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The Friends of Hemlock Gorge

Archived News Stories


Some of the News stories that we have featured are archived here. They are being kept to give a sense of how various issues have evolved and been resolved. News about the adelgids is extensive and archived as a collection elsewhere. Click here to go to the adelgid archive.

1999 2000 2001
2002 2003 2004
2005 2006 2007
2008 2009 2010
2011 2012 2013
2014 2015 2016
2017    
     

2014

 


2013

Friends' Summer Picnic

The 2013 summer picnic took place Tuesday August 6 from 6 p.m. to dusk at Hamilton Place, off Central Avenue/Elliot Street, Needham, MA. There was music by Broken Rose, courtesy of Karen Osborn Shanley, a grill, and absolutely perfect weather. Bonnie Pearson got everything organized, Brian gave a speech, and everyone left full of inspiration and memories of good food, good friendship, and fun by the Charles River.

Congratulations to Site Supervisor Erica Aubin and her husband on the birth of their daughter Mallory Joyce Aubin on March 24!


2012

Fall Cleanup

The Friends of Hemlock Gorge’s Annual Fall Cleanup was on Saturday October 27, 9 to Noon. and it was a huge success. We had more then two dozen volunteers, including many from the Upper Falls Buddhist Temple.  Materials and tools were supplied for all volunteers. Refreshments were again generously provided after the clean up by Seana Gaherin. For a photo album of the event when available click here.

Spillway Dam Repair News (June)

Pre-construction meeting was held April 3 with Site Superviser Erica Aubin.  The tentative schedule is to put up the safety fencing early during the second week of April (Mon/Tues) and begin construction shortly after.  The Ellis Street/Route 9 corner will be fenced off through early July when the project is expected to be finished.  We may get a better timeline as things go along.  There are stakes out right now to show where the safety fence will be going.

Mitigation plantings will be going in as soon as possible (planting season).  They will be in the second field along Ellis Street and on the Newton side of Cook Bridge across from Hamilton Place, down from the parking lot at the office park.  There are some stakes up marking the planting sites now.  The mitigation plantings around the new spillway will be put in at the end of the project.  The construction crew will be using Ellis street as little as possible (driving heavy trucks, etc) and won't be using Ellis Street or the Route 9 off ramp for parking.  There shouldn't be much disturbance to the residents outside of the park.

Questions should be directed to DCR public outreach.  Bill Gode is securing that information for Erica and she will pass it along to the Friends when she gets it.

Friends' Summer Picnic

The 2012 summer picnic took place Tuesday August 7 from 6 p.m. to dusk at Hamilton Place, off Central Avenue/Elliot Street, Needham, MA. There was a huge crown, music by Broken Rose, courtesy of Karen Osborn Shanley, a grill that got a lot of use, and absolutely perfect weather. Bonnie Pearson got everything organized, Brian gave a speech, the folks up for election stayed away, and everyone left full of inspiration and memories of good food, good friendship, and fun by the Charles River.

 


2011

Your government at work: Keeping you away from nature

Citing statutory "interests," the Newton Conservation Commission has closed the hiking trail along the Charles River just downstream from Hemlock Gorge in Waban. Near the river with views of aquatic wildlife, the narrow trail had been enjoyed by residents for many decades. The Conservators have replaced it with a newly blazed trail four feet wide that features views of Quinobequin Road. It is not yet clear what what perils have been averted, what has been protected, or what benefits will accrue to society as a result of this action.

To learn more, see an opinion article and accompanying blog by FoHG member Jerry Reilly and a front page news article, both in the Newton Tab. Friends' President Brian Yates is actively studying the matter and bringing it before the Newton Board of Aldermen.

A rebuttal by the Newton Conservators' Judith Hepburn, a resident of Waban where the trail is located, can be found by clicking here.


FoHG member Lee Fisher has responded to Ms. Hepburn in a letter sent to the editor of the Newton Tab:

Dear Ms. Gotsis,

     The irony of Judith Hepburn’s column on the Newton Conservation Commission’s decision on the Quinobequin Road walking trail is that she never explains the rationale for moving an old existing trail away from the riverside.  She explains in detail the history of wetlands protection, her legal authority to make the decision, and the process used to deny the landowner’s first proposal and force a modification.  But nowhere does she explain why the first DCR proposal caused damage to her statutory “interests.”

     The reader is left wondering if true risks to groundwater, wildlife habitat, and/or flood damage were avoided, or if in fact this ruling demonstrates the pendulum of floodplain protection swinging far from what informed common sense would conclude. 

    For example, on a fast moving river with high mud banks I believe the roots of riverside vegetation form an important role in erosion control and hence deserve to be protected from the soil compaction of trails.  But along this nearly flat stretch of the Charles, overgrown on the south end with thorny scrub brush and trees choked by massive poison ivy vines, no such impact can be imagined.  It is a jungle of competing vegetation with no riverbank erosion.

     I hear that the trailblazers were volunteers from the Student Conservation Association, a laudable group that helps organizations like the DCR improve parklands nation wide.  What is the lesson for them in building a roadside trail that few will want to use? 

