Special to The Advocate
Malden resident Karen Buck, who serves as the volunteer president of the nonprofit organization Friends of the Malden River (FoMR), was recently recognized as a 2023 Commonwealth Heroine. She was nominated for this honor by State Senator Jason Lewis. Each year Commonwealth Heroines are recognized in a special ceremony at the Massachusetts State House. The initiative is run by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women and recognizes extraordinary women who make unsung contributions to improve their communities.
Karen’s first involvement with urban waters began in 1987 with New York’s Hudson River, where she volunteered with the Hudson River Sloop Clear Water Initiative. When she moved to Malden in 2004, she continued her environmental work by volunteering for the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) and teaching in Malden Public Schools’ afterschool clubs and programs, where she mixed in environmental education, gardening and team projects. In 2012, MyRWA and Tri-City Community Action Program formed FoMR, of which Karen was an early and active member. Karen currently serves as the FoMR president.
In her time volunteering with MyRWA, Karen participated in invasive species removal, monthly water quality sampling, seasonal herring and American eel counting, and community outreach. Under her leadership, FoMR has organized the “Trash Free Malden River Initiative,” countless community cleanups, river events and other environmental advocacy. Karen has also been instrumental in pursuing the Malden River Trash Trap, which prevents street litter from entering the Malden and Mystic Rivers, and the exciting Malden River Works project to increase equitable public access to the Malden River and improve climate resilience.
“Malden River Works Equitable Resilient Waterfront Park Project is a brilliant example of a collaborative project for the health of a community and its urban river, in addition to climate resiliency for a municipality,” said Buck. “Since the seeding of Malden River Works in 2019 by the MIT Leventhal Advanced Urbanism Prize, our mission has been to reach out to residents in an engaging way. To accomplish the equitable piece of this project, the Massachusetts Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program has been essential for this work and the state has recognized our efforts. Now, the MVP program will invest in the construction of our city’s dream of an Equitable and Resilient Waterfront Park behind a newly engineered Malden City Yard. Malden River Works will be an example of how green infrastructure projects can convert wasteland into productive and inviting climate resiliency spaces that will be enjoyed by all members of the community. I am honored to join a cadre of women who make a difference in Massachusetts through grassroots efforts. This heartfelt work stems from the love of community and the need for preservation and restoration of our localities. These women are incredible role models for our youth. I thank Senator Lewis for recognizing my piece of environmental work for our community. Recognition of efforts empowers people to continue their work and inspires others to follow their passions.”
“I was thrilled to nominate Karen for this special recognition and to lift up the incredible work of the Friends of the Malden River and the Malden River Works project,” said Sen. Lewis. “Karen is the quintessential unsung heroine, from inspiring and leading others to engage in environmental activism to spending a Saturday morning quietly picking up trash from the banks of the Malden River.”