Mass Audubon’s Bob Wilber: “The Best Tactic is Hope”
Bob Wilber, Director of Land Protection for the Massachusetts Audubon Society, brought a positive message to the Newton Conservators’ annual dinner on May 25, 2011. Mr. Wilber served as the keynote speaker as the Conservators celebrated our 50th Anniversary. He told the audience of 130 that there is much to be hopeful about, from a conservation perspective, and that open space advocates gain more community support with a message of hope than with warnings of doom.
Mr. Wilber congratulated the Conservators on 50 years of achievement, much of which was on display at exhibits in the room. He noted that Massachusetts was the birthplace of the land trust movement in the 1890s and that the state has more land trusts per square mile than any other state. Contrary to many people’s impression, he said, today there is more conserved land than developed land in the state. The economic downturn has created large opportunities for land conservation, with land prices in decline and money for acquisitions able to buy more. In spite of the difficult times, the Commonwealth has responded by making $50 million per year available for open space acquisitions for five years.
With news of wars, terrorism, and a recession creating a mood of gloom, he said, people need a message of hope, and when they hear one they respond. Only about 5% of the U.S. population are active conservationists, but conservation does have broad popular support. Conservationists can reach out to the other 95% by stressing broad themes:
- the benefits of clean water
- the benefits of clean air
- the importance of open space for spiritual renewal and as a place to “tune out” the high-stress man-made world.
Mr. Wilber suggested that open space advocates form alliances with various groups:
- schools, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, and youth groups
- farmers and community gardeners
- Community Preservation Committees, which are the source of most funding in participating Massachusetts communities for land acquisitions.
Mr. Wilber suggested a tree-planting initiative as one way to connect with local volunteers. (In fact, the Conservators have implemented some of the same approaches, accessing CPA funds for acquisitions and working with Newton’s newest conservation organization, the Newton Tree Conservancy, which plants trees.)
Mr. Wilber noted that, more than anything else, a lack of access for land owners to information is a hindrance to conservation. An important function of a land trust like the Conservators is to serve as an information clearinghouse. He encouraged us to give others in the community the opportunity to work with us.
“Here’s to the next 50 years,” he said, “for the Newton Conservators to make an impact for conservation.”
Thank you all very much for your enthusiastic participation as sponsors, silent auction donors and bidders, and guests at our Annual Dinner last month. We made quite a bit of money – more than we expected – but most of all we had fun, we spread our good word a little further out into the Newton community, and we let many new people know who we are and the good and important things we do. Congratulations to all who worked very hard to make this a success!
There are two significant projects to watch over the next few months. The Riverside development is continuing to evolve, and, while the project raises many issues, a couple are uniquely important to us. The Riverside site borders the Charles River, and if it goes forward there should be appropriate pedestrian and visual access for people working, living and shopping at the site. In addition, cyclists and walkers should be able to get to and use the site as much as possible. One of the main selling points of the development is the energy saving which comes from building around existing public transportation. Making it possible to use all other means of getting to and around the site is key to making this project make sense.
Second, the Chestnut Hill Shopping Center owners are seeking special permits to make changes at the site. It would be wonderful to take this opportunity to create better access to Hammond Pond from the parking lot, as well as to create a buffer for parking lot and Route 9 stormwater runoff in the process. The first public hearing before the Board of Aldermen’s Land Use Committee is June 21. Check the BOA calendar for further hearings. Let the Aldermen know how you feel.
I wish you all a fun and relaxing summer!
– Jane Sender
Environmentalists of the Year: Newton Conservators Trail Guide Committee
The Newton Conservators’ Environmentalist of the Year Award for 2011 was given to the Trail Guide Committee, made up of Pat Robinson, Dan Brody, Lucy Caldwell-Stair and Judy Hepburn. The Trail Guide, Walking Trails in Newton’s Park & Conservation Lands, is the Conservators’ “signature item.” It was first published in 2003 and was updated in 2010. The Trail Guide maps the locations of trails for walking, hiking, and cross-country skiing at all of Newton’s major open spaces. For many Newton residents, it is the introduction to how to access the open spaces that are available to us all.
Pat Robinson provided design work. This year Pat also designed banners, business cards, and our new brochure, created our new 50th anniversary logo and stationery, designed our beautiful invitation and program for the annual dinner, and, with Lucy Caldwell-Stair, designed our historical display.
Lucy Caldwell-Stair served as the keeper of years of corrections to the old guide. Beyond that, she was “on the look out” for hidden areas to be included in the new one. With Pat, Lucy produced the historical display on exhibit at the annual dinner. The Conservators intend that the display will move to the Newton History Museum for people to enjoy.
Judy Hepburn is a long-time member of the Newton Conservators and also serves the City as a member of the Conservation Commission. Judy is a geologist. As President Sender said, Judy “knows how to draw maps, and she made all of them for this guide.” The maps provide the important references for anyone using the Trail Guide to reach and navigate the parks.
Dan Brody worked on the new maps and background information for the guide. Dan works at keeping the Conservators’ website updated. Dan also monitors Cold Spring Park. This year, with the help of Newton’s Parks and Recreation Department and NewtonSERVES, Dan led an effort to get the mounds of trash out the pond at Cold Spring Park.
President Jane Sender presented the award to the four recipients at the Annual Dinner. She thanked them for their talent, hard work, and dedication to the Conservators. In her words, “It is truly amazing how much talent this group has and that we could create something this good from an all-volunteer effort.”
This was the 30th Environmentalist of the Year Award presented by the Newton Conservators to an individual or group who has made a distinguished environmental contribution to our community.
Charles Johnson Maynard Award: Suzette Barbier and Duane Hillis
The Charles Johnson Maynard Award is given each year to recognize efforts “to improve biodiversity, habitat reclamation, and natural resource protection.”
In 2011, the award went to Duane Hillis and Suzette Barbier for their work with the Friends of Nahanton Park.
The Friends of Nahanton Park was re-energized in the past year. The first issue that arose was with unruly dogs and the possibility of an off leash dog park. Then came expansion plans for Angino Farm into Nahanton Park. In the winter came mounds of filthy snow, excessive City of Newton vehicular presence, discarded Christmas trees, discarded tree limbs, and dumped mattresses.
Duane “led the charge” to pull the Friends of Nahanton Park together, to create a more powerful voice. He sets the bar high for what it means to care about the city we live in and for how, as private citizens coming together with City officials, we can make sure a park as special as Nahanton Park is protected.
Suzette Barbier is frequently found birding in the early morning at Nahanton Park. She is often the first to see problems. She is passionate about that beautiful park. Suzette is also a talented artist and graphic designer. She designed the Friends of Nahanton Park brochure and its website, and she maintains a wonderful nature blog on the website.
Directors’ Award: Deborah and Frank Howard
The Conservators gave Frank and Deborah Howard a Directors’ Award for their lifetime of service to the Conservators, to conservation, and to Newton.
Deborah Howard served effectively on the Conservators’ board for many years. In addition, she was Assistant Secretary of Environmental Affairs for Massachusetts and a member of the Newton Conservation Commission, the Urban Tree Commission, and the Board of the Massachusetts Audubon Society. Deborah also earned the Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s Gold Medal “for eminent horticultural accomplishments.”
Frank Howard has been the “heart and soul” of the Newton Conservators board. Since Frank’s retirement from the Board, meetings are not the same without him. Always the first to offer praise for others’ accomplishments, Frank was tireless on our Board, representing us on the High Performance Building Coalition and on bicycling, transportation and safety committees. He produced environmental programs for New TV and articles and photographs for the newsletter. Frank has also been central to the Board of the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation’s restoration of the native chestnut.