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Even at Christmas, All Trees Matter


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Trail Stewards, a group of volunteers that clear debris and hazards from town trails, meet every Tuesday regardless of weather.
Bill Harman and his team of volunteers work every week to keep Westford’s vast trail network safe for hikers.
Volunteers from Conservation Commission clear away deadfall and other hazards along Westford’s 60 mile network of trails.

In the spirit of giving for the season, one need not spend any money at all. Volunteering a few hours of time is a present without boxes and bows. Many organizations–government, civic and religious–are often in recruitment for part-time assistance for small projects as well as ongoing campaigns to create a community.

Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.” author Sherry Anderson wrote. And in Westford, volunteers make an appearance in nearly every aspect of life.

Bill Harman leads a small troop of volunteers each week along parts of the town’s nearly 60 miles of trails. Known as Trail Stewards; or Harman’s Army as they might also be called, they help maintain many outdoor spaces in support of the Conservation Commission. The dozen or so mostly-retired squad of volunteers meet every Tuesday morning for the past 20 years.

Undaunted by any weather condition–even today’s solstice could not dissuade them from their self-appointed rounds–they walk in loose formation through the forests and meadows, armed with bowsaws and pruning shears, to clear impediments and debris from the forest floor, where deadfall can be hazardous to hikers.  

Any larger obstacles will be noted and the information relayed to another platoon of chainsaw-wielding activists who contribute to the overall mission. And in some cases they conscript local scouting aspirants to construct footbridge across high water and treacherous ravines; under guidance from town officials.

Many of their targeted destinations are prompted by leads and tips from residents. But even without a specific bit of woods to housekeep, the group still meets for a two or three hour walk. Rose O’Donnell is one of Harman’s loyal lieutenants for the cause. “This is a way that we can still serve the community,” she said while dragging a 10 foot log off the path.

Dave Lavoie is another team member who enjoys both the giving back aspect as well as the personal satisfaction. “I also do it for the exercise and for the socializing.” To volunteer in Harman’s Army or to report an area of concern, contact Bill at harmanwh@gmail.com. 

But if outdoors is not your druthers, there are many other opportunities to volunteer in town. The Westford Council on Aging for example is always in need of help and, according to Volunteer Program Coordinator Katie Russell, COVID-19 has seen a reduction in the number of rostered volunteers from nearly 200 to less than 40. 

Russell said that number is reflective of the number of activities that have been shelved as a result–fewer programs and events, fewer people needed. But she is always welcoming to folks who can gift time at: front desk help, fitness center, handyman work, friendly visitors, lessons on tech or music, etc. To inquire about donating time, Russell can be reached at krussell@westfordma.gov

Service is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” Muhammed Ali


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