    The public deserves an explanation from NCC of the reasoning behind this decision and reconsideration to allow DCR to keep the old trail open too.  After walking this area today to see the situation first hand, it appears that connecting the new higher trail with the old riverside trail could form a nice loop.  Completed in this manner, something good could come out of Jerry Reilly’s advocacy for this area – more people may come to enjoy this long-neglected asset and appreciate the success of our parkland and floodplain protection programs.


The municipal government's Newton Conservation Commission should not be confused with the volunteer Newton Conservators, who have a lovely page of photos of Hemlock Gorge. Click here to see them.

 

 

Jerry Reilly on the Waban Trail Closing

 

Reworked Quinobequin Road walking trails raises concerns

2011 June 16
by Greg Reibman

Newton Upper Falls resident Jerry Reilly has shared with us a letter he says he  sent to Newton Conservation Commission last Thursday. “[I] haven’t heard a thing, not even a we-received-your-note-and-we’ll-look-into-it response. ”

Dear Conservators,

I’m a resident of Upper Falls and quite often (at least a few times a week in good weather) walk the trails in the strip of woods between Quinnobequin Rd and the river. It’s a beautiful walk.

I was out there today and was bewildered to find the trail completely blocked with piles of freshly cut brush. After climbing around and through the blocked trail I came upon a very pleasant work crew who were doing trail work. I asked them what they were doing and they described in detail the trail work.

In a nutshell, they told me that they were moving the trail back from the water per instructions of the Newton Conservation Commission. They said that they had just finished cutting one portion of the new trail (starting about a 1/2 mil from Rt 9 heading N) and I could try it out. They also said they were going to be putting in a new trail from there up to Rt 9 that would be right inside the guardrail on Qunnobequin Rd.

I took them up on the offer and walked the new trail. The main difference between the two trails is that the old trail was a pleasant walk along the river. The new trail is a walk with no visibility of the river and never gets out of site of the busy Quinnobequin Rd. At points it veers a bit away from the road but never far enough to either give you a sense of being away from roads and never close enough to know that there’s a river near by.

Much worse is the apparent plan to replace one of the loveliest walks in Quinnobequin (the first 1/2 mile from Rt9) with a trail that sounds suspiciously like an unpaved side walk on a busy road.

Every aspect of this initiative had me completely mystified and appalled.

* It’s DCR park land intended for the enjoyment of the public. The essence of its appeal to the public is that it is alongside the river. With the new trail configuration the river might as well not exist.

* The other essential goal of parks is to give the public a respite from the busy world around us. With the new trails you’re never out of site of speeding traffic.

* In the name of “protecting the river” lots of tree’s are being cut, undergrowth disturbed, etc to build inferior trails to replace much better existing trails.

* With a fraction of the work from your hard working crew, the old trails could (and should) have been substantially improved with far less disruption to the park.

* “Protecting the river” – The only justification I’ve heard so far for this project is ridiculous on the face of it. The single best way to protect the river and the park is to encourage the citizenry to responsibly use the park. As soon as people begin using the park, they begin valuing and protecting it. This dynamic can be see over and over again in place after place. I was speaking to someone a few months ago who leads the annual clean up of Cutler Park. In the last 10 years or so, the DCR opened up a lot of that previously inaccessible wetlands on the river flood plain land with a few carefully placed foot bridges and some modest trail work. When they first opened it up they were hauling huge amounts of trash, everything from bottles and cups to refrigerators and abandoned cars. Now, with regular public use there’s no comparison, the situation has infinitely improved.

I can personally attest to this same dynamic. When I walk in Quinnobequin I bring a plastic bag with me and bring home any trash I find along the way.

Even more mystifying about the “protecting the river” rationale is that we are talking only about hiking on foot. What possible significant damage to the river do relatively small number of hikers on a river side trail pose? When you juxtapose those hikers with the thousands and thousands of cars that cross back and forth over the river a mile or two down stream, the idea of hiker damage to the river is laughable.

Please be clear that I both understand and support the general mission of the Conservation Commission. Probably more than the average person, I support and am involved with efforts to protect our ever dwindling and endangered natural resources. Probably the single biggest factor in my personal support of these efforts is due to my getting out into nature whenever I can. By blocking off the local neighbors access to the river rather than encouraging that access, I believe the Conservators are unwittingly undermining their own mission.

If they haven’t already, I would strongly urge all of the commissioners to walk the length of both the old and new Quinnobequin trails and then re-open and improve the old existing trails. I’d be happy to give you a guided tour if you like.

Sincerely
Jerry Reilly
Newton Upper Falls

 


Front Page News: Quinobiquin Road Trail Closing

Residents upset over new walking trail in Waban

Photos

PHOTO BY ALEX JONES

Ward 5 Alderman Deb Crossley and state Rep. Kay Khan, D- Newton, look at a walking trail off of Quinobequin Road in Upper Falls Friday afternoon.

By Chloe Gotsis/ Staff Writer
Posted Jun 28, 2011 @ 04:08 PM
Last update Jun 28, 2011 @ 05:59 PM
 

Local nature lovers were upset to discover this month that one of their favorite wooded strolling spots has been moved away from the Charles River and closer to the busy Quinobequin Road in Waban.

“What they’ve done is turn a walk in the woods into an unpaved sidewalk,” said Jerry Reilly, an Upper Falls resident, after discovering his favorite trail had been blocked off by brush.

