Friday, June 9, 2006
After 20 years, Great Brook's Ray Faucher moves on
Congratulations are in order for Ray Faucher, who has stepped down from his post as superintendent of Great Brook Farm State Park to accept a promotion within the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). As of June 5, he has taken over the newly created position of District Manager in the DCR's Atlantic District. The change comes as part of an administrative move that aims to improve communication between the field and headquarters.
The Atlantic District is the largest of three new groupings within the Northeast Region and includes Salisbury Beach, Sandy Point Reservation on Plum Island, Halibut Point in Rockport, Maudalay's State Park in Newburyport, Howard Parker State Park in Ipswich, Lawrence Heritage Park, plus a number of small reservations. The remaining two districts are designated as Metro West and Great Brook, the latter made up of Willard Brook State Park, Walden Pond, Lowell Heritage Park and Great Brook itself. Fifteen-year Great Brook veteran Dennis Marchand will serve as Interim Superintendent of Great Brook Farm Park pending further DCR appointments.
The Mosquito was anxious to interview the new District Manager at his Old North Road residence, and we were pleased to learn that Ray and his family can continue to make their home there. Since he is just starting the new assignment, Faucher was not yet ready to discuss it, but we found him very comfortable reminiscing about his active 20-year stint at Great Brook.
Much has changed since Faucher arrived in 1986
The story began in January of 1986 when the former supervisor at Willard Brook State Park took the job of rejuvenating a decidedly limited operation. There was an active cross-country skiing program but no park interpreter, an inactive farm and an annual attendance of 23,000. He and his sole assistant, Lowell Litchfield, had to bring order to the land and trails and clean out the barn, which had been serving as a catchall for "stuff" from all over the area. Of prime importance was planning and implementing an active farm program. He served on the committee that selected farmer Mark Duffy to bring a genuine dairy operation to the old farmstead.
Faucher considers the most enduring image from all his years at the park to be the sight of Mark Duffy's cows being unloaded from carriers and installed in the barn in July of 1987. "The park came to life that day," he recalls. "I even helped deliver a calf." He went on to give Mark and his wife Tamma high credit for helping put the park on the map, pointing out that Duffy's professionalism has made him a "power" in agricultural matters in the state. While most public farm parks are run by their state governments, Duffy is probably unique in conducting a commercial operation.
As the farm program took hold, the trail network was being expanded from seven miles to 20 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian paths, with help from area organizations such as the New England Mountain Bike Association, the Old North Bridge Hounds (now Equestrians) and the local Friends of the Park organized by Al Peckham, George Senkler, Dick and Caroline Shohet and Philip Keyes. A farm interpreter was lent to them for two years, but then was removed and not replaced until 1994, and then only as a part-time position. The present interpreter, Rebecca Markey, was hired part-time in the year 2000 to organize tours and work with school groups.
About 140,000 visits per year
In the period from 1987 to the mid 1990s, attendance rose to a high of 223,000 during the Pig and Pepper years, and stabilized at 120,000 to 160,000 thereafter. Faucher noted with pride that his long-term goals, which had included improved parking space away from the deteriorating pond, environmentally and aesthetically pleasing landscaping, modern facilities and year-round flush toilets were realized by 2002.
Great Brook offers region both recreation and education
Asked about what he sees as the value of Great Brook Farm State Park to this part of the state, Faucher becomes even more animated, pointing first to the recreational opportunities offered to the predominantly high tech bedroom communities. "This is a great place to unwind, leave the stress behind and relax with or without the kids," he said. He also observed that the farm offers something the youngsters cannot get otherwise, "a basic knowledge of where a glass of milk actually comes from." Last, but not least, he cited the purpose behind the original farmer/owner Farnham Smith's determination to preserve open space or as he put it, "to produce a piece of Maine in Massachusetts."
One program that Faucher has been working to expand is close interaction with local educators or, as first proposed by Peckham, "agriculture in the classroom." This effort to "place Great Brook in the curriculum" is already producing pre- and post-tour packages for classes scheduled to visit the farm. Faucher says he has carried on a steady campaign to convince his superiors that the Park Interpreter program is important enough to make it a year-round activity. To date he has gotten it up to eight months of the year.
Faucher traveled far before Great Brook
Talk about education led us to ask what had inspired young Faucher to make the outdoors his profession. "I think it came naturally," he said: "As a kid in Shrewsbury, I was always outdoors — tramping through the woods, splashing along streams, turning over rocks to see what was underneath and wishing I knew the names of all the plants and animals." After high school he traveled to far-off places, like India and Nepal. Finally settling down, he worked at Bigelow Nurseries in Northborough for a few years before enrolling in the Stockbridge Agricultural School at UMass with a major in agriculture and park management.
A new barn planned for Great Brook
Toward the end of the interview, Faucher turned to what may be ahead at Great Brook Farm. He said that he has submitted a plan to the Department of Conservation Resources to get funding for a new free-stall barn that would allow visitors to get a more intimate farm experience. The new facility would be located directly behind the historic old barn, which might be turned into a nursery, and would permit Duffy to expand his highly productive but currently restricted operation.
Faucher's final comment on his years at Great Brook concerned maintenance of what he termed "an atmosphere of unity," or specifically furthering understanding between the many different user groups, each of which needs to realize that they are not the only ones there. "We respect all visitors and actively encourage them to respect each other," he concluded.
© 2006 The