Discussion of the 2013 Monitoring Report

People often wonder: Just what do Newton Conservators do? Some people have mistaken us for a “conservative” organization. While the Newton Conservators are not a political organization, we are conservative about one thing. We want to protect open space in Newton. There is precious little open space left in our community, and our organization wants to protect as much of it as possible.

A photographer at Ordway Park
Ordway Park was bequeathed to
The Conservators by Priscilla Ordway in 1971

Newton Conservators own several parcels of land in Newton. Ordway Park, Awtrey Dell and Prospect Park were donated to our land trust. Newton Conservators also hold conservation restrictions on open spaces they do not own including Angino Farm, Wilmerding, Newton Commonwealth Golf Course, Webster Park and the path near Levingston Cove at Crystal Lake. Conservation restrictions make sure land will be protected as open space in the future. Newton Conservators don’t just hold conservation restriction paperwork in their files. Members visit these properties regularly to make sure conservation restrictions are being upheld.

In 2013, Newton Conservators also hired Massachusetts Audubon Society to do a field visit of eight properties in Newton. Volunteers from our board of directors went along on these field visits with Liz Newlands from Massachusetts Audubon Society. Next year our land trust will continue with Liz’s work, and our volunteers will do site visits on their own. Each month at our board meetings, our volunteers will give brief presentations about their adopted open spaces. Our board of directors wants to be aware how each property is doing.

Some of these open spaces need more regular maintenance than others. Ordway Park is on the corner of Grant and Everett Street. For safety reasons, Ordway Park will be visited by an arborist for trimming dead wood; the paths need to be cleared of fallen limbs; the grass must be mowed and mulched; path surfaces need regular replenishing.

Newton Conservators want to keep these opens spaces safe and attractive for the public to enjoy. When you pay annual membership dues or make a contribution to Newton Conservators, your funds help maintain Newton’s open spaces.

Invasive plant removal is another task tackled by Newton Conservators’ volunteers. Ordway Park used to be filled with Euonymus alatus, often called burning bush or winged euonymus, which is listed on Invasive Plant Atlas of New England (IPANE). Euonymus alatus has been recognized as a destructive invasive, which is banned in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Euonymus alatus is illegal to sell, propagate or transport in Massachusetts. Ordway Park volunteers spent many hours eradicating Euonymus alatus along with other invasive plants. Keeping invasive species from over-running Ordway Park is an ongoing effort. If you still have Euonymus alatus growing on your property, please remove it, to help stop these invasive plants from spreading into our open spaces.

I enjoyed going along on the conservation restriction site visits with Liz Newlands and our volunteers. It was a pleasure to be outdoors enjoying these open spaces. Newton Commonwealth Golf Course is a very large open space being preserved for future generations. Its conservation restriction guarantees the land won’t be developed and filled with house lots or office buildings. While on our walk, I learned that Newton’s residents can cross country ski there in the winter. With its big open stretches and rolling hills, skiing there would be a fun adventure.

On our visit to Newton Commonwealth Golf Course, we found evidence of illegal dumping: a pile of asphalt in a wooded area near a fairway. Dumping is prohibited by the conservation restriction, and the debris must be removed. An attractive new bridge has been added to one of the golf course paths. From this bridge you can look down into a low hollow. It would be a pretty view, but the trees were buried in invasive vines, Celastrus orbiculatus, Oriental bittersweet, and Polygonum perfoliatum, mile-a-minute weed. Removing these vines and trying to keep them out of Newton Commonwealth Golf Course’s property will be difficult and time-consuming.

Most residents in Newton are already familiar with Crystal Lake. Perhaps you didn’t know there is now a public path along the waterfront behind the architecturally interesting residence at 230 Lake Avenue. This path connects Levingston Cove with the new lawn and picnic area near the swimming pavilion on Rogers Street. Newton Conservators worked with the City on the conservation restriction that created this public right of way. The Conservators’ board is considering whether to add a sign so that visitors to the lake will know where the path is.

During Newton Conservators’ site visit at Angino Farm, we saw the new handicap-accessible roadside vegetable stand on Winchester Street. Angino Farm’s barn is undergoing extensive renovations. We observed the progress of the fruit trees planted along the boundary fence in memory of Carol Lee Corbett, a past Newton Conservators’ board member. The chicken yard was very active.

Webster Park (not to be confused with Webster Conservation Land) is a small woodland area overlooking Dolan Pond Conservation Area. Boy Scout Troop 355 created a woodland path, called Irene’s Path, which winds along an edge of Dolan Pond’s red maple swamp. There is an inviting bench at the end of the path. The path was named in memory of Irene Forté, the former property owner who arranged with Newton Conservators to allocate parcels including open space and Habitat for Humanity housing.

Wilmerding is contiguous to Webster Conservation Land, adding to the largest conservation area in Newton. You can access Wilmerding and Webster Conservation Land from Elgin Road in Newton Centre.

All of the open spaces in this article are open to the public. They are listed in the latest edition of our Newton Conservators’ Walking Trails book and in the Newton Conservators’ Almanac, which are available on our website.

Awtrey Dell and Prospect Park are not very inviting for us humans, but they make good animal habitat. With more funds, we could remove invasive plants on these properties and replant them with appropriate native species. Removing invasive plants is allowed under conservation restrictions. Having the money and time to do the work is the problem. The most worrisome culprits in Awtrey and Prospect Park are Norway maples. Norway maples were originally planted as street trees. The city did not realize how aggressively they would invade our open spaces and our house lots. The dense foliage of Norway maple shades out native plants.

Remember, our open spaces need to be treated with respect. Yard waste and leaves should never be dumped into our open spaces. Dumping is prohibited. It suffocates plants and makes a mess of our open spaces. Please go out there, and enjoy our properties and let us know what you find. And help us keep them attractive. Your participation, and Newton Conservators membership dues and donations, really do make a difference.

Beth Schroeder, President
December, 2013