The Blue Hills Reservation is a state park in Norfolk County, covering parts of Milton, Quincy, Dedham, Canton, Braintree, and Randolph. In the 1970s, the reservation's diversity of plants and animals inspired a group of people to form the Friends of the Blue Hills non-profit organization to protect it. Since its inception, Friends of the Blue Hills has grown to be a 1,000-member organization that is committed to caring and advocating for the Blue Hills.
The Blue Hills Reservation is owned and operated by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation. However, Associate Director of Friends of the Blue Hills Anne Comber says that cost-cutting measures have hindered the department's ability to operate.
"Budget cuts over the years have seriously eroded their ability to adequately maintain the 125 miles of trails in the 7,000 acre park," Comber says. "The Friends of the Blue Hills have stepped in to fill this gap. We recruit more than 500 volunteers each year who donate over 1,700 hours in trail maintenance and weeding efforts to keep the trails clear and the forests healthy."
Maintaining the landscape is important to the area and often what keeps the volunteers coming to donate their time and money. Comber herself became inspired to work with the Friends of the Blue Hills because she grew up in the area and was in love with the Blue Hills - which are named after the blue color that comes from the riebeckite mineral that is present in the stone.
"Our family often celebrates holidays by taking a hike together in the Blue Hills," Comber says. "We have wonderful memories of lazy summer afternoons at Houghton's Pond, learning to ski at Blue Hills ski, and walking out to the end of the Ponkapoag Pond Boardwalk. Having enjoyed the Blue Hills for so many years, I felt a responsibility to give back and so I joined Friends of the Blue Hills a number of years ago."
The non-profit organization preserves the Blue Hills through many outreach efforts. They act as advocates for positive change for the Blue Hills, while also serving as "watchdogs" for activities that may do more harm than good. They openly welcome and encourage enthusiasts to visit and educate themselves on the Blue Hills. Recently, Friends of the Blue Hills worked with local and state officials to prevent a hotel from being built near Little Blue Hill. Because of the organization's efforts, the proposal was withdrawn. With so many endeavors on deck for Friends of the Blue Hills, Comber says they can never have too many volunteers.
"We are always looking for volunteers to help us advance our mission to keep the Blue Hills Reservation open and accessible to all," Comber says. "It is such a gift to be able to work in such a wonderful environment and with such dedicated people."