“What a grotesque joke,” Marjorie Arons-Barron, who has been walking on the old trail for 30 years, said after discovering the trail was moved by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, under the approval of the Conservation Commission, to one farther up that is less in the woods and with little view of the Charles River.

 “The new trail is just a stone’s throw from Quinobequin Road traffic and has [a] decidedly urban feel to it as the cars whiz by,” Arons-Barron wrote on the Newton TAB blog. “The exit from the new trail onto the road occurs at a blind curve in the road, belching walkers into the oncoming traffic, with no advance warning to either.”

But while residents like Reilly and Arons-Barron are hoping the old trail can be restored, DCR says it is done working on the new trail and it has achieved its goal of making a clear designated path near the road and not in violation of flood plains.

“We have nothing else planned for the summer on that trail,” said SJ Port, spokeswoman for the DCR. “We wanted to make a clear and designated path that was not on the road but near the road and wasn’t on any flood plains and met the needs of that area and we think we’ve done that.”

Port said DCR started working on the trail late last April after Newton’s Conservation Commission approved its plan.

Anne Phelps, the city’s senior environmental planner, said DCR approved the commission with a plan to widen the existing trail in April. But Phelps said the commission asked DCR to come up with an alternative because the proposal encroached on wetlands and vegetative land.

DCR returned to the commission on April 29 with a revised plan to move the path farther up the slope to an area that didn’t border on any wetlands. The plan also cut down the walking path from the proposed 3-miles to 1.5 miles, Phelps said.

The commission’s job, Phelps said, is to protect the wetlands and abide by the Wetlands Protection Act, not to preserve walking trails used for recreation.

“The Wetlands Protection Act doesn’t actually have a provision for recreation,” she said. “The goal for the act is to protect these areas for a variety of resources but recreation isn’t one of them. There’s just nothing in the law that says if people want to build a trail that says that’s necessarily going to meet the goals of the act.”

Deb Crossley, a Ward 5 alderman, told the Newton TAB on a walking tour of the old and new trails, which are located near Hemlock Gorge, that she wants to see what the best “pathway that people can enjoy that won’t destroy the wetlands” is.

Reilly told the TAB that he took 15 residents on a walking tour of both trails last weekend, including Crossley and Alderman Brian Yates, and the majority of people said they preferred the old path over the new.

“The original path was along the river and as far [from the] road as possible in most places and you have the feeling you are walking in the woods in nature and you see the river,” Reilly said. “The new trails are mostly alongside the road and you can always see the road and the river might as well not exist.”

Staff writer Chloe Gotsis can be reached at 781-433-8333 or at cgotsis@wickedlocal.com


Hepburn: Wetlands protection and the Quinobequin Road walking trail

 

By Judith Hepburn/Guest Column
Posted Jun 29, 2011 @ 06:00 AM
 

In a recent op-ed article, the writer suggested his preference for a different outcome and a better process for the Conservation Commission’s approval of the walking trail along Quinobequin Road. We welcome this interest as well as the writer’s words of support for the work of the commission, which is sometimes misunderstood. We appreciate this opportunity to explain our decision as well as the process we are required to use.

First, a bit of history. Wetlands used to be called 'swamps' back when they were viewed as worthless land—they were only good if 'reclaimed' and developed. As their value became better understood, a variety of laws have been passed to protect wetlands and to regulate what can and cannot occur in their vicinity.

The city of Newton passed a Floodplain Ordinance in the 1960s. Massachusetts adopted its Wetlands Protection Act in 1972, adding the Rivers Protection Act in 1996. These laws, and the regulations that support them, give first-level responsibility for enforcement to Conservation Commissions. They also spell out the “interests” that must guide our decisions. These interests include protection of public and private water supplies, groundwater, wildlife habitat, and prevention of flooding and storm damage.

In this respect, the Conservation Commission is somewhat different from other city commissions.  We are appointed by the city and manage Newton's conservation land. But we also have responsibilities to the commonwealth and must follow a process the state defines and make our decisions within a narrow set of defined “interests.”

Recently, the commission was approached by the state Department of Recreation and Conservation (DCR) for approval to widen the trail along Quinobequin Road and to link it to segments of the Charles River Pathway south of Rt. 9 and north of Rt. 16. Because some of the proposed work was in riverfront areas protected by law and included wetlands and floodplain, the Conservation Commission had specific “interests” to enforce.

DCR's interest, of course, is in maintaining and improving state parklands. As we worked with their representative, we sought ways to balance their interests with ours. This resulted in modifications of their original plan to divide it into phases, reduce the amount of vegetation to be cut and shift the work away from the wetlands where it traversed sensitive areas.

With these changes, the project was approved at our April 28 meeting. DCR seemed satisfied with the path they were getting, since it would be everywhere four feet wide, would now continue right up to Rt. 9, and would be much less steep in that section.

Because the process is not familiar to most people and the regulations are complex, it is typical for applicants to meet with city staff to seek counsel in the early stages of a project. This is done to assist applicants so their interests can be served as much as possible while, at the same time, meeting the requirements of wetlands laws. This can lead to compromises on both sides.

