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The Friends of Hemlock Gorge

Minutes of Meetings in 2021


January February March
April May June
July: No Meeting August: Picnic Meeting September
October November December

The Friends of Hemlock Gorge

Minutes forvJanuary 5, 2021

Next Meeting: Tuesday February 2, 2021  at 7:15

Present: John Mordes, Loumona Petroff, Bill Humphrey, Robin Dexter, Bob Burke, Rena Getz, Evan Weststrate, Don Ross, Sheila Purdy

 Treasurer’s Report:

According to Robin,there is now $6,419,70 in the treasury. $700.00 came from the December outreach for dues. The email went out to about 90 people. 24 dues payments came back. One special donation came from Tanya which included an additional unique donation which came with a letter expressing her special appreciation of Hemlock Gorge. She had become aware of the park recently after living in the area for many years. Dues payments were evenly split between Paypal and regular mailing. The $30.00 registration fee for 501c3  federal tax exemption has been paid. The state filing is more complicated and will follow.

 Visitor’s Center:

The lumber has been dropped off to install the second floor storage area. Erica’s approval will be needed to approve the drainage improvements to the first floor. The cost will probably fit into the budget for next year, but cost needs to be estimated for the partial drain.

 Lara Bench:

There is general support for an additional bench as suggested by Lara Prebble. Evan has looked into styles and costs of bench options. 2 style categories are: formal or rustic. Evan showed examples of these different styles. Rustic benches could theoretically made from downed trees in the park or from elsewhere from other park properties. DCR could identify trees that would be suitable. This could lower the overall cost.  Evan will follow up on the rustic bench options from local companies. There was concern over  potential graffiti or defacement of a wooden bench.

 Crosswalk to Quinobequin, Trail Proposal, and Ellis Street Stairs:

Ruth Balser is working with the MWRA on the stairs. There has been no information to update. She is also overseeing the crosswalk and guardrail improvements which seem feasible. MassTrails initiative proposal due to upgrade park trails. The steep trail steps in the Gorge could be made safer. Rena is monitoring this project along with the Waban Area Council. A proposal is due Feb 1st.

 Bob Burke’s Project:

Bob is trying to report on the changes in the park flora over the years and is seeking resources to document them. Local resources were suggested including Richard Primack who lectured at BU and Kathy Howard who is monitoring the growing problem with invasives in the area. Don wanted more information about identifying invasives. Local diaries or notes on the subject will be very welcome. Contacts on with pertinent information should be referred to Bob.

  Graffiti:

The problem with recurring graffiti is “endless”. Emily has repaired graffiti on the echo platform and a check has been sent to reimburse her for costs. Her efforts have been much appreciated.

 Hemlock Gorge Poster:

Evan brought 3 examples of posters he designed from photographs in his collection. They were very well received and members brainstormed ways to use them in the future to reward members or to raise funds. The posters reflected different seasons in the park and could be reproduced in different formats.

 Trash Dumping:

John showed pictures of numerous bags of trash that were dumped in the Needham area of the park near Hamilton Place . There were quite a few of them. DCR has been apprised of the problem. Some suggestions of technological oversight were offered to keep the problem from recurring.

Health Concerns:

John updated the group on vaccine developments and answered questions from members about precautions and procedures.

 

Respectfully Submitted,

Sheila Purdy, Secretary


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The Friends of Hemlock Gorge

Minutes for Virtual Meeting of February 3, 2021

Next Meeting: Tuesday March 3, 2021 at 7:15.

Present: Tanya Karpiak, Rena Getz, Maureen Riley-Meagher, John Mordes, Bob Burke, Robin Dexter, Lara Prebble, Evan Weststrate, Jean Fisher, Lee Fisher, Don Ross, Bill Humphrey, Sheila Purdy

Treasurer’s Report: Robin reported a balance of $6,408.62. The new Paypal option isworking well, and the IRS paperwork has been filed for 2020.

