Sue Caron: Open Space Volunteer Extraordinaire

Sue Carron

Shortly after moving to Marshfield, Sue Caron heard that the town Open Space Committee needed another member. She decided to volunteer for the job, thinking it would be a good way to meet new people. Little did she know that for the next ten years she would spend hours of every week, often dedicating as much time as a full time job would demand, volunteering for the acquisition and stewardship of Marshfield’s open space.

“I do it for the bigger picture, ‘think globally, act locally,’” Sue says. Sue believes in volunteering locally because “it’s overwhelming for an individual person to try to affect change on their own. When you volunteer and join a local committee, you have the power to shape your community and have an impact on the environment.”

A few years ago, Sue helped the Open Space Committee purchase two parcels of land that provide the public with a walking trail to a public dock on the North River. Before the public trail and dock, most members of the town didn’t have access to a peaceful place to enjoy the river. The parcels are now protected with Conservation Restrictions to ensure they will remain undeveloped in perpetuity.

For the past five years, Sue has been leading the Committee in another, even more impressive, effort—the creation of South River Park. The South River, a “National Landmark River,” runs parallel to Route 139 and goes through the downtown area of Marshfield. For the most part, the river is hidden from view because of old commercial development that was built along its banks—development that would be difficult to permit today because of the negative impacts it can create on river ecosystems.

With the vision of a healthy river with a natural buffer, the Open Space Committee initiated the complicated process of acquiring lots with dilapidated buildings along the water’s edge. “People didn’t understand why the Open Space Committee wanted to buy dilapidated buildings, and that was an opportunity to have the dialogue about healthy rivers over and over again with many different groups of people and get them on board.” After five years and many hours of meetings with town boards and committees and four presentations at Town Meeting, the buildings were acquired and removed, and park construction has begun. The park will open in July 2012 and opens up views of the river from the park, offers handicapped accessible walking paths and a boardwalk over wetlands, and educationtional signage. There is hope that in the future more land can be acquired for the park’s expansion. “Once the view of the river in the commercial district opens up, we think people will see the possibilities for the river to enhance the area and will work to protect what they can see and enjoy. This is already happening with people contacting us looking for ways to become involved.”

In addition to these important land conservation projects and others, Sue has worked with the Open Space Committee to prepare an Open Space Plan, a comprehensive document required for a town to be eligible for State and Federal land conservation grants. An Open Space Plan takes years to finalize and is required to be updated every 5 to 7 years. Remarkably, Sue worked on putting together the plan twice—in 2005 and 2010—all on volunteered time. “All the work is worth it because we have been able to bring grant money into the town to help us save land, which is what it’s all about.”

In addition to the Open Space Committee, Sue also volunteers for the Marshfield Conservation Commission, is a member of the Board of Directors of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, and is a member of the Mass Audubon South Shore Advisory Council. Thank you, Sue, for doing so much as a conservation volunteer, and for thinking globally and acting locally in Marshfield.