By Lori Berkey, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Priscilla Ryder has always had a lifelong interest in science and the environment. She earned a university degree in environmental conservation, and after working various jobs, she decided that the local level was where she liked to work most and felt most effective. She could see results. She is now in her 26th year serving as Marlborough’s conservation officer.
“I see my job as the protector of the natural systems – water streams, open space and wildlife,” she said.
Ryder takes pride in many of the projects she’s worked on over the years.
“Most recently the regional four community Boroughs Loop Trail (BLT) has been an amazing project,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed working with the 4-community planning team and with all the many trail volunteers who have helped make it possible. This 33-mile trail is marvelous, and it took lots of hands to make it happen.”
The BLT is the culmination of 10 years’ work. A long sought-after Recreational Trails Grant awarded in 2018 helped pay for the materials that enabled its completion.
“Our collective hope is that the trail will allow everyone to explore the outdoors without having to travel more than a few miles to get on the trail,” Ryder said. “There are some beautiful open space jewels in Marlborough, Southborough, Westborough and Northborough and this regional trail will take you through some of them and allow you to explore the open spaces in the area.”
Another multi-town project Ryder worked on is the Assabet River Rail Trail. As the Marlborough representative for the venture, she was involved from its inception in 1993 to construction and the grand opening in 2005.
“I learned a lot about sticking with a project on that one,” she said.
Ryder is a key person behind the scenes, helping develop maps and new trails on the city’s nine conservation land properties and keeping those trails and kiosks maintained with aid from summer interns and a slew of volunteers.
She’s also helped with the acquisition of some open space parcels, including The Grove, and some of the parcels that make up Cider Knoll Conservation land.
Many bird and insect species that had a declining population in 2014 are fluttering around today, thanks to Ryder’s work with a team of landowners on a prescribed burn at the Desert Natural Area to support the return of the pitch-pine scrub-oak forest type which thrives on fire. The habitat they nurtured is the only habitat type where the declining species could survive.
Ryder is proud to have had a role in the community garden off Stow Road. This project avails a space for residents without a sunny yard to grow vegetables and flowers.
On the policy side, Ryder advocated for regulations to protect the city’s water supply and helped gain the enactment of stormwater laws that help keep the city water supply untainted from roadway and building uses.
Ryder enjoys the partnerships that are a constant part of her endeavors.
“All of this work happens as a team,” she said. “I have been part of many successful teams to achieve what we have accomplished.”
After more than a quarter century at her post, she remains thrilled to be there.
“I love my job because I feel as if I’m contributing to something that will last for generations, protecting land, making it accessible to people and wildlife,” she said. “We are all connected and the more we appreciate and respect the wonders of nature, the more we can protect it…”