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It’s muddy up at Hamlin Crossing this time of year.

Not as bad as in the spring, but the raised walkways the Buzzards Bay Coalition have installed are helpful.

Hamlin Crossing is the latest addition to the Acushnet River Reserve, which the coalition has been assembling for seven or eight years.

The goal is to protect the headlands of the river and thus help the water quality of the whole river. The goal is to give people a new place where they can get outside and enjoy the bay, according to longtime coalition President Mark Rasmussen. Mark could easily also have said the goal is to allow the city and suburban folks to enjoy a natural woodlands and an unspoiled river view.

A quick trip up to the Acushnet hinterlands on Saturday had me enjoying what I discovered is a natural bird habitat a 10 minute drive from downtown New Bedford.

As the woods meets the meadow at the nine-acre preserve is a nesting area. In the low-angled November sun the blue jays and robins were in and out. I waited a few minutes and there was some sort of woodpecker with a red head knocking away.

It’s amazing. You’re almost never out of view of a suburban house at Hamlin Crossing but all the while you’re there, you feel like you’re in some sort of remote pastoral woods, the babbling early stream of the Acushnet gently gurgling at your side. Before the coalition restored the property it was littered with trash and abandoned cars.

In the late 19th century, visionaries such as Frederick Law Olmstead built the first great urban parks like the Emerald Necklace in Boston’s Back Bay and Jamaica Plain. Now, another generation of visionaries are building a new system of urban and suburban green spaces that are wilder, more natural, but just as important as urban parks like Buttonwood and Brooklawn. On the SouthCoast, one of those green spaces is the Acushnet River Reserve.

A hundred years from now, the creation of the local Emerald Necklace at the head of the Acushnet may be seen as one of the great local achievements of our era. Before accomplishing Hamlin Crossing, the coalition had already created The Sawmill and LaPalme Farm conservation areas at nearby parcels of open space, also along the headlands of the Acushnet.

The Sawmill is a highly accessible, beautiful preserve with a roaring fish ladder at its center. It’s already become a popular walking spot for South Coast families. LaPalme farm is more isolated, even wilder. Further down the river are other restored areas.

At the first part of the 21st century, suburban sprawl has conquered vast swaths of our land in eastern Massachusetts. But in this quieter corner of the Bay State, significant tracts of land from Dartmouth to Mattapoisett, from the Fall River/Freetown line to Wareham are being reclaimed, set aside and more is being preserved all the time.

The coalition is banking land to prevent additional sewage and the related nitrogen problems from despoiling Buzzards Bay. But the wonderful benefit of this work is the terrific conservation areas that have begun to spring up throughout the region. Acushnet townspeople have generously devoted Community Preservation act funds to protect this particular space.

The light blue and black Buzzards Bay signs are becoming more common across the region, welcoming people to protected land, informing them why it is important, and asking them to respect it.

It’s a good thing. We’re learning more about how to protect our natural resources, how to use them for our benefit and enjoy them. This is an important and exciting time for SouthCoast and the region of the future that we’re building.

Jack Spillane is the Sunday and editorial page editor of The Standard-Times and SouthCoastToday.

The Buzzards Bay region is home to hundreds of places where you can explore the outdoors. Head to a park or conservation area and take to the trails on a hike through fields, forests, and salt marshes. Hit the beach on a sunny summer afternoon, or launch your boat into the water for a fun […]