But whatever our personal preferences, what we cannot compromise is the integrity of the wetlands we are charged with protecting under the state laws. And we cannot set different standards for private and public projects. Protecting our wetlands, wherever they are, requires consistent rules and enforcement. And the Newton Conservation Commission does its best to make that happen.

Judith Hepburn serves on the Newton Conservation Commission. She lives in Waban.


Lee Fisher responds to Ms. Hepburn
 

Dear Ms. Gotsis [author of the Tab article above],

     The irony of Judith Hepburn’s column on the Newton Conservation Commission’s decision on the Quinobequin Road walking trail is that she never explains the rationale for moving an old existing trail away from the riverside.  She explains in detail the history of wetlands protection, her legal authority to make the decision, and the process used to deny the landowner’s first proposal and force a modification.  But nowhere does she explain why the first DCR proposal caused damage to her statutory “interests.”

     The reader is left wondering if true risks to groundwater, wildlife habitat, and/or flood damage were avoided, or if in fact this ruling demonstrates the pendulum of floodplain protection swinging far from what informed common sense would conclude. 

    For example, on a fast moving river with high mud banks I believe the roots of riverside vegetation form an important role in erosion control and hence deserve to be protected from the soil compaction of trails.  But along this nearly flat stretch of the Charles, overgrown on the south end with thorny scrub brush and trees choked by massive poison ivy vines, no such impact can be imagined.  It is a jungle of competing vegetation with no riverbank erosion.

     I hear that the trailblazers were volunteers from the Student Conservation Association, a laudable group that helps organizations like the DCR improve parklands nation wide.  What is the lesson for them in building a roadside trail that few will want to use? 

    The public deserves an explanation from NCC of the reasoning behind this decision and reconsideration to allow DCR to keep the old trail open too.  After walking this area today to see the situation first hand, it appears that connecting the new higher trail with the old riverside trail could form a nice loop.  Completed in this manner, something good could come out of Jerry Reilly’s advocacy for this area – more people may come to enjoy this long-neglected asset and appreciate the success of our parkland and floodplain protection programs.


Burke: The 'Memory House' at Hemlock Gorge

 

By Bob Burke/Guest Columnist
Wicked Local Newton
Posted Jul 06, 2011 @ 07:00 AM
 

In mid-April, I joined 25 other volunteers at the Friends of Hemlock Gorge’s Annual Spring Cleanup.   This was another fun-filled success for a community association that has helped transform Echo Bridge and the 23-acre Hemlock Gorge Reservation from a neglected eyesore into one of Newton’s most important natural areas and historic treasures.  Since 1989, the Friends Association has initiated strong volunteer programs and on-going partnerships with private sources and government to restore and preserve the Reservation’s unique assets.  Because of these efforts, no other area is as closely associated with a Newton village as Hemlock Gorge is with the Upper Falls community.  

Hemlock Gorge is one of my very “special places”.  In the late 40s and early 50s, my friends and I spent countless hours roaming its woodlands and walking trails while marveling at Echo Bridge, the old “Stone Building” near Route 9 and other architectural gems in surrounding Upper Falls.  There was a transcendental effect here.  It’s what my favorite cultural historian Howard Mansfield calls a personal “Axis Mundi.”  He describes this as any small place that becomes the center of a person’s life.  It was here that I first felt a fundamental connection to the earth and to the people who were part of this land before I was born. 

Mansfield expands on this with “In the Memory House,” a wonderfully uplifting book that is passionate about the practical and spiritual benefits associated with remembering local history and the people that came before us.  By any measure, Hemlock Gorge is a super “Memory House.” Over many centuries, this deep and beautiful gorge, the fast flowing Charles River and the two magnificent waterfalls have served as:

  • The major freshwater fishing area for Algonquin Indians who used nets and spears to catch huge quantities of fish traveling over the two waterfalls.   
  • A source of abundant waterpower that made Upper Falls one of the area’s earliest industrial centers, decades before the mills at Lowell formally ushered in New England’s Industrial Revolution.
  • A stopover for Conestoga-type wagons as commerce was diverted away from Boston after the British Navy blockaded the Harbor during the War of 1812.
  • One of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “special places” when he lived close to Newton Upper Falls and preached his ministry in the old Methodist Church on Summer Street.
  •  The site for historic Echo Bridge, one of the 19th Century’s greatest architectural marvels and Hemlock Gorge’s true centerpiece that once drew thousands of tourists and artists from around the World.  
  •  The setting for “Echo Bridge Park”, one of America’s first electrically wired amusement parks that lit up the entire bridge and attracted thousands of people each weekend during the 1890’s.
  • A backdrop for one of New England’s first golf courses at Newton’s long forgotten Quinobequin Club. It’s possible that some of the fairways and greens extended close to what is now the Rte 128/Rte 9 Interchange.
  • The place that Frederick Law Olmstead chose for the last of his many great metropolitan parks, a task he completed just weeks before he died in 1903. 
  • A much frequented stop on a trolley line that ran from Boston to Framingham when the popularity of Echo Bridge was at its height.

I have a few recommendations for Newton residents who want to join our Hemlock Gorge community.

