Bob La Trémouille and Marilyn Wellons joined forces in 2001 to create Friends of the White Geese, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the Charles River geese and their habitat from future government destruction.
Their first attempt to raise awareness consisted of newsletters and flyers around the city of Cambridge that voiced out the government’s plans for a futuristic city that didn’t include the geese.
Today, the organization is trying to embrace modern approaches to raise awareness. Online tools have replaced the newsletters that once educated people on the issue. Through their website, Friends of the White Geese, and a Facebook group, Charles River White Geese, these co-workers are still going strong.
Friends of the White Geese has a website containing updated pictures, useful links to outside sources, historical facts about the geese and a blog, which is updated regularly by La Trémouille and Wellons.
“We have posted a lot of reports showing the damage,” La Trémouille said.
La Trémouille said the blog, containing more than 400 posts, replaced their former newsletter, which reached about 1,300 members.
In addition to the website, they have a newly created Facebook group called Charles River White Geese.
Its creator, Nick Cheung, a Maine native, created the group after becoming interested in the Friends of the White Geese cause.
He contacted La Trémouille, who agreed to the creation of the group in attempts to spread their mission.
“I haven’t visited the geese personally, but check in on their blog,” Cheung said. He handed administrative rights to La Trémouille, who became a group administrator.
The group has 72 members and has a wide variety of pictures people can enjoy. Additionally, there are numerous links with information on the geese, as well as updated wall posts, mostly written by La Trémouille himself.
“The Facebook page has complemented the blog to a certain extent. It’s possible to put up a lot more photos,” La Trémouille said.
John Tyson, a Cambridgeport resident and Facebook group member, has been active in Friends of the White Geese since La Trémouille and Wellons started to raise awareness.
Tyson, who says the Facebook group has been active for one or two years, has been following the group’s progress through the regularly, updated information.
“They’re certainly getting the message out,” said Tyson, who educates himself on petitions and new information through the Facebook page and the blog.
“I make some contributions; I’ve signed some petitions sometimes and I try to vote for candidates who are supporting the geese’s cause,” Tyson said. “I think it’s an important, immediate neighborhood thing we can do.”
But, the neighborhood is under construction these days. On the Boston University Bridge, which overlooks Magazine Beach and connects Boston with Cambridge, massive construction is taking place where peaceful, beautiful scenery was once enjoyed by the Charles River geese that have lived in the area for over 25 years, grazing at Magazine Beach and nesting in a nearby meadow.
Officials introduced the geese in the 1980s to guard the area between the beach’s playing fields and the bridge. The geese have survived for generations, but for many years now, their habitat has been repeatedly destroyed by local agencies working on behalf of “environmentalism” and “animal-friendly” approaches.
State projects around Magazine Beach have ultimately confined the geese to one area: what was once their nesting area during the spring. They can no longer graze on the beach and the Department of Conservation and Recreation, DCR, and the Cambridge City Council have destroyed their habitat year after year.
“Everybody I spoke to was unanimous in the agreement that they wouldn’t be so irresponsible,” said La Trémouille, Friends of the White Geese co-chair .
The DCR denied any intent to hurt the geese, but their actions proved to be inaccurate. They destroyed vegetation needed by migrating waterfowl and starved the geese in 2004 by introducing a vegetation blocking at the foot of the beach, avoiding geese from coming ashore to feed on the grass.
Moreover, their nesting area was fenced until 1999, when the DCR opened it for human access. La Trémouille said, “they created concrete stairs opening up to human beings what had previously been for nature.”
Nowadays, those rusty, old concrete stairs lead to the goose meadow, a small place where the geese are currently confined and where Wellons, co-chair of the organization, feeds them corn and apples.
“The geese are still being harassed and their lives are being made very difficult, but the fact that they are still on the river and people still enjoy them and visit them is an incredible achievement given the odds when we started,” Wellons concluded.
Kathryn Podgers, who works alongside Friends of the White Geese, would like more people to become involved in protecting the wildlife habitat.
She has also sought the help of online tools to raise awareness. Her blog, Captain’s Island, is not updated very regularly, but has information on environmental issues around the city.
“I started a blog for the purpose of highlighting and informing folks of what the challenge is of preserving and protecting wildlife habitat in the city is,” Podgers said.
Other environmental organizations in the area are also trying to take advantage of online tools because information reaches more people in a faster and more effective way.
Alexandra Smith, operations manager at “e”-inc, a Boston- based science learning & action center whose pairing of science education with community action leads to environmental change in urban communities, said their organization is attempting to raise awareness through online tools, such as their website, Facebook and Twitter.
“We just actually got a Twitter page a few months ago. I’ve been trying to update all our constituents of everything that’s going on with the organization and it seems to be helping,” said Smith, who admits the organization has not taken full advantage of the effectiveness of social media
Smith also said that other environmental organizations have been following them on Twitter, something that can certainly be helpful. Their Facebook group has photo albums, links to outside sources and events. Smith said they mostly use it to promote upcoming activities.
For now, Friends of the White Geese continues to expand through social media tools. Every day, more people join the Facebook group in hopes of creating conscience about environmental issues that seem to be unnoticed.
The organization that once raised awareness by handing out flyers is spicing it up. Hopefully, an online spin will help them make more noise than ever before.