PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
State Department of Conservation and Recreation park interpreter Matthew Nash uses antlers to describe wildlife frequenting Belle Isle Marsh on the edge of Revere.
BY THOR JOURGENSEN
REVERE — It’s a quiet place of wind-swept grass and winding paths, but a state conservation expert and a Belle Isle Marsh volunteer said the 350-acre wetland also protects surrounding communities from storms.
Located off Bennington Street, between East Boston and Revere, the marsh acts like a giant sponge to soak up tidal surges and blunts the punch delivered by big storms to coastal communities.
“It helps stem the tides and minimize storm damages,” said Friends of Belle Isle Marsh volunteer Gail Miller.
Like state Department of Conservation and Recreation park interpreter Matthew Nash, Miller is drawn to the marsh by its solitude and species of animals and birds. Belle Isle attracts coyotes, rabbits and Nash said it is “a big stopover point for migratory birds.”
Snowy Owls attracted to the vast expanses of Logan Airport also enjoy Belle Isle, partly because of the 13 acres of “upland meadow habitat” in the marsh. Nash and a DCR seasonal park supervisor Sean Riley guide tour groups through Belle Isle and take time to explain to students and visitors how rabbits supplement any winter food they find by eating pine cones and bark.
Riley and Nash also explain to young visitors how the marsh is an environmental success story with environmentalists and state workers converting a former dump and drive-in movie location to a wildlife refuge and outdoor classroom.
“It shows them it is important for kids to become good stewards of our planet,” Nash said.
Revere Seacoast High School Principal Thomas Misci said Belle Isle has served as a star-gazing location for the school’s students and a track and field training site. Miller would like to see more students touring and studying the marshland.
“We try to engage them as much as we can. It’s a phenomenal resource,” she said.
Beachmont School is located within sight of Belle Isle and Nash said students from Revere, Boston and other communities enjoy hearing him talk about marsh wildlife.
“I involve them, rather than lecture to them. I want them to become the expert,” he said.
Thor Jourgensen can be reached at [email protected].