  • Visit the Friends website, www.hemlockgorge.orgwhere you will find more details about a very special association we hope you will join.
  • Add “Makers of the Mold” to your summer reading list.  This is the definitive history of Upper Falls and Hemlock Gorge by the late Kenneth Newcomb.  Our website has a copy you can download and information on where to purchase hard copies.
  • Come to our summer picnic and concert on Tuesday, Aug. 2 from around 6 p.m. to dusk.  Bring food to share, blankets and chairs. (Cross the Charles into Needham on Elliott Street and immediately turn right into Hamilton Place.) 
  • Spend some quality time at Hemlock Gorge, particularly on a weekend morning when it is serenely quiet.  You just may experience the same transcending magic I have felt there.

Bob Burke is a resident of Newton Highlands.

 

Celebrating The Makers of the Mold

On Friday, February 4, 2011 The Friends of Hemlock Gorge joined with a great many fellow Upper Falls residents to celebrate the print publication of Ken Newcomb's  Makers of the Mold, a history of Newton Upper Falls and the Industrial Age of Hemlock Gorge. Initially available only online, the print publication was entirely the initiative of Jerry Reilly (see photo to right) of Upper Falls. He oversaw the entire project, brought it to completion, and then organized with Karen Osborne Shanley a party at which fellow Upper Falls  and Waban residents as well as Ken's friends and family celebrate the book's publication and shared stories about the author, his beloved village, and his book. 

To read the Newton Patch story about the book and the party and to see some photos, click here. The event will also be reported on NewTV starting on Tuesday, February 8. You can see it on cable TV or online at www.newtv.org . To see the Friends Photo Album, click here.

Copies of the print edition of The Makers of the Mold can be purchased online and are also available at several local restaurants, convenience stores and cafes. The full list of outlets can be found here

Jerry Reilly with the original typescript of The Makers of The Mold at our celebration of its print publication

 

2011 Spring Cleanup

Friends of Hemlock Gorge’s Annual Spring Cleanup coincided with the 12th Annual Earth Day Celebration. Saturday, April 16th.  We had an outstanding turnout and he event was an unqualified success.

 

   

2010

 

2010 Annual Summer Picnic

This year’s annual picnic at Hamilton Place was an outstanding success! More than 50 people brought a picnic supper and a chair or blanket and kicked back by the Charles River to enjoy music by Broken Rose, a talented band performing classic rock and original music. Music was provided thanks to the generosity of Karen Osborne Shanley and the amenities were provided by the DCR under the direction of site supervisor Erica Aubin. A photo album of the event will follow.

 

   
The Friends Receive an Award

On Tuesday, November 16, 2010 the Friends of Hemlock Gorge were awarded a Stewardship and Preservation Award from Historic Newton. The event was held at the Boston College Alumni House and was well attended. To the right is a photo of Friends' President Brian Yates and Bob Burke, who nominated us. More photos to follow.

Brian Yates and Bob Burke

 

 

Insect Alert, July 2010

The Asian Longhorned Beetle has been found in Boston. Click here to read a message from the state, and a link to a Boston.com article. Here is the gist of the news.
 
In July a small infestation of Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) was found in Jamaica Plain (Boston). The site is at Faulkner Hospital, just across from the Arnold Arboretum. Six infested maple trees were found so far, in close proximity to each other, and have already been removed by USDA/DCR. Surveys will continue this week.

It is important to get the word out to be on the lookout for:

  1. Adult Asian longhorned beetles (shiny black beetles with white spots and long, banded antennae)
  2. ALB exit holes (dime-sized, perfectly round holes, especially in maple, but also in birch, elm, horse chestnut, willow and other hardwood trees…but not oak)
  3. ALB egg-laying sites (divots in the bark ranging in size from 1/4 to 3/4 inches across – fresh pits often have oozing, foaming sap)

Anyone seeing anything suspicious should report it immediately at http://massnrc.org/pests/albreport.aspx or by calling toll-free: 1-866-702-9938. Take photos if you can.

We can provide you with free ID cards, fact sheets, etc. Just contact Jen Forman Orth (jennifer.forman-orth@state.ma.us; 617-626-1735). We have obtained some of these and distribute them at our summer picnic (see below).

Spread the word, not the beetle! Get all the latest ALB news at: http://massnrc.org/pests/alb 

 

   

2009

The Winter 2009 issue of On the Earth, the magazine of the Natural Resources Defense Council, has a cover picture of a mosquito and story of the restoration of the Charles River with a wonderful picture of Hemlock Gorge.  It should be available on really good newstands  or from the publisher. See www.onearth.org .


2008

At the November, 2008 meeting, Site supervisor Erica Aubin announced that the new windows for the  Stone Building  have been fabricated and are just awaiting installation! Congratulations to Erica and DCR manager Kevin Hollenbeck for bringing this long planned effort close to a successful conclusion. Thanks also to John Sangiolo and Amy Mah Sangiolo whose Charles River Neighborhood Foundation Trust, made a gift of $1,000 to the DCR in October, 2000 to help pay for new windows.

Stone Building News (February 2008):

Site Supervisor Erica Uramkin reported at the February meeting that electrical service to the Stone Building has been restored. Though her efforts, NStar Electric was persuaded to inspect the feeder lines to the building, and the fault was found and corrected. For other news from the February meeting, click here.


2007

Our 2007 Summer Picnic and Free Concert took place on Tuesday, August 7 at Hamilton Place from 6:30pm to dusk. It was a huge success. A good time was had by all! Click here to see the photo album.

