Sunday, April 15, 2012

Out and About: Mystic River Reservation and Tobert Macdonald Park

As a broke college student, I’m always looking to take advantage of staying local and participating in free or cheap activities; public parks meet these requirements. When I need to burn off some energy or just get in touch with nature, I head to the Mystic River Reservation in Medford, Massachusetts. The Mystic River Reservation is connected through Medford, Somerville, and Everett. It’s a twenty minute power walk from my house, but if you are not lucky enough to live so close, it is accessible by the Orange Line, commuter rail and bus or by car.


With the weather reaching the high 70s and 80s this past week, it has been the perfect time to return to the reservation. Trails sprawl along the Mystic shaded by trees in bloom, boaters fly across the water, the lawns are populated by families enjoying picnics and games, bicyclists and joggers move swiftly along the paths; all are here to soak up the sun while it lasts. If you're like me, taking a stroll through the park is a great way to relax and get in a little exercise. Tobert Macdonald Park is a section of the Medford area reservation, within the park is a nature preserve; a marshland with reaching reeds where the scurrying of small animals can be heard. The park is populated by grackles, robins, and sparrows; their twitter echoing across the grounds. Rabbits are abundant; you are likely to see a few adolescents in the brush during your visit. Macdonald Park is a slice of nature in the middle of the city; the landscaping is well kept and according to the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) “award-winning”.


The reservation is open year round from dawn until dusk, best of all, it’s free! Nearby, across the street from the Macdonald Park entrance is a shopping center with a Stop & Shop and CVS Pharmacy; on those hot days, you can go purchase food and refreshments to enjoy. There are no picnic tables, but benches are dispersed along the trails, and there are no qualms against bringing an old blanket along for a picnic on the grass. Great for groups or the individual, DCR lists the following permissible activities on the Mystic River Reservation on their webpage: swimming, rowing, sailing, soccer, picnic, biking, running, hiking, tennis, and boating. Specific to Medford’s reservation is running, hiking, and boating; check DCR’s website before you head to any of reservation sites to see what they allow.


While Medford’s Mystic River Reservation may offer both excitement and relaxation, there are some less than favorable aspects. A problem with many public parks is disturbing characters; if you visit the park alone go during daylight hours and be aware of your surroundings. That’s common sense! The reason I say this is that there has been a reported problem of men waiting amongst the reeds where they solicit sex. Daylight hours offer protection; the park is busy as well as the roads in the surrounding area. Fortunately, the state police barracks are located next to the Macdonald Park entrance. Personally, I’ve never been bothered; I’ve been harassed more on the subway. The police do patrol the park, their cruisers driven on the paved trails. The only irritation I ever have while walking along the river are the clouds of gnats and mosquitoes that arise every few feet in warm weather; this is taken care of by generous amounts of bug spray.


Overall, this is a wonderful place to spend time. The benefits of exercise and being in the presence of nature are reason enough; I go for mental and physical health. Although located within an urban environment, the reservation feels outside of it. The busyness of the suburbs melts away into the background, it leaves behind tranquility. A visit to the park is affordable for this broke college student and enjoyable at the same time.

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