Welcome to the Millers River Watershed Council!

MRWC has the goal of helping people discover what makes the Millers River and its tributaries a natural treasure, one you can enjoy and help protect. MRWC welcomes your input.river swish


Opposing the Proposed Gardner Sludge Landfill Expansion: 

A Healthy Vision for our Watershed

Welcome! The Millers River Watershed Council (MRWC) is opposing this ill-conceived project, which will, if approved, have substantial negative consequences for our region and beyond. The area of the proposed project expansion is within 1,300 feet of the Otter River and contains several vernal pools certified by MRWC.

MRWC has been working for several years with residents of Gardner to urge the City to adopt a cleaner, safer and more economically sensible solution to managing its sludge waste. Besides the adverse impacts the project would cause on the local and regional environment, we believe that approval of this project would send the wrong message to communities and stakeholders state-wide about the future of wastewater solids management throughout the State. We don’t believe the Chair City’s legacy is to become Dump City for the rest of the Commonwealth.

In the link below you will find:

  • Project Map: 1-mile radius
  • 2/10/23 – DEP rules that a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) must be submitted.
  • New Updated October 2022 Coalition report.
  • Victory for Vernal Pools in Gardner, March 2021
  • Detailed project Information
  • New Environmental Justice statement, May 2022
  • updated 4/12/23

MRWC welcomes your support to advance a healthy and economically wise vision of our region, and beyond. Please use the Donation button near the top right of this or any website page: you can use your credit card or PayPal account–and be sure to note “Gardner Landfill.” Thank you!

Future updates will provide information on other actions you can take to support this work.

Gardner  Sludge Landfill Project Details – Link


Celebrate the new Norcross Hill Wildlife Management Area!
Join MassWildlife, the Department of Fish and Game, and other partners on October 9, 2019 to celebrate the creation of the new Norcross Hill Wildlife Management Area! Meet at 10 a.m. at 100 Norcross Hill Road off Route 68 in Templeton.

Norcross Hill Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Templeton contains 465 acres of land that was previously owned by the Walter E. Fernald Corporation. WMAs are open to the public, and Norcross Hill is no exception. Visitors can enjoy the woodlands and wetlands as well as nearly a mile of frontage along Norcross Hill Brook and Beaver Brook. The variety of habitat within this property supports both game and non-game wildlife species. White-tailed deer, bear, waterfowl, and turkey can be found in the woods and fields. American bitterns and eastern whip-poor-wills—both protected by the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act— have also been observed in the area. In addition, the grasslands within the property are important for the conservation of bobolinks in New England.

This property, which was previously closed to hunting, provides new access for Massachusetts sportsmen and women. This acquisition also has significance on a regional scale. The Norcross WMA is now part of an assemblage of over 2,200 continuous acres of protected lands from Otter River State Forest to the Templeton State Forest. MassWildlife worked with the North County Land Trust and Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust to acquire the property. The partnership received a Landscape Partnership Program Grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. The Norcross Hill WMA is just 1 of over 40 land acquisition projects completed by MassWildlife in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 (July 2018–June 2019). In FY 19, MassWildlife protected over 2,420 acres for wildlife to thrive and for people to enjoy!

Help prevent Tully Lake development

About 200 hundred acres of beautiful hillside (in Athol) across from Tully Lake (in Royalston) was at risk for becoming a solar field! This could have resulted in loss of homes for wildlife and definitely would have destroyed the stunning views that we have all enjoyed for generations.

The Athol Planning and Development Board approved and passed a proposal for the solar installation, but neighbors of this land are not backing down! They hired a lawyer and appealed this decision in court. Neighbors of the land and their legal team are fighting tirelessly to save this land and preserve this area, but they need your help!

By making a donation care of Millers River Watershed Council: online via PayPal/credit card: go to millerswatershed.org and click the orange “make a donation” button–then add note for “Tully Lake.” –  or mail check to MRWC, 100 Main St., Athol, MA 01331–make check payable to MRWC and add note for “Tully Lake.”

You will be contributing to legal fees that would help prevent future development proposals on this land. Additional funds would go towards possible permanent conservation of this land. Please consider helping your fellow man, our environment, and wildlife by making a donation today, and encourage family and friends to do the same. Together, we can!

Exploring A Local Gem:

The Millers River Watershed Council  and North County Land Trust are co-sponsoring this series of guided hikes at the Cummings Conservation Area off Bridge Street in Gardner (hosted by the City of Gardner Conservation Commission). The first hike is Sept. 21, 2019 (focus on ecology and geology), followed by hikes on October 26th (focus on local industrial history) and November 23rd (focus on local railroad history). All hikes are from 2:30-4:30 pm, and meet at Bridge Street in Gardner, next to the Otter River. Special Instructions: Bring water, insect repellent, and walking or hiking shoes.

For more information: https://northcountylandtrust.org/events/a-local-gem/


6/1/19 – Due to log jams caused by spring flows, the Upper Millers River Blue Trail (Winchendon to Birch Hill Dam) is not a recommended paddling area for novice paddlers. Experienced paddlers should still be prepared for portaging. MRWC will post updates as soon as conditions change.



EPA issues final Small MS4 General Permit to control stormwater statewide.