We had Greg Burroughs, a 21 year old vocal performance major at Berklee College provide music for us. He is a talented singer and songwriter. His musical influences are vast; ranging from artists as far apart as Keith Urban and Brad Paisley to Frank Sinatra, and Tony Bennet; The Beach Boys to the Eagles and Billy Joel to Phil Vassar. See photo to the right of Greg (right) and his fellow guitarist Kenny Silva. Click here to learn more more. The entertainment was made possible by the generous support of Karen Osborn Shanley.

Friends' President in the News: Friends' President Brian Yates was featured in a front page article in the Boston

New DCR Commissioner

May, 2007 On Wednesday, May 23, 2007 Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles named Richard Sullivan, currently mayor of Westfield, to be Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). He takes office June 11. Click here to learn more about Commissioner Sullivan.

Media Event! An 1897 shingle-style home in Newton, Massachusetts is the subject of This Old House TV's current season. Footage of Echo Bridge was included in episode 8 of the series. That episode is being re-broadcast on December 20 at 8 p.m. on channel 44. Web link for for more information on the Newton house project is: http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/tv/house-project/overview/0,,1626217,00.html

Walk with Newton's Mayor in Hemlock Gorge: Newton had in 2007 a summer program called "Walk with the Mayor." A short walk featuring Upper Falls and Hemlock Gorge took place Wednesday, July 11, at 5:30 p.m. We hope to hear from people who had the chance to talk Mayor David Cohen in person about Hemlock Gorge and the Bridge. Click here to see the flyer from the mayor's office with the schedule of remaining walks.


2006

Stone Building Floor Installed (March 7, 2006): As announced previously, The Friends of Hemlock Gorge succeeded in our application for a Public-Private Partnership with the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). The Friends earmarked $2500 for a new floor and other repairs to the Stone Building, and that amount was matched by the DCR. On February 23, we were notified by the DCR that they were preparing to pour the floor "very soon," and that the Friends of Hemlock Gorge would be asked for input on design. That design input did not occur, but The Friends nonetheless are pleased to announce that as a result of the Public-Private Partnership we established with the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) a new concrete floor has now been installed in the Stone Building. Pictures and more information to follow soon.

The pouring of a level concrete floor means that our long hoped for plans to make the
Stone Building a great venue for Friends' activities is becoming a reality (see photo top right). The new floor will, hopefully, be followed soon by repair of the electrical system and the new windows, for which funds have already been generously donated by the Sangiolo Trust.

March 18, 2006: Echo Bridge Promenade Closed Pending Temporary Barrier Installation: As explained in the next story, published here earlier, we have been assured that The Echo Bridge Promenade will remain open during the railing repair process. However,  the Promenade was closed on March 17 pending installation of temporary safety barriers. The picture to the right shows how the closure was effected on the Newton side by locked gate. There is a similar barrier on the Needham side

We don't know exactly when the gates you see in the photo will re-open, but we believe it will be very soon. What we have learned is in the following stories.

Echo Bridge Closed

Echo Bridge was closed to pedestrians with this locked gate on March 17. It remained closed only a few days, until temporary safety barriers were installed soon after the photo was taken March 19, 2006.

Echo Bridge Promenade to Close March 17, 2006: We have been informed by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) that Echo Bridge will be closed temporarily to pedestrians beginning March 17, 2006, fast upon the Ides of March. Et tu, MWRA? It is to remain closed for an indeterminate length of time. The reason is safety--the deterioration of the railings. Click here to read the text of the official announcement from the MWRA. Click here to see the October 2005 inspection report that raised the issue (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader). See the photos to the right for illustrations of the past and present of the Promenade. Click here to see Steve Clark's collection of Panoramas of Hemlock Gorge taken from Echo Bridge.

Follow up: The Friends have discussed this matter at their March meeting and are formulating plans to ensure timely repair and re-opening of the bridge. The Newton Tab reported the closing on the front page of the March 8 and March 15 issues.

The Restoration of the
Echo Bridge Railings has been on the agenda of the Friends on our allies in the legislature since the mid-1990s. Click here to see a decade old report of our valiant efforts and old cost estimates for bridge restoration. You may also click here to see the consequences of valiant efforts in the past to survey the Reservation and prevent encroachment.

Echo Bridge Promenade Closing March 17, 2006: We were informed at the beginning of March, 2006 by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) that Echo Bridge would be closed temporarily to pedestrians on March 17. It was to remain closed for an indeterminate length of time. The reason is safety--the deterioration of the railings. Click here to read the text of the official announcement from the MWRA. Click here to see the October 2005 inspection report that raised the issue (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader). See the photos to the right for illustrations of the past and present of the Promenade. Click here to see Steve Clark's collection of Panoramas of Hemlock Gorge taken from Echo Bridge.

The Friends discussed this matter at their March meeting and formulated plans to keep the bridge open, or at least ensure timely repair and re-opening of the bridge. The Newton Tab reported the closing on the front page of the March 8 and March 15 issues.

The Restoration of the
Echo Bridge Railings has been on the agenda of the Friends on our allies in the legislature since the mid-1990s. Click here to see a decade old report of our valiant efforts and old cost estimates for bridge restoration. You may also click here to see the consequences of valiant efforts in the past to survey the Reservation and prevent encroachment.

