Volunteer of the Month: Priscilla Chapman

Priscilla ChapmanPriscilla Chapman, longtime TRWA board member and watershed advocate is TRWA’s December volunteer of the month. She completed her two-year term as the president of TRWA in November with a surprise bouquet of flowers and thank you’s from the board. As one of her last presidential duties she conducted TRWA’s annual meeting via Zoom, a major accomplishment. Participating via Zoom was a major achievement to some of TRWA’s members too. Priscilla will remain on the board so she can give more time to her first love, watershed advocacy.
Our board members have commented on Priscilla’s advocacy. As each member gives examples of her work, you will get a sense of how long, determined and persistent her devotion to protecting the watershed have been.
Incoming TRWA president Joe Callahan says, “Priscilla is and remains hopefully for many years a great advocate for TRWA and the watershed. She has given so much of her time to TRWA and deserves much recognition. She is a terrific writer and is expert on MEPA* wetlands regulations. It is her forte. I want to thank her for her years of dedication and urge her to continue in her advocacy work. She is a great asset to lean on.
*MEPA is the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act, and its regulations are complicated and crucially important in the watershed https://www.mass.gov/orgs/massachusetts-environmental-policy-act-office
Longtime board member Alex seconds Joe sentiments. He says that she was a great help and lent much of her time in helping him fight the shopping mall which was planned in Freetown several years back on an area that was a known coal ash pit near the Assonet Bay in an area that was also known diamondback terrapin habitat. This was a very emotional topic in Freetown for some time, and the shopping center eventually was not built, and that part of the diamondback terrapin habitat remained. Read more about this story here.
Fellow board member Craig Heffernan adds, “She’s a wealth of information on issues facing the watershed. Her work on advocacy is second to none.
Steve Silva, TRWA’s water quality testing program director says, “Priscilla has been a backbone volunteer for TRWA both during my six-year involvement with the organization and from what I’ve learned many years before that. 
Using her experience from being on the Fall River Conservation Commission, she prepares thoughtful comments on development projects in the watershed.
She stepped in to be President for two years when we really needed her. She has done some big projects like the Stream Continuity Study Report which she worked on with Mass Audubon. She has done (and continues to do) so much for TRWA!
Carol Traverse concludes, “Priscilla’s letters and comments regarding the Wetlands Protection Act are top notch. When we get a call from someone concerned with a proposed project near the river or wetlands, Priscilla always gets in touch with them or visits the site to assess the person’s concerns. 
I don’t think people realize how much she has done for TRWA because she has gone about things so quietly.
She was also on the study committee to establish forty miles of the Taunton River as Wild and Scenic. Achievement of that status has been very important to the river’s preservation.
So, thank you to Priscilla for stepping in as president when she was needed and now for continuing with the environmental advocacy that is so important and we look forward to your contributions to TRWA’s continuing advocacy work.

Volunteer of the Month – Joe Callahan

Joe Callahan

When you think about Joe, you think of the word steady.

Joe Callahan, TRWA’s incoming president and past president, knows a thing or two about water.

Recreationally, he has done white water rafting, hiking, kayaking and trout fishing here and in the Grand Tetons, the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon.  

Study and analysis of water became his career. He is an avid volunteer for its protection.

A co-op job at Northeastern headed him away from his anticipated career as a lawyer into environmental work at the EPA and at National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).

He is a volunteer who just can’t say no. In addition to being TRWA’s incoming president, he is a Taunton River Wild and Scenic Board member, and Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD) representative for Berkley and its Finance and Personnel Committees. He also serves as a member of the Joint Transportation Planning Group.

He is looking forward to a retirement although it’s still a few years away, because he has “lots in his future.” Right now, his busy life has left two brand new fishing poles sitting unused.

TRWA needs people like Joe more than ever to maintain and expand its core mission in environmental advocacy.  If you would join with Joe and other hardworking volunteers, please volunteer here. Where it asks what your interests are, type in “I want to help give Joe time to break in those new fishing poles.”

Joe joined TRWA over twenty years ago and has been a board member for most of that time. He joined to make a difference and enjoy the remarkable assets of the Taunton River at the same time. He says, “I am an environmental consultant by trade who cares deeply for the environment in which we live. We must protect and preserve this earth, the water, the air, and the wildlife or it will not be there for future generations.  I feel each of us has a duty to `do a part in whatever small way we can.”

Saying he is an environmental consultant is typical of Joe’s style of quiet understatement about himself.

