On Jan. 20, the Massachusetts Municipal Association announced the three winners of the MMA’s annual Kenneth Pickard Innovation Award during its 44th Annual Meeting & Trade Show.

The award is named in honor of Kenneth Pickard, the executive secretary of the Massachusetts League of Cities and Towns from 1969 to 1973. This year’s awards were judged by Adam Chapdelaine, the deputy director of the Boston Green Ribbon Commission and the former town manager in Arlington.

Here are this year’s winning applications:

two firefighters stand on a roof with a ladder next to them, a church steeple in the background.

Using data analysis, Foxborough officials have reduced their firefighters’ use of PFAS-embedded turnout gear. (Photo courtesy town of Foxborough)

Using data analysis, Foxborough limits firefighters’ PFAS exposure
The health risks of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as “forever chemicals,” have become well known to municipalities in recent years, but firefighters continue to use PFAS-embedded gear until the industry can develop an effective replacement for the gear’s moisture barrier. In the meantime, in order to lessen PFAS exposure for firefighters, the town of Foxborough and the Southeastern Massachusetts Regional 911 District is using 911 call data analysis to determine which incidents actually required the use of full PFAS-embedded turnout gear, and limiting the use of that gear to only the most hazardous calls. Based on historical data, the town believes the change could lead to a nearly 60% reduction in PFAS exposure to firefighters through their choice of gear. Because officials relied on existing software at the emergency communications center, the policy change had no additional costs for Foxborough.

Careful planning, community engagement shape Medfield State Hospital redevelopment
In 2014, the town of Medfield bought 128 acres of the old Medfield State Hospital property, and the purchase presented the community with both an opportunity and a challenge: What would be the best way to develop this property to benefit the community without detracting from Medfield’s overall character? Over the past decade, the town has undertaken an extensive planning process, studying the property, engaging a diverse group of stakeholders, and launching a robust community outreach program to determine the property’s future. When its efforts are complete, Medfield expects to have 334 new apartments (25% of which will be affordable), an arts and culture facility, and open space on the property, while preserving historic buildings and netting an estimated $700,000 annually in additional tax revenue for the town.

a red and white sign is posted to a tree trunk in a forest

Stockbridge relied on tree experts and GPS mapping to help protect old-growth trees in the Ice Glen forest from invasive pests. (Photo courtesy Patrick White)

Stockbridge uses GPS mapping, local expertise to save old-growth trees
When the town of Stockbridge learned that its beloved, centuries-old hemlock and ash trees faced death within the next few years, officials and residents acted quickly to protect the trees from invasive insects. The town brought in experts and used GPS technology to map about 450 trees in Ice Glen, one of the state’s largest old-growth forests. Within two months, the town developed a plan to treat the trees, receiving more than 90% support at Stockbridge’s annual Town Meeting in 2021. Led by Town Administrator Michael Canales and the town’s Agricultural and Forestry Commission, Stockbridge’s quick response has helped save many of the old-growth trees in a forest that has been central to the town’s identity and history. Ice Glen has captured the imagination of literary giants such as Herman Melville, who referenced the forest in “Moby Dick.”