McGaw Park Management Project

McGaw Park is a community park and is the largest park in the City of Fitchburg. It is a very popular park for recreational purposes, hosting four lighted softball diamonds, one youth ball field, one lacrosse field, four youth soccer fields, 8 pickleball courts, a shelter with restrooms & 3 electrical outlets, picnic tables, two tennis courts, four volleyball courts (2 sand, 2 grass), basketball court, play equipment, a bike/pedestrian path, three parking areas, and landscaping. We are in the process of implementing a natural resources management plan at McGaw Park with hopes to elevate it to perform at a higher level as a community park, offering more value to park visitors, wildlife, and future generations.

McGaw entrance
Desired Future Condition map of McGaw Park
A map of the desired future conditions for the natural areas of McGaw Park and Seymour Johnson Park. There are sections being managed as an Oak Savanna plant community, and others being managed as an Oak Woodland plant community.

Desired Future Condition:

McGaw Community Park and Seymour Johnson Neighborhood Park host plant communities within the prairie-oak continuum, such as tallgrass prairie, oak savanna, and oak woodland, to the extent possible within the limitations associated with its size, surrounding land use, and the available resources. Non-native species abundance is minimized to protect and encourage native flora and fauna. Visitors to the natural areas of the parks have safe, educational, and recreational opportunities that enhance their understanding of the cultural and natural history of the McGaw and S.C. Johnson Park lands.

  • Goal 1: McGaw Community Park and Seymour Johnson Neighborhood Park host plant communities within the prairie-oak continuum.
  • Goal 2: Multiple opportunities for education and recreation are provided to park visitors.
  • Goal 3: Impacts to adjoining landowners are minimized.
  • Goal 4: Utilize external funding and partnerships.

Management Actions:

Large legacy oak trees dominate the canopy in wooded sections of the park, however tree regeneration in McGaw Park has been extraordinarily low due to the considerable density of invasive species, lack of seed sources in the canopy, and limited light level at the ground level. Prevalence of invasive species have threatened the long-term status of the park as a woodlot.

With this in mind, the focus of natural resources management in the past few years has been on invasive species control. Dedicated volunteers have been helping to maintain the woods by removing invasive, persistent shrubs such as honeysuckle and buckthorn. By removing these species, we give native tree and understory species a better chance to regenerate.

We are making headway -- slowly but surely! See below pictures of our progress and some of the native species that have cropped up as a result. Take a walk through McGaw Park's natural areas to see what native plants you can find!

lead plant - McGaw Park
Lead plant
McGaw Park Entrance - prairie burn
McGaw Park Entrance after a controlled burn
McGaw prairie plants
Rattlesnake master, pale purple coneflowers, and black-eyed Susans
stiff spike gayfeather - McGaw Park
Stiff spike gayfeather
pale purple coneflower - McGaw Park
shooting star - McGaw Park
milkweed with monach larvae - McGaw Park

Pale purple coneflowers

Shooting star

Common milkweed with a monarch larvae

Additional Documents:

  • McGaw Park Master Plan: crafted by public input, this plan was adopted by the City of Fitchburg in January 2012. It is a template for future park use and facility improvements and serves as a long-term vision for the park. One of the main aspects of this plan was instructing the City to implement a woodlot management plan.
  • McGaw Park Forest Management Plan: developed and recommended by the Parks Commission in December 2016 based on the guidance of the McGaw Park Master Plan. It includes a summary of existing conditions of the land, the regional context of the property, desired future conditions, land management objectives, and forest stewardship recommendations.
  • McGaw Park Neighborhood Plan: analyzes the natural resources environment, parks and open space, transportation and connectivity, stormwater management and utilities, land use, and integration with existing areas.

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