degrading the ecological integrity and water quality of the river, and creating impediments to safe boat navigation.  (To learn more about Eurasian water chestnut and other invasives on the Mystic, visit the MyRWA website.)

Funded by a three-year, $150,000 grant from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust, as well as generous support from the area yacht clubs, the Mystic River Invasives Removal Project entails the mechanical and hand harvesting (via canoes and kayaks) of invasive water chestnut plants from selected areas of the Lower Mystic.  Between mid-May and early-September 2010, roughly 72,000 pounds of water chestnut were hand-pulled from the river by community volunteers, Groundwork youth crews, and AmeriCorps personnel.  And during a 10-day period in August 2010, 160,000 pounds (comprising nearly eight acres of surface growth) were removed using a mechanical harvester.  With over 100 metric tons of invasive plant material harvested from the river, the success of the project in its first year far exceeded even the most optimistic projections.

In the summer of 2011, Groundwork hosted four community chestnut hand pulls. With the help of great volunteers, The Groundwork Somerville Green Team, "Friends of the Mystic" and Mytsic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) Groundwork hosted its largest ever community hand pull on August 13th, mobilizing over 65 volunteers and bringing in 766 20-lb. baskets in one outing! This amazing feat helped clear over 200 yards of water on the Mystic River.

In 2011, Groundwork hosted over 120 volunteers picking 1,700 baskets of chestnut in 4 public outings (ten 15-yard dumpsters full of Water Chestnut just in the last 4 hand pulls alone)!! Groundwork Somerville also worked with volunteer groups to remove a total of 3,000 20 lb. baskets of water chestnut out of the Mystic River filling up upwards of 15, 15-yard dumpsters and clearing over 500 yards of water on the river.

Project Partners

In addition, the partners would like to thank the following for their support of the Mystic River Invasives Removal Project:  MA Department of Conservation and Recreation, MA Department of Environmental Protection, City of Medford Conservation Commission, and City of Somerville Conservation Commission.

Additional Resources

  • Mystic River Podcast.  In the summer of 2010, students from Prospect Hill Academy in Somerville, MA, created this podcast to provide an informative look at the many resources the Mystic River has to offer.  The podcast follows two students, Laurie and Rodney, as they spend a day at the river.
  • "The Mystic Unseen." Over the fall semester four students from Emerson College undertook a project to make a documentary film about the Mystic River Watershed as part of a Documentary for Social Action course. These students worked with MyRWA staff and volunteers to develop a beautiful and professional 10 minute film about Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs) in the Mystic.
  • "The Malden River: Past, Present, and Potential" (Part 1 and Part 2).  This impressive, two-part documentary film brings to light the history and value of the the Malden River, which flows into the Mystic River.  The documentary was sponsored by Tri-City Community Action Program, Inc. (Tri-CAP); Malden Access Television (MATV); and the City of Malden Summer Youth Employment Program