He is a senior project manager at ​Environmental Strategies & Management (ES&M). ​He has nearly 30 years of experience in the environmental industry.  He is a Massachusetts Licensed Site Professional (LSP #7936), a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager (CHMM) and a Toxics Use Reduction Planner (TURP).  At ES&M he is a Senior Project Manager for environmental assessment and remediation projects for major petroleum (both retail and terminal sites), industrial, and utility customers at sites throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  He manages several projects that involve wetlands permitting and storm-water management.

He says, “When I first joined TRWA, our offices were in a small room in an old mill building in Bridgewater. We’ve come a long way since then and in partnership with DCR, the Massachusetts department of Conservation and Recreation, we now have our offices in a beautiful building at Sweets Knoll State Park in Dighton.”  The part he isn’t mentioning is that he was instrumental in establishing the partnership and procuring the building. He continues “There were dedicated people with TRWA when I first joined as there are now. They provide a strong voice for the protection and preservation of the Wild and Scenic Taunton River and its watershed.”

Two other TRWA veterans have much to say in praise of him.

Steve Silva is TRWA’s director of the water quality monitoring program. Volunteering for a monitoring team is an attractive opportunity for environmental advocacy as long as Covid regulations permit it in 2021. This is what he says.

“Joe is an unselfish champion for the Taunton river watershed and a great choice for November volunteer of the month. I joined TRWA as a sampling volunteer in 2014 and became a Board member in 2015 where I first had the pleasure of meeting Joe. Joe is an avid kayaker and environmentalist who is an unselfish champion for the Taunton River. He has always stepped up.

His engineering technical knowledge, common sense, and knowledge of the watershed and the challenges facing it from rapid growth to climate change have been invaluable to the efforts of each group he helps.”

Jen O’Keefe, a longtime TRWA volunteer, avid kayaker, member of the terrapin team and calendar publisher may have said it best.

“Joe’s not looking for a stage, he’s looking for what’s best for the river.  And indeed, his quiet professionalism has been a mainstay of the TRWA’s board for many years, keeping things going when the going gets tough.

When you sit across from Joe at a meeting, you have no clue that this quiet and reserved person absolutely loves being outside and on the river. It’s something that you really only see if you happen to be on a paddling trip with him. He was instrumental in keeping things going when the TRWA made the move from Boyden to Sweets Knoll. When you think about Joe, you think of the word steady – because his work, whether it is with advocating for the river or for organizing a paddling trip or the annual meeting, while not flashy, is vital and his skills as a project planner are often all on display as he helps out with whatever project or educational opportunity the TRWA is organizing. He will be stepping up again to president this fall, and the watershed will once again benefit by having someone with his skills and heart giving direction to the TRWA’s work.”

~ by Sally Spooner

Volunteer of the Month – Carol Traverse

Carol Traverse is TRWA’s lynchpin.
She is the volunteer office manager. She has been with TRWA for fifteen years, and she is the person everyone turns to answer questions. “Carol, what do you think?” “Carol, do you remember when……?” “Carol, do you know what we did with…………?” And she either knows the answer or, in her patient way, helps to find it.She is quiet about her work and her achievements. There is no plaque above her desk to show that she received the Arthur Cleveland Bent Award from the Taunton Conservation Commission for her long-term contributions to environmental work. TRWA is not her only volunteer work. She has also spent 25 years as the treasurer of Friends of the Boyden.

You will learn from others that she is the glue that holds TRWA together. And how highly her judgement is valued. Our board and volunteers say it the best:

From Jen O’Keefe:
Carol likes to get things done! She cares about the environment and the community we live in, and you will find she has made this small corner of the world a better place in her steady, quiet, understated way. She volunteered for 4H, she worked for the City of Taunton. She still continues to volunteer for the Friends of Boyden and still continues to volunteer at the TRWA even after her paid position was eliminated. Her accumulated experience running events for the public and for kids is a tremendous asset to the TRWA.

A hidden talent I discovered eleven years ago when I started volunteering with the TRWA and came up with this crazy idea of a photo contest is that she has an impeccable eye for a good photograph. Carol has been a mainstay of our volunteer effort with the calendar contest. 

Ms. Terrapin, the TRWA office mascot, adores her.

And Carol cares deeply about her family and she’s a great friend.”

From Steve Silva:
Carol is the institutional memory for the Taunton River Watershed Alliance. When an issue or question arises, Carol is always one of the first to weigh in with valuable information and insight.