Following a lawsuit by environmental groups, a long-awaited federal stormwater permit went into effect for MA on July 1. The permit requires municipalities–including Gardner, Winchendon, Templeton, Ashburnham and Westminster in the Millers River watershed–to do more to protect water bodies from polluted storm-water runoff, the state’s top water pollution problem.

Stormwater Runoff

Stormwater Runoff

“This is a major victory for water quality throughout the Commonwealth,” said Julia Blatt, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, which led the lawsuit that was joined by the Connecticut River Conservancy and many watershed groups from the eastern half of the state.

For more on the MS4 permit click here. For a link to town-level maps for MS4 communities in MA click here.

2019 ARM Results


2018 Acid Rain Monitoring (ARM) Project results available

Results from the volunteer ARM  project for pH and alkalinity are available here from 138 sites sampled across Massachusetts in April of this year. About a dozen Millers River watershed sites are included. Water bodies are listed alphabetically and the town is identified, so it’s easy to scroll through the list.  ARM is run by UMass’ Water Resources Research Center: their results page includes a link to a searchable database extending back to 1983.

Chair City Profile (Gardner)

Gardner produces only a tiny fraction of the furniture it once did, but central Mass native Tracie Pouliot is helping to keep that vital history alive. Read about the Chair City Community Workshop she created in Gardner, where–with a Mass Humanities grant–she launched the Chair City Oral History Series, a collection of reminiscences collected from former employees of Nichols & Stone.

Just Released – MRPC Summary of Recent Brownfield Site Assessments:

Site assessment work has included Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) and hazardous building materials surveys (HBMS), with the goal of establishing site environmental conditions before considering redevelopment or reuse. MRWC serves on MRPC’s Brownfields Advisory Group. To view summaries of the five sites located in the Millers River watershed (Winchendon, Gardner, Royalston, Ashburnham), click here.

2017 Annual Meeting: Highlights – Slide Show

For those of you who missed the 2017 Annual Meeting, or who’d like a closer look at MRWC’s activities, here’s director Ivan Ussach’s powerpoint presentation with the highlights from a very productive year. – Slide Show Link

 MRWC Monitoring Map – where we sample! Link

Since 2010, MRWC has monitored over 50 sites across the watershed. Is one near you? Take a look!

Sampling sites list.

MRWC monitoring BUGS out!

Bugs Tell the Story! Aquatic insects are great indicators of stream health. Join a MRWC macro-invertebrate survey to collect these critters, sort them and then identify them.

Volunteers will work in teams to sample several streams in the central and eastern parts of the watershed, as this area is less studied.

So if you are OK with (or love!) bugs and maybe getting a bit wet, join us. To volunteer, contact watershed@millersriver.net

Adopt a Stream! MRWC  volunteers are monitoring water temperature and pH along tributaries and streams across the watershed in 2018 View the watershed stream list to see all the streams in the watershed. For more info contact monitoring coordinator Keith Davies at watershed@millersriver.net.

Athol Wastewater Treatment Plant receives EPA award
The federal EPA has selected Athol’s Wastewater Treatment Plant for a 2016 Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant Excellence Award. The Athol WWTP was recognized by EPA’s New England Office for exceptional operations and maintenance. The plant was one of six facilities in New England acknowledged for exemplary performance during 2016. MRWC offers its congratulations and appreciation to the plant’s crew.

Support MRWC and support our waters!

 2018 fundraising campaign underway!

MRWC continues to be ready for any movements on the withdrawn NED pipeline proposal, while we develop and promote several recreational Blue Trails across the watershed. We are also moving forward on water quality monitoring and working on economic revitalization projects as part of the MRPC’s Brownfields Advisory group… and more!

Please take a moment now to support this work as generously as you can. You can donate online via the website homepage (the upper right “MAKE A DONATION” button) –using PayPal or a credit card; or send a check to MRWC at 100 Main Street, Athol, MA 01331. THANK YOU!


Link to MRWC NED info page – HERE 

NED pipeline project suspended! Opponents remain vigilant!

Cummings paddle stop upstrm2

Become a Blue Trail steward!

Blue Trail happenings: MRWC staff have launched new Blue Trail on the Upper Millers and Otter Rivers

The  map for the Upper Millers/Otter River Blue Trail is available. MRWC welcomes volunteers to help care for these trails.

Wish to help? Contact MRWC.

MRWC serving the River Community!

river swish

There’s more:

Rain Garden Pocket Guide available: published by the Massachusetts Watershed Coalition, this full-color guide is full of photos and illustrations that make building a rain garden simple, fun and affordable.

what is a rain garden?

As a Partner in MWC’s Billion Gallons a Year (BGY) Stormwater Reduction Campaign, MRWC will provide a free copy of the Guide to  watershed residents and businesses, while they last. Please contact MRWC to request a copy of the Guide. A modified pdf version of the Guide is also available for download. Contact us

river swish

Blue Trail The adventures continued in 2014!

Millers River Blue Trail Guide available. MRWC has released the official Millers River Blue Trail guide in (2) versions, a $3 waterproof edition and a complimentary non-waterproof version. A number of local retailers are carrying the waterproof guide while the complimentary copy can be found at the Athol & Orange public libraries.