Trash and Fallen Tree Problems: Erica arranged for trash bags to be removed. Since they were apparently left by a landscaper and contained mostly leaves, these were scattered in the park. Lee visited the site and spoke to the neighbors in Needham who were also concerned with the dumping of trash at the site. Maureen stated that trash dumping isalso a problem for Quinobequin.

Skating Party: Kudos were offered to Evan and Lee who helped organize a skating party on the pond. Around 50-70 people attended. A neighbor filmed the event from a drone. The last time the weather permitted skating on the pond was 2018.

Web Design Upgrade: Evan has been contacted by Braun-Weiss to offer help for upgrading the Friends’  website. Over the next few months an intern can be assigned to practice web design skills by assisting the Friends. The intern will be supervised andthere will be no cost. The entire website will be archived and content can be “added easily”. Mailing list and membership names will not be made available. A new website host can also be explored. Hosting currently costs $100 per year. New hosting sites are about $300.00 per year. Our current host, Network Solutions, has been paid for 2 years. Because of the extensive information currently on the site archives, an examination of options would be helpful. The Friends need to plan for current and future needs which could include e-commerce options for selling books and posters online. Maureen said Quinobequin does not have a website.  She wants to know if it is possible to partner this function on the new site. for a custom bench from a private company.  

Hamilton Place Improvements: John showed a picture of the Hamilton place site whichhas overgrown weedy shrubs and an unsightly view of neighbors’ yards. He showedhow much the site could be improved with plantings for a green fence of GiantArbor Vitae to improve the look of the landscape. He spoke with Erica  who was verysupportive and could provide labor for planting. Friends were concerned that the look of a row of identical shrubs would not look natural to the setting and wanted to examine other options, but everyone generally agreed that a green fence planting would enhancethe appearance of the site. Young hemlocks could be planted.

Spring Cleanup: The date for the 2021 spring cleanup has been set for April 24th.

 Bob Burke’s Project: The Newton Historical Society is currently closed. Bob is searching for old diaries. The  Olmstead Library does not include information on plants, only hardscaping and engineering projects. Richard Primack was suggested as a source of help. He currently has students available to work on projects. A display of the findings from the project could eventually be displayed at the Visitors Center.

Visitors Center: Wood is on site to finish 2nd floor storage area. DCR does not want to use building for gatherings. Flooring is OK’d to be installed in first floor once 2nd floor is in place.

Crosswalk/Staircase Update: Crosswalk is “in process” of  getting upgrade. Still waitingfor MWRA to communicate findings on Ellis street staircase.

Ellis Street Parking Lot: “Looks Good” trash barrel installed and emptied regularly.

Graffitti: Emily did a lot of work to remove graffiti. Evan endorsed her efforts and OK’d reimbursement for her expenses on supplies. Thank you, Emily.  A webcam was suggested to monitor ongoing illegal activity on the platform.

Other Matters: 3 river otters were spotted!  

Respectfully Submitted,

Sheila Purdy, Secretary 


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The Friends of Hemlock Gorge

Minutes for Virtual Meeting of March 3, 2021

Next Meeting: Tuesday April 6, 2021 at 7:15

Present: John Mordes, Robin Dexter, Tanya Karpiak, Don Ross, Bob Burke, Evan Weststrate, Bill Humphrey, Sheila Purdy

Treasurer’s Report: Robin reported that the balance is $6,447.64. Last year donations were $814.53. This was down from the previous year $1,024.75.  There was some speculation why the donations were down when the park usage was increased due to the pandemic. Don asked if the number of contributors was also decreased. John said 30-40 people contributed. He had the records back to the 90’s. Are there people who were once contributors but stopped? Would it be useful to offer a gift to contributors such as the postcards printed by Evan? Members were open to using the posters to sell, possibly at the cleanup to raise funds and visibility. All agreed they were an appealing way to reach new visitors.

Web Design: The company in contact with Evan said they were waiting for their summer intern to work on the website redesign. John pointed out that there were

thousands of pages of archived material waiting to be organized. These included photographs and the copy of Ken Newcomb’s book. The original copy is in the Newton Library rare books collection.