She does an outstanding job managing our office and records, keeping the operation on track. She is a stalwart champion for the environment using her time and talent to advance TRWA’s environmental protection efforts and promote responsible stewardship of our precious and irreplaceable water resources.”

From Craig Heffernan:
Carol does the hard work behind the scenes that’s often overlooked. She is very patient, knowledgeable and experienced about the issues facing the watershed. She is a determined volunteer and helps to keep the office, emails and books up to date. TRWA is fortunate to have her as a board member.”

Monica Bentley, board member and director of the kayaking program:
I always come away learning something new when I talk with Carol. She’s always got the answers whether it’s about something that happened years ago, who did what or anything to do with the office.”

Joe Callahan, board member and past president:
Carol is a tremendous asset to TRWA and continues to do incredible voluntary work for the organization since she’s joined the Board.”

Nancy Durfee, TRWA board member:
It is an honor to recognize Carol as the TRWA October 2020 Volunteer of the Month. Volunteers are the heart and soul of TRWA, and she has delivered countless hours of dedication to TRWA.

What a great example Carol has been. A true leader, with a “can do” attitude, a team spirit, and the willingness to go above-and-beyond.”

Dick Shafer, treasurer and past president:
We were delighted that Carol agreed to become the TRWA Office Manager part time after she retired from working for the City. She continues to be the “glue” of our growing grassroots organization, now operating from our new office at Sweets Knoll State Park!”

Volunteer of the Month – Jen O’Keefe

Jen O’Keefe (L) with the terrapin team.

Jen O’Keefe is a TRWA backbone volunteer.

Like so many others she joined because of one activity and then went on to others. In each, she is passing on her environmental passion and skills to children and young people who must have them to protect our future.

She says, “I joined the TRWA because I went on four or five kayak trips run by Canoe Passage Outfitters and after the 4th or 5th realized, “Hey these people like the same things I do. They have the same values I have and do work I like to see done, let’s join.

I am a 2nd generation water tester. My father tested water for the Westport River Watershed Association on the East Branch of the Westport River for 7 years. So, after paddling with the TRWA sponsored trips, meeting folks, and then, upon learning they too water tested, I joined and became a water quality monitor.

As a water tester like her father, she has enlisted the help of her children with hopes that they will carry on this family tradition.

Jen also founded and publishes the TRWA tide calendar and conducted its photography contest for its first ten years. For 2021 she has encouraged a new set of volunteers to keep the calendar going as she tries to step back a little. One of the contest’s goals has been to encourage young people to enter the contest.

Jen is also involved in the terrapin study. She is a natural teacher. This year TRWA marked six terrapin nests. As the eggs hatched Jen taught children who spotted hatchlings to pick them up carefully and take them to be weighed and measured. After the weigh in they excitedly, gently, and carefully, carried them back to their native habitat and watched as they disappeared.

Jen is also one of the caretakers of TRWA’s own office terrapin. This terrapin can no longer live in the wild and may someday become TRWA’s traveling ambassador, visiting classrooms and other locations. Although this was Impossible in 2020, we have hopes that it will happen sometime in 2021.

If, like Jen, you share values with TRWA and have fun things you want to do and/or work you would like to see done, please join us or become a volunteer yourself. We’d be happy to have you on board.
~Sally Spooner

Volunteer of the Month – Dick Shafer

Dick Shafer
We asked our Board members and a few volunteers to tell us why they joined TRWA. Our first volunteer is Dick Shafer.

“I attended the initial TRWA organizational meeting in 1988 led by Bill Napolitano, Kitty Doherty and others.

I joined that night as one of the founding members and have been a member ever since. I had just acquired a canoe and was interested in river trips,” says Dick Shafer, current TRWA’s Board member and Treasurer. 

It’s the “that night” feeling we hope we can convey to you when you consider joining TRWA. We are in the “‘that night” period of our environmental activism needs.

He continues, “I was completely onboard with TRWA’s support of the Clean Water Act, as well as, later, the quest to achieve the Wild and Scenic River Federal designation.

After many years as a member, Kitty convinced me to join the Board of Directors where I eventually became President for seven years and am now Treasurer.”

Saying that he joined because he was interested in river trips is an understatement, by far.  Since 1988, Dick has chaired or volunteered for many TRWA committees, activities and positions as well as, one of his proudest achievements, reviving the Taunton River Festival. Besides that, he is always ready to lend a hand.