Friends President Brian Yates points out a deteriorated railing atop the Bridge in 2004.

 

Echo Bridge to Close to Pedestrians March 15, 2006

What follows is the text of a memorandum sent to the Hemlock Gorge Reservation Site Supervisor by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) that Echo Bridge will be closed temporarily to pedestrians. This text replaces (on March 8, 2006) a draft document that was previously posted on this page.

MWRA Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 6, 2006
CONTACTS:
Ria Convery, 617-788-1105 or ria.convery@mwra.state.ma.us

ECHO BRIDGE CLOSED TO PEDESTRIAN TRAFFIC

Handrails a danger to public safety

In the interest of public safety, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) must close the top of Echo Bridge to pedestrian traffic.  Built in 1896, Echo Bridge spans the Charles River from Newton Upper Falls to Needham.  The closure will go into effect on March 15, 2006 until the historic handrails are repaired or replaced.

The historic cast iron handrails along the top of the 500-foot long bridge are original and are in very poor condition.  Eight sections of rail and 18 ornamental tops are missing, sections of the handrails are detached and other sections are cracked or splitting.  To protect public safety, the MWRA has determined that the top of the bridge must be closed to pedestrian traffic.

The MWRA will be installing a temporary chain link fence on either end of the bridge with warning signs to prevent public access to the top of the bridge.  However, other areas of Hemlock Gorge, including the area surrounding the bridge and the recently completed Echo Bridge platform under the main arch, will remain open to the public.

The pedestrian bridge is actually a conduit for the MWRA’s Sudbury Aqueduct.  The aqueduct is no longer used for daily water supply, but is an emergency back-up transmission line. 

MWRA and its Advisory Board have determined that ratepayer money cannot be used to complete this work.  However, since the hand rails are historic, MWRA has offered to work with elected officials and other interested parties to identify potential sources of outside funding. 

For more information, please contact Tom Lindberg at (617) 788-1184 or Tom.Lindberg@mwra.state.ma.us.

#  #  #
 


2005

Quinobequin Road News!

Some 12 years age the Friends suggested to the MDC, now the DCR, that something to control off road traffic on the section of Quinobequin road just downriver from Hemlock Gorge would be desirable to prevent vehicles from degrading the riverbank. We initially suggested a wood railing, but later, after hearing from neighbors, we thought that some large stones might be nicer and serve the same purpose.

The Friends did not hear anything about this project for years, and then a guardrail installation was started in mid May--and then stopped a few days later! Neighbors had raised both safety and esthetic concerns; some thought it was a good use of parkland to allow kids to play with their cars there.

A meeting was held on May 31, 2005 at Newton Hall attended by neighbors, Mayor Cohen, and representatives of the DCR. It was agreed that the DCR and community would work together to find a better solution.

In addition, at the annual meeting of the Waban Improvement Society on June 2, 2005, the Friends proposed that we work collaboratively with the WIS and DCR to assist in the design of parkland improvements on this section of the Charles River.

 

The Environmental Protection notice and small flags indicate where the guardrail would have been.

 

 

The Friends Honored by the Green Decade Coalition!

On Thursday, June 16, 2005, The Friends of Hemlock Gorge were recognized with and Environmental Leadership Award by the Green Decade Coalition.

Friends' Webmaster John Mordes had an opportunity to deliver a PowerPoint Presentation about the work of the Friends.

Green Decade is an organization of people living or working in Newton and neighboring communities, including representatives of community organizations, institutions and businesses. They work together to create sustainable solutions to environmental problems facing the city and the world.

Friends President Brian Yates addresses the Green Decade Coalition after receiving their Environmental Achievement Award. GDC Official Peter Smith and  President Beverly Droz is to the right.

 

Here is a picture of the citation that the Friends received in 2005 "For a significant contribution to preserving the environment."

To read the entire text, click on the small image and a larger one will appear.

Sad News at the Gorge: Housing at the Reservation Property Line

Amid the changing beauty of the river and the soft quilt of newly fallen snow, we took note of an unhappy event in the winter of 2005. At the property line of the Reservation on the Needham side, high on the ridge, just a few dozen paces from the ridge trail, new housing is going up.

As you can see from the photos, this new housing looms over the trail and even the rustic footbridge below.

The Friends of Hemlock Gorge often urged the MDC, predecessor of the DCP, to survey the property and then buy buffer properties to ensure preservation of its quiet charm. Click here to see one example. Now it is too late.

The new estate, a few dozens of feet from the trail.

The substantial new house that overlooks Hemlock Gorge and the Charles River. Note the logs--remnants of the forest that abutted the reservation now lost.

 

A view of the new footbridge with the new house at the top of the view.

 

 

At left, the new house nears completion near the property line of the Reservation, April, 2006.

Quinobequin Road News!

Some 12 years age the Friends suggested to the MDC, now the DCR, that something to control off road traffic on the section of Quinobequin road just downriver from Hemlock Gorge would be desirable to prevent vehicles from degrading the riverbank. We initially suggested a wood railing, but later, after hearing from neighbors, we thought that some large stones might be nicer and serve the same purpose.