Lara Bench: Evan showed a picture of a rustic bench at Walden Pond It has a metal back that could be made from downed trees at reduced cost. Erica would need to be consulted.

April 24th Cleanup: The date has been confirmed. The April  meeting can be used for more detailed planning including possibly adding additional tasks such as painting. Can the Visitors Center be used as a gathering place for the cleanup? It offers a way to get out of the rain while serving a complimentary lunch. It could also be used as a place to show photographs, artifacts, and posters available for sale.  John will consult on social distancing and pandemic regulations for the cleanup.

Hamilton Place Landscaping: John did not get any suggested alternatives to using arbor vitae as plant materials for the Hamilton Place entrance to the park. He pointed out that the current vegetation includes Japanese knotweed which is very difficult to eradicate. It would be helpful to get input from a landscape architect. John pointed out that Lara Prebble is a landscape architect who could offer suggestions.

Bob Burke’s Project: Bob has reached out to a number of people including Vaunita and Chris Pitts to gather information on flora and fauna previously seen in the park.

Status of Previous Projects:

Crosswalk project- no current information. Budget status unknown

Echo Bridge Railings-no current information

Ellis Street Stairway- no current information. Still waiting for proposal sent to Ruth Balser after inspection by MWRA.

Graffiti project at Echo Platform- no current information

New Business: Some members suggested guided walks through the park to encourage the participation of the many new visitors. Tanya said that some other parks offered nighttime guided walks. All the walks could emphasize historical layers the park offers.

Respectfully Submitted,

Sheila Purdy, Secretary


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The Friends of Hemlock Gorge

Minutes for Virtual Meeting of April 6, 2021

Next Meeting: Tuesday May 4, 2021 at 7:15

Present: John Mordes, Robin Dexter, Don Ross, Paul Roberts, Rena Getz, Jean Fisher, Lee Fisher, Evan Weststrate, Bob Burke, Maureen Riley Meagher, Sheila Purdy
 
Treasurer’s Report: Robin renewed the Post Office Box for another year. The cost was $90.00. There has been no word from Carol Stapleton about resuming
in-person meetings as the pandemic restrictions evolve. Meetings could take place outside or in the stone barn. Activities  have resumed in the Emerson for
children. In person meetings could possibly take place in May or June.
 
Cleanup Preparation: The spring cleanup has been scheduled for April 24th. Prior to the cleanup, a subcommittee will look at the needed improvements to the Hamilton Place entrance to the park. Lee will chair that committee and hold a walk-through prior to the cleanup to brainstorm ideas. These  ideas could form a report for DCR about proposed changes. John said that there was still lots of bottled water, utensils, and hand sanitizer left from the spring. Napkins are needed to help coordinate a lunch meeting after the cleanup. Tzu Chi has expressed interest in possibly helping out. Erica will supply trash bags and trash sticks.
 
Lara Bench Update:  Erica is still working with her staff to create benches from large downed trees that could be adapted to making naturalistic benches. Sites for the bench/s could be prepared in advance and Evan has looked into getting metal backrests.
 
Barn Construction: The materials for the 2nd floor of the barn have been delivered and stored. Erica believes that construction “may happen this summer”. Artifacts previously removed from the barn have not been located. Brenda Lawson from the MA Historical Society and Sean Fisher , the state archivist, have both been contacted in pursuit of the missing artifacts. So far, they have not been found.
 
Updates from Ruth Balser:  She is optimistic that funds for the 2nd floor of the Stone Barn can be located. This would enable improvements such as better drainage, new flooring, and new windows which could be installed. She also said that the DOT will look at the crosswalks to improve safe access to Quinobequin parkland. MWRA wants to improve the safety of the Ellis Street Stairway but needs the approval of the Upper Falls and MA historical commission. Rena is keeping updated on the status of these projects. There could be possible celebration this summer to thank Ruth for her invaluable support for the barn roof project. Possibly this summer. The designation of the barn as a “Visitors’ Center” needs to be defined more specifically to help with planning.
 
