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Thanks to some hardy volunteers, we established the planned Pommogussett Tunnel murals along the rail trail in Rutland. Christy Barnes, representing Wachusett Greenways, organized volunteer hours and the professional skills of Clayton Johansen, to accomplish the priming of the tunnel walls in September. This was done thoroughly, with two coats of primer. Many thanks, team!

      It’s an interesting challenge, painting educational murals in a tunnel. We had a very wet summer, in 2023, and the tunnel area had Route 56 road construction, as well. In the tunnel, the cement walls hold the chilly temperatures of autumn, while the humidity in warm summer air can wreak havoc with the paints, if they do not dry. We had wonderful good fortune on the priming timing, and those surfaces are doing very well.

     Similarly, we had outstanding good luck with our first coats of colors, to create the scenes of wetlands and seasons.  Artist Margaret McCandless combined science research and the joy of teaching nature information to children. Alison Stevenson and Christy Barnes joined Margaret to paint both walls of the tunnel, and establish full imagery the full length of the tunnel, on both sides. The Pommogussett Tunnel murals now feature summer, autumn, winter, spring, summer again, and a hint of the next autumn, as well.

     “We design the flow of mural scenery so that winter is in the middle of the tunnel, where that largely-white landscape reflects the maximum amount of ambient light,” Margaret reports. This can be seen in the Charnock Hill Tunnel murals, as well, which were painted in 2021 and 2022.

     The indigenous word “Pommogussett” is reported to mean “beautiful area where the waters meet and spread widely,” or lovely wetlands. Thus, the murals on each side feature lovely wetlands, including swamp and marsh flowers, shrubs, open water, and water-dependent trees, with the attendant animal life that thrives in these microbiomes. On the Pommogussett Tunnel south wall, passersby can see floating bogs, water lilies, dragon flies, beaver lodges, and the surrounding hills.  On the facing wall, the north mural shows a similar landscape in cross-section, so viewers can see the fish who dwell below the floating bogs, and beavers swimming to their underwater lodge-entrance. The cross-section mural depicts water lilies with their roots reaching down to the pond bottom; and floating bog plants whose roots remain in the wet matrix, afloat.  Mallards nest atop one beaver lodge; while another reveals the inside view of beaver life in the winter. We plan to continue painting details in 2024, when the weather is warm enough for our paint to stick and to dry.

     For support in making these murals, we continue to thank EJ’s Painting, Nal’s Paints, the Rutland Cultural Council, the Paxton Cultural Council, the Holden Cultural Council, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the volunteers and membership of Wachusett Greenways. Please celebrate their donations by visiting the Pommogussett Tunnel, and viewing the murals with children and adults, friends and family. It’s another colorful step, as Wachusett Greenways provides outdoor education opportunities.