About our Maps

For some 70 years since the US Military’s take over of 6000 acres in 1942 for the war effort, maps designated the Assabet River Refuge area as “US Military Reserve”. Despite the declaration of 2,200 acres in 2000 as Assabet River NWR under the US FWS, even a decade later in 2010, maps did not indicate the Refuge existed.


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As Friends worked hard to publicize the newest National Wildlife Refuge in the Eastern Mass Complex, the out-dated label on the maps was a real deterrent to welcoming the public. When Friends attempted to contact the Sudbury Town Offices and State mapping agencies we were informed that the base maps must be updated by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the only agency authorized to update maps. It is a hierarchical process and it is only after the federal agency has updated the maps, State and Town authorities will follow suit.

The USGS is the nation's largest water, earth, and biological science and civilian mapping agency, that collects, monitors, analyzes, and provides scientific information about natural resource conditions, issues, and problems With the opening of the Visitor Center scheduled for 2010, Friends made a renewed effort to have

the maps updated to indicate our Refuge. With the support of Libby Herland, the Complex Manager for the Eastern Mass. NWR Complex, in February 2009, Friends’ board member Neela de Zoysa took on the task of contacting the USGS.

Inquiries were made via ASK-USGS@usgs.gov help line by Jan Wright, Friends’ member and Neela de Zoysa also contacted the Chief Cartographer for the FWS, Doug Vandegraft with help from the Friends' News Wire. Friends learned that "until recently the USGS maintained a "correction folio" that was consulted whenever a map due for revision. Reports would be investigated and if valid would appear on the revised map. Due to lack of budget and staff to keep track of 54,000 sheets current, the correction folio has been abandoned. The standard series of printed maps will be replaced by a seamless digital database consisting of 8 geographic layers that will be continually updated. When federal, state, and local government information is sent in, the maps are updated accordingly.

Friends contacted the USGS’s New England Partnership Office in Northborough MA and made a strong case for the urgency of updating the maps. Friends were helped by Lynn C. Bjorklund to identify the necessary steps. On March 9, 2009 Refuge parameters were sent in to the Board of Geographic Names (BGN). The New England Partnership office is part of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI), which deals with sharing of geospatial data throughout all levels of government, the private and non-profit sectors, and the academic community. (For more information see: www.fgdc.gov/nsdi/nsdi.html/).

While waiting for the USGS to update base maps, Friends decided to do our own series of maps. These were for each town ARNWR is located in and showed the Refuge in relation to the size of the town and conservation areas in each town. This enables the town folks to see the Refuge in perspective. In towns such as Maynard and Stow the Refuge is a large portion of the town lands. While in Sudbury, there is also the Great Meadows NWR. The last of this series of maps shows conservation areas and open spaces within a five mile radius around the visitor center and provides a bird’s eye view of trails in the area. This map also indicates the distance and connections to the major hiking trails such as the Assabet River Rail Trail which runs along the northern edge of the Refuge and is about 5 miles by trail and road from the visitor center. Further north is the Stow Emerald Necklace, consisting properties owned by the Stow Conservation Trust which is only a 3 mile walk by trails and White Pond Road. South of the Refuge is the Bay Circuit Trail which is 6 miles by trail and road and immediately south of the South Section of the Refuge is Sudbury Valley Trustees’ Memorial Forest, DCR’s Marlboro Sudbury Conservation Land the Town of Sudbury’s Hop Brook Reservation.

Jill Phelps Kern, a hiker and cartographer who lives in Stow designed the maps for us which havve been very popular and helpful at public events and frequently downloaded from our website. Jill is the well known author of “Hiking the SuAsCo Watershed” the only comprehensive guidebook for exploring the woods and waters of the Sudbury, Assabet and Concord Rivers.

In the summer of 2011, Friends talked to State Senator Eldridge for some help with the matter of updating the maps. The Senator’s office was in touch with USGS as well. Finally in the summer and fall of 2011 Assabet River Refuge began to appear in Google maps for the first time.

It has been quite a steep learning experience to get to know the sheer complexity of map making and bureaucracy that goes along with it. Friends are pleased to have had a hand in speeding up the process of putting the Refuge on the maps.

Contact: info@farnwr.org