2005 Conservators Annual Dinner Meeting

Roger Swain

“The Man in the Red Suspenders” will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Annual Meeting of the Newton Conservators on Wednesday, June 1, at Post 440 in Nonantum.

Roger Swain, a resident of Newton Highlands and a member for several years of the Conservators’ Board of Advisors, will speak about trends in farming and gardening, with particular reference to community farming and the impending acquisition of Angino Farm by the city.

Roger Swain is best known as the host of “The Victory Garden” on PBS, a position he held for 15 years. Recently, he returned to television as co-host of a new program, shown locally on Channel 56, called “People, Places and Plants,” created by the magazine of the same name.

Since 1978, Roger has been science editor of Horticulture Magazine, writing regularly on a variety of topics. He is the author of several books about gardening and horticulture, including Earthly Pleasures, The Practical Gardener, Field Days, Saving Graces, and Groundwork, and contributor to many more. As storyteller and lecturer, he is in wide demand, speaking at garden shows, garden clubs, and other venues.

In 1992, Swain received the American Horticulture Society Award for Writing and in 1996, he was awarded the Massachusetts Horticulture Society’s Gold Medal for his “power to inspire others.” He is a graduate of Harvard College and earned a PhD for his study of the behavior of ants in tropical rain forests. But it is his work with plants that has made Roger Swain one of this country’s most highly regarded authorities on gardening.

In addition to their Newton residence, Roger and his wife own a working farm in southern New Hampshire. So he brings his own honest, personal experience to the topic of farming. His observations on the art and science of farming, along with the trends, benefits, and consequences associated with community farming, will be a treat for all who attend. And, of course, the timing couldn’t be better, as we continue on many levels the work needed to complete the Angino Farm acquisition and plan for operation of the farm.

Awards Presented

Environmentalist of the Year: Doug Dickson

For his active participation in numerous environmental-based causes including his active work with the Community Preservation Committee and land acquisition.

In ten years as a Conservator, Doug has made his mark on the organization and, more than anyone else in recent years, has helped the Conservators make its mark on this community.

Doug has been a Newton resident since 1983. He lives in Newton Centre with his wife, Sharon Smith, where they raised two children.

In 1995, Doug worked with the city, Youth Soccer and his neighbors to oversee renovation of Weeks Field, an 11-acre city park. In 1996, Doug joined the Conservators’ Board of Directors. At about the same time, he became chair of the just-formed Urban Tree Commission, where he helped develop and pass the city’s Tree Preservation Ordinance, requiring that trees removed for new construction be replaced to prevent a net loss of city trees. In 1997, he became chair of the Newton Integrated Pest Management Advisory Committee and led the design and implementation of a nationally recognized IPM policy for city buildings and grounds. That policy in Newton ’s schools earned an IPM Star rating in 2004 from the national IPM Institute, only the second school system in the nation to be so recognized. Doug also chaired the Landscape Maintenance Task Force in 1995 and serves on the Landscape Advisory Council, its successor. In 1999, he became president of the Conservators, after serving a two-year term as vice president.

In 2000, during Doug’s term as president, the Community Preservation Act was approved by the state legislature and the question in Newton was whether to adopt the CPA. The Conservators took the lead in organizing a coalition of like-minded groups and individuals to put the measure before the voters. Doug was a key member of the group, helping to plan the campaign and deliver the CPA message at various public meetings. In November of that year, the CPA was adopted in Newton , and that opened the door to the Conservators’ current success in bringing important open space acquisitions before the Community Preservation Committee. In 2002, the Conservators’ Environmentalist of the Year Award went to the Community Preservation Alliance.

The Community Preservation Committee was formed by the city in 2001. Doug became one of the original nine members of that committee, serving initially as its vice chair and later as its chair, the position he currently holds. Doug continued in his role as the public face for many of the CPC’s activities, holding public hearings, presenting to the Board of Aldermen and meeting with community groups.

In 2003, the Kesseler Woods property was put on the market by NStar. Kesseler Woods had been a priority parcel for acquisition for decades and now, with CPA funds, the city had a chance to bid on the land. The Mayor, who received the 2004 Environmentalist of the Year Award for his leadership role at Kesseler Woods, assembled a task force and recruited Doug as a member. Together with others, Doug was a key to the successful bid and acquisition of Kesseler Woods.