Hemlock Gorge Art Project:  Evan has made up postcards from his computer- enhanced photographs. These could be distributed to volunteers at the cleanup. There are 4 different views. They can also be printed in a larger format for posters. They were much admired by the group. John has printed up business cards for The Friends, which could also be made available to Friends for distribution and enhanced visibility of FOHC.
 
Website Design Update: Evan said the company that offered to help with the website redesign will probably have the necessary staffing by June.
 
Bob Burke Project: Bob is still trying to get access to files on historical park information. He will contact Vaunita who may also have contacts for his effort.
 
Other Matters: Maureen said there will be training in removing invasive plants offered by Katherine Howard. She said there is a “huge need” for volunteers to assist with removal of invasive plants. The training will emphasize “best practices” for approaching this problem.
 
The group discussed resurrecting    guided tours through the park .
 
Beavers have been removing trees in the park. Their lodge is on the Needham side of the river. It is not clear if this is a problem. Some input from professional wildlife consultants would be helpful. Does DCR have access to this type of assistance?
 
MWRA has send out a tank truck to help with graffiti removal. Graffiti is a constant recurring issue.

 

Respectfully Submitted,

Sheila Purdy, Secretary


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The Friends of Hemlock Gorge

Minutes for Virtual Meeting of May 4, 2021

Next Meeting: Tuesday June 1, 2021 at 7:15

Present: John Mordes, Lee Fisher, Paul Roberts, Robin Dexter, Ruth Balser, Jean Fisher, Bob   Burke, Paul Roberts, Erica Aubin, Don Ross, Bill Humphrey, Evan Weststrate, Tanya Karpiak,  Rena Getz, Loumona Petroff , Sheila Purdy
 
Update from Ruth Balser: An amendment to the state budget for $75,000 increase in DCR budget for upgrades to the stone building renovations including windows, drainage, flooring, and lighting. Because the building is actually located in the Wellesley portion of the park , Ruth
coordinated with Alice Peisch from Wellesley and they co-sponsored the amendment. DOT will install a sidewalk along the ramp from Ellis Street parking lot to the stone building. This installation is paused while a gas leak is being repaired. A survey crew should be active in a couple of weeks to begin the project which should be completed in the fall. MWRA is in charge of the Ellis Street stairway. They will need to be signed off by the MA and Upper Falls historic commissions. 6 stairs have already been repaired. Ruth will follow up on the repairs to the steel substructure of the stairway.
 
In- Person Gatherings: The plan to resume in-person meetings at the Emerson in June, is being explored with the appropriate authorities. An August picnic is also being tentatively planned
for the stone building area. Erica said maybe 100 people would be OK. Regulations for all post-pandemic gatherings are still evolving. The Friends were not permitted to serve lunch at the spring cleanup due to continued pandemic protocols.
 
Hamilton Place Entrance Proposal: Lee, John, and Evan took a tour of the entrance during the April cleanup. Lee presented at comprehensive plan including recommendations and pictures of the problem areas that need to be addressed. This document was made available to the Friends along with the current agenda for the meeting. The needs for the area are extensive and include repair of broken guardrails, removal of “tangle of vines” at the parking lot edge, entrance ways that are narrow and inaccessible to wheelchairs, erosion of riverbanks, neglect of the display case at the entrance to the park, unfinished trash removal from bridge repair.
Erica said DCR could help with some of the brush removal and riverbank stabilization. The bridge contractors never came back to remove trash and hazards like the rebar sticking out of the ground.
 
Trail Improvements: Dead trees (widow makers) pose a risk of falling over. Crushed stone can be brought in to help with stabilization needs and possible bench footings and to combat erosion. A half-log bench can be placed near the river to offer a place for fishermen. A proposal to allow electric bicycles in the park is being discussed by a number of properties including the Friends of Middlesex Fells. Members agreed that bicycles did not belong on the “unimproved trails” but were safe for the Echo Bridge and the connecting trail into Needham. Rena suggested that we work together with the Friend of Middlesex Fells to coordinate a response to proposed changes.
  
