The Fowl Meadow is a large tract of wetland which meanders 7.2 miles through Norwood, Canton, Westwood, Dedham, Milton, Sharon and Hyde Park.
The Fowl Meadow almost was paved over in 1967 when the state proposed to extend Interstate 95, an eight-lane highway, all the way into Boston instead of ending at Route 128 (as it does today). The original proposal would have paved over much of the Fowl Meadow and located a major interchange on top of Paul’s Bridge, a historic bridge located in Milton.
A citizen lawsuit stopped the proposal. The lawsuit hinged on the fact that the project would have transferred land from the MDC to the Mass Department of Public Works. The lawsuit clarified the fact that the transfer of designated conservation land for development requires authorization by the state legislature even if the transfer is only from one state agency to another. The Neponset Conservation Association, which went on to become the Neponset River Watershed Association, was one of several groups that worked to save Fowl Meadow and Paul’s Bridge.
The averted environmental tragedy is a positive example of the crucial role citizen activists play in protecting and restoring the Neponset River Watershed.
In addition to providing wildlife with critical habitat areas, the wetlands of the Fowl Meadow serve as an effective flood control barrier along the Neponset River. After heavy rains, the wetlands soak up excess water and then release it slowly over the course of several weeks. This sponge-effect helps to reduce the peak river levels during floods, helps recharge underground aquifers, and prevents water from rushing downstream – potentially causing property damage in Hyde Park and Dorchester.
The fastest way to see the Fowl Meadow and much of the Neponset River is by riding the Providence or Attleboro branch of the MBTA commuter rail. The trip from Sharon Station to South Station passes by many of the Fowl Meadow sights. Hiking shoes are not required, but the sights go by quickly at 60 mph. For directions, schedules and fee info, contact the MBTA at 1-800-392-6100.