Now, some thirty-two years after that first meeting, he still involved.  He is working on the 2021 tide calendar photo contest. He is chairing the building renovation committee. He is a member of the fund-raising committee. If the Taunton River Festival hadn’t been delayed until 2021 by Covid 19, he would be very busy with that right now.

 We need more volunteers like Dick and hope you will consider being one of them, even if you start with just one position.

He closes by saying, “We have a great team now and with the new Watershed Center a lot of great opportunities for the future.”

You can become a part of it. Our mission is to protect and restore the watershed’s natural resources for current and future generations. Join us and Become a Member or Become a Volunteer.
~Sally Spooner

Snake River at Bay Road, Norton

Snake River at Bay Road, upstream at Winnecunnet Pond, Norton, MA

 Snake River at Bay Road, upstream at Winnecunnet Pond, Norton, MA

Snake River at Bay Road, downstream

Snake River at Bay Road, downstream

Snake River at Bay Road, put-in

Snake River at Bay Road, put-in

Finally! A river that looks like it’s not going to put me under. You always want to do the Snake River at high water and now looks like the perfect opportunity. I can’t wait to give it a try.

I’ll be posting more locations over the next few days. Stay tuned.

~Monica Bentley
TRWA River Guide

Taunton River at Summer Street

Taunton River at Summer St, upstream

Taunton at Summer downstream

Taunton River at Summer St, downstream

Taunton at Summer put-in

Taunton River at Summer St, put-in

The Taunton River at Summer Street seems pretty tame compared to some of the other put-ins I’ve checked out in the past couple weeks. Don’t get me wrong, there is a fairly strong current and you should be prepared to work if you go downstream and want to come back up. Just be aware that further downstream the little flurry of quickwater at the Titicut St bridge isn’t just a little flurry any more. It’s a class 3 right now so wear your helmet and wetsuit!

I’ll be posting more locations over the next few days. Stay tuned.

~Monica Bentley
TRWA River Guide

Taunton River at Titicut Street bridge

Taunton at Titicut, upstream

Taunton at Titicut St, upstream

Taunton at Titicut St, downstream

Taunton at Titicut St, downstream

Taunton at Titicut St put-in

Taunton at Titicut St put-in


This is one of my favorite put-ins for a group trip. Usually there is 6-8ft of beach and wide enough to fit 12-15 kayaks easily. This week, there’s no beach … and the water is really moving. What’s usually a little flurry under the bridge might be now classified as a class 3 rapid. Be aware of this spot should you decide to put in at Summer St on the Taunton, Murdoch St on the Nemasket or anywhere further up the Nemasket River.

If you want to see the video to see how fast it’s moving click here.

The downside to this put-in is the lack of parking. People have to load/unload in the street with cars & trucks whizzing by and the path down to the put-in is full of poison ivy.

I’ll be posting more locations over the next few days. Stay tuned.

~Monica Bentley
TRWA River Guide

Fast current, low bridges and cold water

Nemasket at Plymouth St looking upstream

Nemasket at Plymouth St looking downstream

Nemasket at Plymouth St

Historic Plymouth St bridge over the Nemasket River


If you want to see the video to see how fast it’s moving click here.

Over the past few days I’ve been out checking river conditions and – I can’t believe I’m saying this – but I’m glad it’s too cold to paddle. The river conditions are pretty scary. And I’m one who likes to be out at the end of March or early April! We usually do our first trip on the upper Nemasket because it’s wide and calm. But the currents this year are a bit faster than normal due to all the rain. Plus – we can’t shuttle back up the river with the CDC corona virus guidelines.

This is the lower Nemasket River at Plymouth Street. The current is quick, and trying to get under this bridge with its headspace that slopes down as you go through would be pretty treacherous. There is a set of steps that you could use to launch and the bottom step is about 6 foot long. That step is currently about a foot under (cold) water.

I’ll be posting more locations over the next few days. Stay tuned.

~Monica Bentley
TRWA River Guide

Earth Day and Covid-19

Wednesday, April 22, is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and it’s safe to say no one expected we’d be celebrating it indoors during a planet-wide pandemic. In 1970, more than 20 million people participated in the first Earth Day. Once public health authorities say its safe to do so TRWA will resume its many free public events in the watershed. Until then we appreciate the efforts our members are making to follow CDC guidelines and keep each other safe. Thank you for your support of TRWA and each other through this difficult time.