A healthy watershed where people, wildlife and the River thrive
Dear Alliance Members and Friends: 
Deborah Weaver, Executive Director

Thank you to everyone who contributed to our Annual Fund. We have met our fundraising goal! We are so grateful for our members and donors who support our important mission to protect our watershed.

Looking ahead, 2019 will be a year of transformation for us with the River Center construction and our relocation to a more visible and accessible home right on the River.  Having our own building will enable better public outreach, with new, exciting technologies and improved and enhanced programs, as well as new opportunities for volunteers.

We invite you to our events and activities planned for 2019, including our upcoming Oars & Paddles Winter Art Show at the Dedee Shattuck Gallery and Annual Meeting at Bittersweet Farm.
You will find the details for these events in the pages of this newsletter.

We will be updating you regularly on our progress on the River Center construction, and we look forward to seeing you in the coming months!
Best wishes for the new year,
River Center Construction is Underway

Our renovation of the Head Garage with Page Building Construction Company began in late December, and is proceeding on schedule. We have been fortunate that there haven't been any weather related delays or complications so far.

Masons went to work first, repairing the block walls on the first floor, removing old windows and doors, and strengthening and resizing the openings for new windows and doors.  Then, the old cement slab floor was removed and the old concrete taken away. This revealed the river stone that was underneath. Clean gravel was added to level and stabilize the ground.

Next, helical coils were installed for the new footings for the elevator and upright steel supports that will carry the additional weigh of the renovated upper floors. These hollow steel screws are turned into the ground to a depth of about 10 feet and filled with concrete to give stable support to the steel reinforced cement footings which have been poured.

Next steps will include reinforcing the old stone foundation with carbon fiber material, framing and insulating the first floor walls and pouring the new concrete floor.  The old historic granite foundation walls will be re-pointed. Look for monthly updates in  River News.

Some funding for the River Center has been provided by the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, a program of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, administered through a collaborative arrangement between MassDevelopment and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. We have also received Westport Community Preservation funds, as well as significant funding from BayCoast Bank, and many individuals. 

Salt Marsh Study Scientists Will Present at
WRWA Annual Meeting March 17

Please join us for our Annual Meeting on Sunday, March 17, 2019 at the Bittersweet Restaurant,
438 Main Road, Westport. Brunch begins at 11:00 a.m., followed by our business meeting at noon. 

Our guest speakers will be Patrick Ewanchuk, PhD, and Catherine Matassa, PhD., the two environmental scientists currently conducting our study on Salt Marsh Degradation in the  
Westport River.

There is a  $25 fee for brunch, to be paid in advance or at the door. Please R SVP on line  or by calling our office at 508-636-3016 so that we can give  the restaurant a head count for brunch.

Patrick Ewanchuk is Associate Professor of Biology at Provi dence College. Catherine Matassa is Assistant Professor of Marine Science s at the University of Connecticut. They and their team have been making observations and conducting experiments in the River over the last year to help us determine why we are witnessing the accelerating collapse of salt marshes, particularly in the West Branch and Harbor areas.

Photo taken in 2018 shows salt marsh degradation near the Harbor

WRWA Seeking Two Qualified Candidates 
To Fill Summer Internship Positions

The summer intern positions are 30 hrs/week at a rate of $12/ hr, from June until the middle of August (exact starting and ending dates flexible). The intern will work under the supervision of the Education Director, assisting with various projects. WRWA received a generous grant from BayCoast Bank to fund this position with preference given to  students at  Bristol Community College  or  UMass Dartmouth .

For complete list of responsibilities and desired qualifications, please visit our Facebook page. Interested applicants should send a cover letter, resume and 3 references to:

Shelli Costa, Education Director ♦ Westport River Watershed Alliance ♦ 
PO Box 3427 ♦ Westport, MA 
or email materials to:

It's a New Year!
Do you have your 2019 WRWA Calendar?

People love our annual calendar. It features tide lines, which tell you the times and heights of all the tides throughout the year. And the beautiful photographs remind us all of the beauty of our home -or our home away from home!
This year's photos are the winners chosen from over 75 entries in WRWA's photo contest held this past spring. An independent group of volunteer judges viewed the photos and selected the winners last May.
The photographs, donated by area photographers, represent the most beautiful of Westport landscapes throughout the seasons, along with some remarkable wildlife shots.

We have a few 2019 calendars left at the WRWA headquarters at 1151 Main Road, or order online at www.westportwatershed.org , or pick one up at  Partners Village Store. 

We Hope You Have Been Taking Photos
Our annual photo contest for the WRWA 2020 Photo Calendar won't be officially open for submission for a few months, but we are looking ahead for photographs of Westport's scenic beauty and wildlife from all the seasons. Please keep it in mind as you enjoy the transition from winter to spring, and if possible, snap a few photos!

Registration is Open for WRWA's 
Summer Coastal Ecology Program

Our summer programs offer children the opportunity to learn science, make friends, and build
self-confidence, all while having fun in a relaxed, safe environment.

