Most visitors to Newton’s Auburndale Park , affectionately known as “the Cove”, may not be aware of the immediately adjacent and expansive Flowed Meadow Conservation Area. This lovely 28-acre parcel consists of wetlands, uplands, small kettles and grassy edge habitats that are very attractive to wildlife. It is home to coyotes and fox, reptiles, and many bird species—bald eagles were even seen there last winter.
The Flowed Meadow area can be easily accessed from the far right corner of the Cove parking lot on West Pine Street . It extends downstream on the Charles River to the Forest Grove Circle and back from the river to the rear of the capped landfill that is across Lexington Street from the Burr School fields. A trail entrance is on Staniford Street which is off Lexington Street .
A small stream flows from the east through the “flowed meadow” to a pump station near the banks of the Charles River . The level of the stream is lower than the river and the pump station serves to raise the stream flow to river level. The north side of the Flowed Meadow is bounded by a little known upland path/unpaved road which goes from Forest Grove Circle and connects to Wabasso Street, running behind the DPW landfill.
In 1983, seven acres were conveyed to the city to form the original Flowed Meadow Conservation Area, which is under the jurisdiction of the Newton Conservation Commission. In 2000, additional land was deemed surplus to DPW needs and declared as open space. The Mayor’s Flowed Meadow Planning Group recommended that this area be used for passive recreation and made suggestions for improvements.
While familiar to locals, the trails in Flowed Meadow were unmarked, overgrown, and difficult to navigate. Crossing two of the streams in the area was particularly difficult, forcing visitors to utilize an unstable hodgepodge of boards and logs, often resulting in wet feet for those daring enough to try.
Matthew Gray, who lives near Flowed Meadow, decided to do something about this situation and tackled the job as his Boy Scout Eagle Project. Such volunteer service projects have been invaluable in many of our Conservation Areas over the past several years. He consulted with Martha Aherin Horn , Newton ‘s Senior Environmental Planner, and came up with a proposal which he took before the Conservation Commission for approval. The plan encompassed new bridges for the trails, signage, and bluebird houses.
Troop participation is an important component of any Eagle project and some thirty scouts, leaders, and other adults were involved, with approximately 150 volunteer hours expended. At one of the scout meetings, troop members worked in teams to build and assemble six bluebird houses, which were later installed along the trails. The unusual design of the houses allow them to be easily cleaned and maintained. The Eastern Bluebird used to be abundant in Newton but competition from non-native species reduced their numbers to the point where many Newtonites may never have seen one.
New trail signs were designed with a rustic look with their forest green color and routed lettering highlighted in yellow. They designate previously unmarked trails such as Staniford Path and the Swamp Trail. With the new trail signs, Flowed Meadow is no longer a veritable forest maze.
The new bridges may be the highlight of the project and should last for decades. They are not only stable, but have minimal visual impact on their surroundings. As an example of creative recycling, some structural components of the old bog bridges from Dolan Pond, since replaced with a raised boardwalk, were used in the two Flowed Meadow bridges. Prior to the installation itself, a work day had been devoted to preparing, cutting, and drilling the bridge materials. One of the bridges spans the stream through the Flowed Meadow, provides a means of travel across the meadow and makes possible a nice walking loop.
The installation itself took place on June 14, 2003 , a misty Saturday, with scouts, leaders, and parents all working together in teams. Some worked on the bridges and others dug holes for the sign posts, while another group took on the task of scouting for good locations and installing the birdhouses. All the installation work was finished by 2:00 PM that day, ahead of schedule. As the scout troop was leaving, the members were pleased to see some visitors to Flowed Meadow already walking across bridges that, a few hours before, didn’t even exist! Thanks to this project, future visitors will have an easier time navigating the wild area of Newton known as Flowed Meadow.
by Ted Kuklinski