Bob Burke’s Project Update: Bob has been collecting historical photographs of places like Circuit Trail and Chestnut Grove. It has been easier to get information on plant life rather than wild life. The Friends of Cold Spring Park and the Newton Conservators have been very supportive. Bob will run an ad in the Tab for additional information. He has been able to identify trees such as shagbark hickory, elms, and chestnut that used to be abundant. He will also try to coordinate with Margaret Alexander in the Upper Falls News for additional outreach.
 
Other Matters: Website improvements are still waiting for outside assistance. Zoom access to meetings has been very helpful for some. Evan said a hot spot could be located in the community room to continue remote access during live meetings when they resume. Bill said that the hybrid live/Zoom access to meetings is also being explored at city hall as pandemic precautions are evolving. When live meetings resume, refreshments can also return.

Respectfully Submitted,

Sheila Purdy, Secretary


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The Friends of Hemlock Gorge

Minutes for Virtual Meeting of June 1, 2021

Next Meeting: Tuesday September 7, 2021 at 7:15

 

Respectfully Submitted,

Sheila Purdy, Secretary 


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The Friends of Hemlock Gorge

Minutes for September 7, 2021

Next Meeting: Tuesday October 5, 2021at 7:15

Present:  John Mordes, Evan Weststrate, Maueen Riley Meagher, Bob Burke, Lee Fisher,       Don Ross, Vaunita Schnell, Sheila Purdy
 
Treasurer’s Report: Robin was unable to attend meeting due to scheduling conflict. Some money was spent on supplies for the August picnic. John recommended buying a booth at the Upper Falls Village Day on October 3 for $25.00.  A plaque dedicated to Brian Yates will be unveiled at the event. Volunteers from the Friends can be present from 11-2:00 to give out business cards and sell posters. Posters can be priced at $25.00 and include Friends’ membership until the end of 2022. Don, Paul, and Bob expressed interest in volunteering for the event. We would need to supply a table and chairs. Payments for the posters will be made in cash or check. Photocopies of the map can be available for free.
 
Fall Cleanup: Dates of October 16 or 23 were suggested and would need to be confirmed by Erica. The deterioration of the Stone Barn Foundation is a continuing problem. Ruth Balser has approved use of the approved $75,000 to make the needed foundation repairs. Lee has also looked at the foundation and supports the need for a plan to make the needed repairs. The electric power to the stone building has been restored. No plans are in place to work on the 2nd floor of the building but supplies are being stored for the project. The problem of ongoing moisture damage continues affect stability of the foundation and proposed future work on the building.
 
Benches: Evan has not heard any news on the proposed wooden benches to be placed in the park. He is waiting for an update from Erica.
 
Ellis Street Stairs: Repairs “look terrific”. The wooden treads have been replaced although no work has been done on the metal substructure that needs to be sandblasted and repainted at some point.
 
Website Changes: Evan has not heard anything about work on upgrading the current website and making it more streamlined and comprehensive.
 
Crosswalk Upgrades: Ruth said that the gas leak repairs in the area have been completed. Upgrades to the sidewalk, crosswalk, and curb cuts are planned but have not been scheduled as yet.
 
Future Meeting Site: John looked at options including the Waban Library Center. The Mayor suggested using City Hall as an alternative.  Any approved site will need to have WiFi available since not all members can attend in person. This hybrid system can be put in place once a site is selected. The current status of the Delta virus variant has put this change on hold for the present. Meetings will continue on Zoom until further notice.
 
Bob Burke Project: Bob visited local historic societies but could find no documentation of prior surveys of local plant or animal life in the Gorge. Photographs were available but no detailed descriptions. Lee pointed out the absence of small hemlock trees and suggested that they could be transplanted from other sites to replace the mature trees that have been lost over the years.
 
Kiosk Update: Evan now has the keys to the display case.
 
Roof Dedication: The proposed dedication event for the new roof has been postponed for the present.

