DCR Puts Full-Time Worker to Watch Belle Isle Marsh

By Sue Ellen Woodcock

Sean Riley

To those who frequent the Belle Isle Marsh Reservation Sean Riley is just the person needed to make sure the marsh thrives and that it remains the great resource that it is.

Riley, a DCR Forest and Park Supervisor, will be working full-time at the marsh for the next six months. He’ll work on habitat management, trash, tree work and manage invasive species around the 350 acre marsh, which includes Revere, Winthrop and East Boston.

Belle Isle Marsh is the only salt water urban marsh in Massachusetts and it is considered an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), a state designated area that receives special attention due to natural and cultural resources. The marsh is also classified as an Important Bird Area (IBA).

As part of his job, Riley will help track and monitor various bird species. One thing that is making it unlivable for other species is the invasive plant life such as fragmites, japanese knotweed, purple loose strife and honeysuckle. Trees also need to be managed.

“Conifers need to be salt tolerant and those include juniper, red cedar and pitch pine,” Riley said.

Riley has been with the DCR for three and a half years, starting as a park ranger working with shore birds. At Belle Isle Marsh Riley is now overseeing the habit of over 270 species of birds including snowy owls.

“This is a shore bird migration route in the spring and the fall,” Riley said.

Riley said he plans on bringing back nature programs and other community engagement activities such as canoeing in the marsh and a photography class. The marsh is teaming with activity with horse shoe crabs, alewife, coyotes, fisher cat, red fox, deer and Eastern cottontail.

“In the summer we see 200 people a day using the marsh,” Riley said, adding the area attracts birdwatchers and families. “This is an unbelievable birding habitat.”

He enjoys seeing people use the area as a natural resource. Prior to coming on board at the marsh Jeff Wood served for 20 years as a naturalist at the reservation.

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