Acting Director, Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Ecological Restoration
While the Big Bad Bruins are the talk of the town and rightfully so – the New England Patriots have bragging rights in Massachusetts for sustainable design and in particular integrating ecological restoration into its operations. Gillette Stadium – fondly known as The Razor – and Patriot Place are located at the headwaters of the Neponset River and the stadium (formally a racetrack) used to literally sit on top of the river. The Neponset River Watershed Association held their annual meeting at the Razor this month, which I attended. Just before the official meeting took place, a tour of the restored river took place.
Prior to 2000, almost a mile of the river was sequestered in a culvert, hidden from the tailgaters that drank cans of Schaefer above it and the many revelers that filed in-and-out of then-Foxboro Stadium. In an effort to improve the stadium site, the river was shifted away from the stadium and daylighted (i.e., uncovered to the light of day) to re-create a natural stream corridor. http://www.neponset.org/AnnualMtg2011.htm
On one of my first days of work as a river restoration planner, I toured this restored reach. At the time, the riparian plantings (which are unique to river habitats) were relatively stunted and sparse and there was little diversity of habitat. This return trip, six years later, was revelatory. The river teamed with aquatic insects, tree swallows darted along the river corridor, and a dense canopy of green shaded the stream.
A key to any good restoration project is to see how well it blends into the surroundings, if done well, there should be little evidence of human intervention. While it’s difficult to completely block out Patriot Place, and, on game day, the roar of the fans, if you turn your back to the stadium and stand on bank of the Neponset River the tranquility of the river seeps in.