Respectfully Submitted,

Sheila Purdy, Secretary


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The Friends of Hemlock Gorge

Minutes for October 5, 2021

Next Meeting: Tuesday November 9, 2021 at 7:15

Present: Emily Gelbert, John Mordes, Paul Roberts, Rena Getz, Robin Dexter, Evan Weststrate,
Don Ross, Carol Laibson, Sheila Purdy
 
Village Day Report: The Friends participated in the Newton Upper Falls Village Day celebration on October 3 where a memorial was installed commemorating the life and accomplishments of Brian Yates. The Friends had a booth where they gave information about Hemlock Gorge and provided posters to newly enrolled members.  Paul, Don, Evan, and John ran the booth and helped engage attendees in learning about the Friends. The posters were “a very big hit” and John commented that this was the “most successful event ever”. Evan was recognized for his contribution of the original posters which were greatly admired. Paul said the Friends could build on this by sponsoring a photo contest where the winner’s photograph could be made into a new poster. Perhaps the Village Bank might help to sponsor this event. John suggested that the Friends invest in some “instant shelters” or tents which could be set up for future events to increase visibility and support. Banners could also be added. The Friends earned $283.00 at this event which was paid in cash or via the newly added Paypal option. Anil was recognized for his contribution in planning this very successful celebration. NewTV filmed the event. Evan requested mailing tubes for those who wanted their posters sent out.
 
Fall Cleanup: A date for the fall cleanup was set for October 16th with a rain date of October 23rd.  Sign up will be from 9:30-10:00 at Hamilton Place with refreshments served for lunch at the Stone Barn.
 
Future FoHG Meeting Site: This is still being explored but it looks increasingly likely that the next meeting will be held at the Waban Library/Community Center which offers hybrid in-person and online options.  Rena will assist in facilitating the use of this venue. The meeting will be delayed one week to avoid a conflict with the election on November 2 and will be held November 9th. There is still some hope that advocacy can restore the previous status of the Friends, and other NGO’s, for use of the Emerson without user fees being required.
 
Report from Erica: Erica was unable to attend. The Friends confirmed their interest in the status of the 2nd floor and the installation of new benches as well as a plan for restoring the foundation of the Stone Barn.
 
Christmas Party: Karen Osborne offered her building in Upper Falls for the party. A motion was made and seconded to contribute funds towards the celebration.  
 
Safety Concerns in the Park: Two separate letters from 2 individuals were sent to the Newton Conservation Commission about safety concerns in the park. Both addressed different issues regarding signage. One site of concern was the overlook at the Mill Falls dam. There is no fence and only a tiny sign. Evan offered an example in Dover which had a sign “ CAUTION: Drop off”. The suggestion for a sign will be sent to Erica to follow up with DCR.
The second area of concern was the lack of a sign to boaters on the river.  There is only a small sign on Cook’s Bridge warning of the dam’s falls ahead. This concern needs to be forwarded to the MWRA for use of their standard warning signs to be placed. Emily Norton of the Charles River Watershed Association could also be alerted to the issue.   
 
Stone Barn Roof Dedication: This event has been postponed until spring. The Friends wish to thank a number of people who have contributed to the renewal of the Stone Barn. These include Ruth Balser for her ongoing support and advocacy,  Amy Mah Sangiolo for the new windows, and Erica for her many contributions to construction, landscaping, and countless other supportive improvements.
 
Updates on Additional Matters: Robin reported that there $6,456 in the treasury after expenses. $92.00 has been expended for printing the posters. Ruth Balser is monitoring the crosswalk improvements. She has also noted the deterioration in the foundation of the Stone Barn.  Emily is monitoring the graffiti problem on the Echo platform and hopes to make repairs.

Respectfully Submitted,

Sheila Purdy, Secretary


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The Friends of Hemlock Gorge

Minutes for November 9, 2021

Next Meeting: Tuesday December 7, 2021 at 7:15

To be continued.

Respectfully Submitted,

Sheila Purdy, Secretary


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The Friends of Hemlock Gorge

Minutes for December 4, 2021

Next Meeting: Tuesday, January 8, 2022 at 7:15

To be continued.

Respectfully Submitted,

Sheila Purdy, Secretary


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