The Friends did not hear anything about this project for years, and then a guardrail installation was started in mid May--and then stopped a few days later! Neighbors had raised both safety and esthetic concerns; some thought it was a good use of parkland to allow kids to play with their cars there.

A meeting was held on May 31, 2005 at Newton Hall attended by neighbors, Mayor Cohen, and representatives of the DCR. It was agreed that the DCR and community would work together to find a better solution.

In addition, at the annual meeting of the Waban Improvement Society on June 2, 2005, the Friends proposed that we work collaboratively with the WIS and DCR to assist in the design of parkland improvements on this section of the Charles River.

 

The Environmental Protection notice and small flags indicate where the guardrail would have been.

 

 
 

2004

The Rustic Footbridge is rebuilt October 2004

The rustic bridge by Artists' Point (see image below), connecting the Newton and Needham shores has been rebuilt. The photos to the right shows the concrete footings for the new bridge next to the deteriorated timbers of the old bridge, the bridge under construction, and the finished bridge as it was left in 2006. Click on the photos for larger images.

New footbridge construction

Footings in, October, 2005

 

Echo Bridge in Fall from Artists Point with the Ken Newcomb Memoria

Echo Bridge from the Ken Newcomb Memorial

New Footbridge

Nearly complete, November, 2005

.

Brian on the new rustic footbridge at the spring cleanup, April 29, 2006.  The steps to the bridge are arguably more primitive than rustic, one of many pieces of "unfinished business" in the Reservation.

 

 


2003

Interesting Political News:

Governor Romney merges the former MDC into a new Department of Conservation and Recreation  (July, 2003)

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's proposal to eliminate the Metropolitan District Commission has been accepted by the Legislature and signed into law as part of the fiscal Year 2004 budget. However, the Metropolitan Park Commission's spirit lives on. A new Department of Conservation and Recreation has been created in the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. It incorporates the former Department of Environmental Management (which includes the office of our friend and wooly adelgid expert Charlie Burnham) along with the former MDC. Each of the former operating departments now becomes a Bureau with one set of administrative offices for both. The original Metropolitan Park Commission which evolved into the Metropolitan District Commission by adding functions will be the Urban Parks and Recreation Bureau. Although not necessarily the ideal solution, it nevertheless preserves the identity of the Metropolitan Parks System conceived by Charles Eliot.

The Charles River Conservancy has made available a detailed commentary on the matter.

 

Ken Newcomb Memorial Dedicated Summer 2003

On Tuesday, August 5, 2003 more than 30 Friends of Hemlock Gorge and members of the family of the late Ken Newcomb gathered for our annual summer picnic and to dedicate his memorial bench at Artist's Point.

To see more pictures of the memorial site, click here and to see a photos of the dedication celebration, click here.

The Late Ken Newcomb

Ken is remembered as an historian and longtime Friend of Hemlock Gorge and author of A Walking Tour of Hemlock Gorge and Makers of the Mold, a full-length illustrated history of the Newton Upper Falls community which borders Hemlock Gorge.

Several speakers, including Friends' President Brian Yates, recalled Ken's many contributions to the community, and the dedication concluded with the playing of Taps followed by dessert in the newly re-lit Stone Building.

To see a photo album of the event click here.


2002

Adelgid Update

Mr. Burnham reported that there have been excellent results using these ladybugs, formally called Pseudocamnys tsugae, in more southerly states, and he is cautiously optimistic about the outcome for Hemlock Gorge. He will be returning to the reservation later this spring to quantify the level of adelgid infestation on several tree branches. Comparison of this level with the level of infestation on these same branches a year from now will give us a good idea as to how well our project is succeeding.

This release will be the culmination of years of environmental and legislative struggle to try to save the trees in Hemlock Gorge. The Friends worked extraordinarily hard and well with Sen. Creem, Rep. Khan, the DCR and many others to bring this about, and Friends' President Brian Yates, who was present at the release, extends his thanks to all who helped in this effort.

Adelgid Update, March, 18, 2001:

The Boston Globe ran a nice article on the efforts of the Friends to combat the woolly adelgid. The online version is no longer available.


2001


2000

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Urgent News (July 26, 2000): To everyone concerned with the Friends' efforts to save our hemlocks from the woolly adelgid: We have learned that the $60,000 budget item we requested to grow and release ladybugs to safely combat the adelgids has made it into the compromise budget that was passed by the Legislature and is now in the hands of Governor Celucci. It is his decision to leave the money in the budget or to veto it. LAST YEAR HE VETOED A SIMILAR APPROPRIATION! We must try to persuade the governor not to veto it.

We urge all Friends and concerned citizens to PLEASE take a moment to call the Governor's consituent services line at 617-727-6250 and tell the nice person who will take the call that you urge to governor to approve the funds. Calls from concerned citizens might make all the difference.

You may also write to the Governor's office (Gov. Paul Celucci, The State House, Boston, MA), but time is of the essence for this very worth cause.

If you have time, we similarly urge you to please also call MDC Commissioner David Balfour (click to see his recent letter to us) at 617-727-5114. You might also contact MDC Secretary Bob Durand (20 Somerset St., Boston, MA 02108) and any one else who might communicate the importance of this issue to the Governor.

Thank you!



1999


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