Protect Webster Woods
In 2016, Congregation Mishkan Tefila sold to Boston College 22 acres of land (shown in yellow in the photo below) that is surrounded by publicly owned conservation land. The city-owned Webster Conservation Area is to the north and west, and the state-owned Hammond Pond Reservation is to the south and east.
The parcel, 300 Hammond Pond Parkway, is parcel #
in the Newton Assessors' Database.
The college's plans for the land are unknown. Development of some or all of the land is a possibility. The Board of Directors of the Newton Conservators has written a letter to Mayor Setti Warren and the Newton Board of Alderman urging them to take action to protect this land.
The land is mostly undeveloped woodlands. It was part of the state reservation until 1954, when the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) sold it to the temple for the below-market price of $400 an acre, the equivalent of $3,500 an acre in today's dollars. Boston College paid $20 million for the property, or $909,000 per acre.
The 1954 sale was controversial at the time. The Boston Globe reported that the Newton Board of Aldermen voted 15 to 3 to oppose the sale, and the MDC board approved the sale by a margin of only 3 votes to 2. Following the vote to authorize the sale, Newton created a new Board of Park Commissioners in an attempt to block the sale. The city then went to court, but lost its lawsuit.
The property includes Bare Pond, a vernal pool that has been the site of Newton Conservators walks. The image below superimposes an aerial photo of the temple's buildings and parking lots onto a map of the woods. Note that the main east-west trails are on land now owned by Boston College, which is in white on this map.
While Bare Pond (and a small buffer zone around it) is protected from development by state wetlands regulations, most of the land could be developed by Boston College for use as dorms, classroom or office buildings, or parking lots. Such development would be a devastating blow to a beloved conservation area.
The site development plan shown above is not currently under consideration. However, it gives an idea of the extent of development that might be possible on the land.
Please contact Mayor Setti Warren and members of the Newton City Council to urge them to take action to preserve this conservation land.
The Friends of Webster Woods has been created to advocate for preservation of this important tract of open space. Follow them on Facebook. In June 2017, the Friends wrote a letter to the candidates for mayor asking them to pledge to take specific steps to preserve Webster Woods.
Articles and documents about this land
Looking for salamanders on a vernal pool walk