2004 Conservators Annual Dinner Meeting

Renata von Tscharner and Karl Haglund: “Inventing the Charles River”

Renata von Tscharner

Renata von Tscharner is president and founder of the Charles River Conservancy. A Newton resident, she is an architect and urban planner who has written books on cityscapes and urban art.

Karl Haglund is a senior planner for the state Department of Recreation and Conservation (formerly Metropolitan District Commission). He has a long interest in urban design and the history of the Charles River Basin .

Our speakers collaborated on the book, “Inventing the Charles River,” published by MIT Press in 2002. The book was written by Haglund with a foreword by von Tscharner.

The Charles River Basin , extending nine miles upstream from the harbor, has been called Boston ‘s Central Park . Yet few realize that this apparently natural landscape is a totally fabricated public space. Two hundred years ago the Charles was a tidal river, edged by hundreds of acres of salt marshes and mudflats.

Haglund and von Tscharner will describe how, before the creation of the basin could begin, the river first had to be imagined as a single public space. The new esplanades along the river changed the way Bostonians perceived their city. And the basin, with its expansive views of Boston and Cambridge , became an iconic image of the metropolitan area.

The book focuses on the precarious balance between transportation planning and public stewardship. Long before the esplanades were created, great stretches of the river were devoted to industrial enterprises and transportation—millponds, bridges, landfills, and a complex network of road and railway bridges. In 1929, Boston ‘s first major highway controversy erupted when a four-lane road was proposed as part of a new esplanade. At twenty-year intervals, three riverfront road disputes followed, successively more complex and contentious, culminating in the lawsuits over “Scheme Z,” the Big Dig’s plan for eighteen lanes of highway ramps and bridges over the river.

The presentation will include photographs, maps, and drawings that illustrate past and future visions for the Charles and document the river’s place in Boston ‘s history.

President’s Report

Awards Presented

Environmentalist of the Year: Mayor David Cohen

2003 was a banner year in Newton for preserving open space. Of the many projects that were either started or completed, there is one that stands out in terms of its significance to the community, the complexity and challenge of the process, and the high stakes nature of the effort. The acquisition of Kesseler Woods occurred for two reasons: availability of CPA funds and the single-minded determination and creative leadership of Mayor David Cohen.

For these reasons, the Newton Conservators will present its Environmentalist of the Year Award to David Cohen at its Annual Meeting this year.

Though he relied on his staff and a committee of community leaders and advocates to help guide the deal, Mayor Cohen played a pivotal role at key junctures in the process. The first occurred early on when NStar set a February date for responding to its auction, effectively ruling out a bid from the city. Cohen got the Attorney General to extend the auction timetable to June. Then he shaped the proposal to partner with a developer and negotiated the terms of the deal. He obtained community, CPC and Board of Aldermen approval for the plan, and when the auction was extended to a second round, the Mayor put together the winning bid. This marked the first time in the state’s history that a municipality has successfully partnered with a developer to prevail in the sale by auction of a major parcel of land.

In selecting the Mayor for this award, we recognize as well his impeccable record on environmental issues over the years. But it is for his stunning success against all odds in the acquisition of Kesseler Woods that the Conservators Board of Directors honors David Cohen as the 2004 Environmentalist of the Year.

–Doug Dickson

Charles Maynard Award: Stephanie Bacon

Hammond Pond is one of Newton ’s most beautiful ponds and is a significant natural resource. It is very visible, as it lies directly adjacent to the parking lots of commercial developments along Route 9, where most of us have shopped at one time or another. Water quality in Hammond Pond has been in decline for decades. It took the dedication of neighbor Stephanie Bacon, who is a Conservator and a past member of our Board of Directors, to bring about a change.

In 1995, Stephanie began studying Hammond Pond. Through her efforts and the efforts of the Hammond Pond Task Force, we learned that water quality problems at the pond stem an overload of nutrients from Route 9 and parking lot runoff, oil and grease, and the by-products of geese and other birds. A cure was needed to preserve Hammond Pond.

The planned cure is a filtration system to be installed at the edge of the pond where it receives runoff from the parking lots. Filtration beds will provide a bioengineering solution so that the water entering the pond will be far cleaner than the water it receives today. Funding and cooperation from the adjacent property owners and various civic and government groups have been secured. Stephanie Bacon spearheaded this effort. She did this out of a love for this place, and for that we all benefit. This important reclamation project would not have gone forward without Stephanie. She has made a difference.

The Charles Maynard Award is given each year to recognize achievement in biodiversity, habitat reclamation, and natural resource protection. The Board of Directors of the Newton Conservators is pleased to honor Stephanie Bacon as the 2004 recipient of this Award.

–Eric Reenstierna

Directors Awards: Three Recipients

“Walking Trails” Map Guide Team

Some of Newton ’s richest habitat is hidden away in open spaces that are off the beaten path. Some of us take years to find them. Three Conservators—last year’s President, Lucy Caldwell Stair, former Board member Judy Hepburn, and Pat Robinson—teamed up to create a booklet to bring us to these places and guide us by trail maps into the heart of them. Judy made the maps, Lucy wrote the text, and Pat laid out the design in a brochure that can be put out on a coffee table or stuffed into a hiker’s pocket. To say that this guide is high-quality is to understate it by a long shot. The guide is available through the Conservators or at local bookstores. For this highly successful effort, the Conservators are pleased to honor Lucy Caldwell-Stair, Judy Hepburn, and Pat Robinson with a Directors’ Award.

–Eric Reenstierna

Retired Science Coordinator Maxine Rosenberg

Maxine Rosenberg was science coordinator for the Newton Public Schools when the Newton Conservators initiated their successful grant program. Maxine saw the benefit of having outside funding to assist teachers and students in environmental education and helped promote the program to science teachers. Her support continued for almost a decade and as a result, the Conservators have funded numerous projects, including butterfly gardens, community gardens, garden classrooms, science days, and water quality projects. Maxine was tireless in her support of this effort to provide unique educational opportunities for Newton students. It is a pleasure to recognize her years of dedicated service to the environmental education of our kids.

–Bill Hagar

Retired Animal Control Officer Lucille Riddle

It may not always be apparent, but there is a rich diversity of wildlife in our city. That means the potential for occasional conflict between the interests of animals, like coyotes, deer and fox, and residents. Newton Animal Control Officer Lucille Riddle recently retired after 25 years in the service of Newton . It was her job to manage the city’s wild animals found in our open spaces. When someone spotted an unfamiliar creature, it was probably Lucille who responded to their inquiry. She is a true animal lover and spends a lot of her spare time with organizations like SPIN (Stray Pets in Need), where she is Vice President and performs foster care for pets. Anyone who has met her in the field can attest to her devotion to her work with animals and it is that quality that we recognize with this award.

–Ted Kuklinski