The Coastal Explorers Ages 7-9. 
*Monday- Friday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 
*Weeks of July 8-12 & July 22-26
Children discover wildlife in our coastal waters, create eco-crafts, learn about coastal habitats, hike the dunes, and enjoy games on the beach. The program fee is
$180 for WRWA members, $220 for non-members.

River Edventures - Ages 9-11.
*Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 
*Weeks of July 15-19 and August 5-9.
Head out on WRWA's Skiff Water Watcher to explore the Westport River by boat, tow a plankton net, pull up crab posts and observe osprey nests. The cost is
$200 for members and $240 for non-members.  

Watershed Explorers - Ages 12-16. 
*Monday - Thursday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
*Week of July 29 - August 2. 
Participants learn about the ecology of the Westport River, visit coastal habitats and spend three days paddling on the Westport River,
led by certified instructors from Osprey Sea Kayak Adventures. The fee is  $370 for members and $410 for non-members and includes all equipment and instruction.  

River Rats - Ages 3 - 6 (accompanied by adult). Each session will feature an hour at the beach during which participants will listen for shore birds, use nets to catch fish and crabs and explore the sand for hidden creatures. Hands-on investigations, games and crafts will help children learn about animals at the beach.
*August 13-15, August 20-22
$10 members, $12 Non-members.

Register online at: www.westportwatershed.org/education/summer-programs/   or call 508-636-3016.

SCHOLARSHIPS AVAILABLE through the Gay Gillespie Summer Scholarship Fund  -
contact Shelli - wep@wrwa.com

See the full brochure on our web page.
Creature Feature ♦ Skunk Cabbage
by Ryan Nuttall, Commonwealth Corps Educator

During late winter, there are few plants that are thriving in the woods and parks throughout Westport. However, one may notice a small green or maroon spotted pod poking from the ground on a walk though the woods. This pod is the first emerging portion of the earliest plant to sprout - Skunk Cabbage.

Skunk Cabbage Flower
Skunk cabbage is a perennial plant that will take several years to reach its flowering  stage. It is different in that once it does reach this stage. the flower is the first part of the plant to sprout. This pod is reminiscent of the top of a football as it grows through the late winter soil; and as it matures, it opens on one side to reveal a fleshy ball of flowers that will eventually bear seeds. Once these flowers  finish blooming in mid spring, the plant will produce lobate leaves as its final yearly life stage. Skunk cabbage is also interesting as it has contractile roots. These roots pull the plant deeper into the ground as it grows making it incredibly difficult to uproot and ensures its return for several years.

Skunk cabbage is well deserving of its name as it gives off a foul odor when it is in bloom, or if a leaf is cut. This smell is produced chemically by the flower and does serve many purposes for the plant as it grows. The smell is meant to mimic decay, which is very attractive to flies and carrion beetles who are the among the first insects to emerge in early spring. These insects will serve as early pollinators for the plant. The smell also deters potential predators, such as deer or rabbits, from eating the flower before it can produce seeds and help ensure the plants survival.

Skunk Cabbage is able to be one of the first emerging plants due to a unique ability shared by only a few other plant  groups; Skunk Cabbage is able to produce its own heat. The plant produces heat as a byproduct of the several biochemical reactions involved in cellular respiration, or cellular energy production. With this heat the plant can reach temperatures up to 30ºF above air temperature, which could be as high as 70ºF when the plant is sprouting. This can melt the surrounding snow and ice as the dirt defrosts and allows the plant to push its flower through the soil before other plants who don't have this thermogenic ability.

Humans have also made use of the Skunk Cabbage throughout history. In the early 19 th century Skunk Cabbage was used to treat certain aliments such as respiratory and nervous diseases by boiling the leaves to make a tea that is described to have a peppery taste.  Native American tribes used this plant for similar medicinal purposes and as a food seasoning. The leaves of the plant can be eaten once boiled but should never be eaten raw as they cause a burning sensation similar to hot peppers and the roots are toxic if consumed. It is better to admire the plant with vision and smell rather than taste.
Leafy Skunk Cabbage

Skunk cabbage is an amazing plant that has evolved to take advantage of the late winter conditions. While it may not be the most pleasant flower to smell it is visually interesting and unique. Skunk Cabbage is currently starting to sprout so if you see some melted snow or ice in your walk through the Westport trails you may be able to see, and smell, their flowers and they push through the frozen ground, and as a reminder that spring is not too terribly far away.


Your contributions support our
science and education programs
and help us to fulfill our mission:

Working together to protect and
preserve the Westport River Watershed
now and for future generations
Please save us your Lees receipts

WRWA is happy to be a Lees Market Community Partner member. Please save us your Lees receipts! You can drop them off at our office at 1151 Main Road , or mail to:
Westport River Watershed Alliance
PO Box 3427
Westport, MA   02790.

Thank you, Lees Market!  

Thank you to our 2019 Corporate Sponsors

Please note that each of the logos for our generous corporate sponsors is an active link to their web page.
Corporate Sponsors

Westport River Watershed Alliance | 508-636-3016 | http://westportwatershed.org

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