That wasn’t enough. The next year, the Angino Farm, a second priority parcel, came to market. Doug was part of the Conservators’ Land Acquisition Committee that created a strategy for protection. We put the parcel under agreement and brought the agreement to the Community Preservation Committee, where Doug by then was chair. Doug and the CPC helped craft the eventual plan for a working farm at Angino. Today, the farm is pending purchase by the city.

Doug’s credibility with the Board of Aldermen and with the Mayor, and his work to help craft these and others proposals has contributed to high quality CPA projects. He has helped assure an excellent track record that will help us make a good case for renewal of the Act in Newton , if it again comes to a vote.

In 2003, Doug became a member of the Newton Conservation Commission. At times, his service is needed at City Hall every night of the week. Doug rises to the chairmanship of the various committees he joins because others respect his sound judgment , his calm demeanor and his ability to lead a group. The Conservators have certainly benefited from Doug’s leadership. So has the city. The community is a better place because Doug Dickson has taken it upon himself to serve. He clearly loves this work and we want to thank him by making him our Environmentalist of the Year for 2005.

Eric Reenstierna

Charles Maynard Award: Cris Criscitiello

“Hello, I’m Cris Criscitiello and this is the Environmental Show…” We are all getting quite used to seeing Cris as the spokesperson for the Conservators portion of The Environmental Show on NewTV. His welcome smile, comfortable manner in front of the camera and wonderful voice make Cris a natural host. Cris has worked diligently on each of the NewTV Environmental Shows, spending countless hours recording his voice, taping in the field and assisting in the editing of these shows. The Cold Spring series especially brought much needed attention to the work of The Newton Conservators in habitat reclamation, biodiversity and the need to protect our natural resources. This short series, consisting of two half-hour shows was shown on NewTV and is available at the Newton Free Library. Education is the key to getting people involved in protecting our environment and Cris in a leader here in Newton in making that happen.

Cris organizes and participates in the Newton portion of the Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count, setting up teams to cover each area in the count, tabulating the results and submitting them. This critical element in helping track the movements of birds creates an early warning of changes in their natural habitat.

As an avid birder, Cris has served as an able leader on a number of our spring and fall bird walks. With Beth Schroeder, he is creating a bio-almanac of the conservation areas that John Richardson documented in1995. This team will review the list of plant and animal species recorded by Richardson, taking note of changes over the last 10 years.

Cris also worked with fellow Conservator Jon Regosin and the developer of Kesseler Woods to plan the pathways that will make this jewel of an open space available to all. By creating access, we hope to improve the appreciation of this parcel as an essential part of the greater Charles River watershed ecosystem.

Like Charles Johnson Maynard in his day, Cris Crisitiello deserves this award for his actions to promote awareness of biodiversity, reclamation of wildlife habitat and protection our natural resources. Cris is a retired cardiologist with a lot of heart.

Directors Award: Bill Shaevel

Doing good sometimes requires having a good lawyer! Bill Shaevel, a member of our Board of Advisors, has been the go-to person for the Newton Conservators. As we have discovered, legal work is increasingly a large part of the open space effort, particularly with new CPA-related acquisitions. With his friendly “Top of the morning” greeting by phone or in person, this highly experienced attorney has been the legal backbone of our organization, drafting complex documents, interacting with the city and our project partners, and providing us with top-notch representation.

As a concrete example of how much work is involved in such projects, Bill recently provided a bound collection over two inches thick of legal documents for the recent 76 Webster Park project, which will increase the area of the Dolan Pond Conservation Area by 10%. It included complex agreements between the Conservators and the city, the Newton Housing Authority, and Habitat for Humanity. Conservation restrictions, an important component of any open space project, need to go through many approval steps and Bill’s pro bono service has been invaluable on this and other projects.

Bill is a founding partner of the Boston law firm of Shaevel and Krems. The firm began in the late 1960s when Bill began practicing law with the late Congressman Joe Moakley and it assumed the current name in 1987. Although he currently lives “just over the line” in Brookline , Bill is a former Newton Alderman and chairman of the Economic Development Commission. He is currently vice president of Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly and Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph Bethany Hill Housing, as well as treasurer for the John Joseph Moakley Charitable Foundation.

Bill says, “I love being called someone’s lawyer and consider myself lucky to have chosen this calling over 30 years ago.” We are fortunate to have Bill Shaevel as “Legal Counsel to the Newton Conservators” and for his wonderful efforts, we are pleased to recognize his service with our Director’s Award.

Directors Award: Joan and David Rosenberg

Joan and David Rosenberg played key roles in the renewal of Ordway Park over the last several years.