Newton Conservators celebrates its 60th Anniversary of advocating for open space in Newton this year. Traditionally, the organization presented awards at an annual dinner meeting in May but Covid upended the normality of indoor ceremonies. Instead, the awards were presented outside on a clear and pleasant Monday afternoon, September 27 (Rachel Carson Day), at City Hall’s Salvatore Balsamo Millennium Park adjacent to the new Pollinator Garden and Story Walk there. Newton Conservators president, Ted Kuklinski, welcomed honorees and guests and noted that this was likely the largest number of awardees for the organization ever.
Directors’ Awards are given each year to individuals or groups who have made a significant contribution to the preservation of open space in Newton. This year the Conservators honored three city employees who, as Conservators’ President Ted Kuklinski observed, are more than employees. “I consider them friends, and friends of open space.”
In the course of 32 years, Bob DeRubeis, the retired Newton Parks, Recreation and Culture Commissioner, worked for five Newton mayors. The Conservators recognized DeRubeis, “In gratitude for his many decades of stewardship to our Garden City parkland in his leadership roles with the Newton Parks and Recreation Department.”
Long-time Community Preservation Committee Program Manager Alice Ingerson notably oversaw the proposed use of CPA funds to assist in the acquisition of Webster Woods. The Award comes “In gratitude for her role in shepherding so many of our open space related Community Preservation Act projects through the government process.”
As City Solicitor, now retired, Ouida Young served on the Webster Woods Advisory Panel for Newton’s most significant open space acquisition in a decade. The Conservators acknowledged her “In gratitude for her role in clearing the legal hurdles for open space projects over decades as Solicitor in the Newton Law Department.”
The Charles Johnson Maynard Award is given each year to recognize efforts “to improve biodiversity, habitat reclamation, and natural resource protection.” Charles Johnson Maynard was a well-known naturalist, ornithologist, author, and publisher who was born and lived in Newton from 1845 until his death in 1929. The award was presented to Alan Nogee, the founder of Friends of Cold Spring Park.
Nogee, a long-time Newton resident, has had a 40-year career working to clean up our energy systems including 17 years with the Union of Concerned Scientists, as the Clean Energy Program Director and Director of Climate & Energy Strategy & Policy. The Conservators singled out Nogee “For his leadership and tireless efforts to establish and lead the Friends of Cold Spring Park, raising public awareness and support to protect and enhance this large, diverse, and beloved open green space.”
The Environmentalist of the Year Award, first presented in 1981, goes to the individual or group that has made the greatest contribution to the protection of Newton’s environment. Through incredible teamwork that started in earnest in the summer of 2015, the Conservators noted, Webster Woods officially was saved as city-owned open space in perpetuity in December 2019. That significant accomplishment, which will be enjoyed by many generations of people to come (and the plants and creatures that live in the woods), was accomplished through a combination of political skill, legal expertise, political acumen, financial and land-use analysis, the ability to communicate scientific knowledge in a clear and engaging way, and just plain hard work by many.
The Environmentalist of the Year Award was awarded to the “Webster Woods Team”, both city personnel and citizen and organization volunteers who managed to “Save Webster Woods” in perpetuity. These included: Rory Altman, Councilor Lisle Baker, Peter Barrer, Suzanne Berne, Dan Brody, Kathy Cade, Suzanne Carleo, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, Alissa Giuliani, Jeff Goldman, Barney Heath, Ken Kimmel, Rebecca Mayne, Eric Olson, Richard Primack, Steve Small, Jennifer Steel, Beth Wilkinson, Jonanthan Yeo, and Ouida Young.
Beth Wilkinson, former Newton Conservators President, who chaired the Webster Woods Advisory Panel, reflected on the history and importance of the project: “The most important outcome of the team was that 17 acres of forest land will be preserved for all time. Webster Woods, combined with open space surrounding it, forms Newtons largest contiguous forest. That’s really important because uninterrupted natural land supports helping native habitats and fosters biodiversity. That large expanse of protected open space provides home to plants, birds, mammals, amphibians, and insects that would not thrive in smaller areas. And it contains wonderful features such as Bare Pond, a vernal pool. Preserving that land was a gift to all of us and to generations to come. But there was another gift too that came with it. The process of the whole community working together to preserve that land was wonderful and It was really inspiring. It’s a process that took more than four years.”
Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, who led the city initiative to acquire Webster Woods, offered these thoughts: “The four years that it took for Webster Woods was a blink of an eye actually, since we’ve got these woods for eternity. We’ve got ledges, vales, vernal ponds, Gooch’s cave, birds and frogs and salamanders, and it really took all of us. I’m deeply grateful to everyone who had a part in this endeavor. It took so many people to write the letters and emails, to attend so many meetings and speak up, to walk the walks, write the articles and the letters, hand out literature, design logos, sign petitions, and yes open their wallets wide. The pandemic has made crystal clear that having open space proximate to all of us is not a luxury – it’s essential!
Since its establishment in 1961, Newton Conservators has worked to fulfill its mission of “the protection and preservation of natural areas… for the enjoyment and benefit of the people of Newton for scientific study, education, and recreation.” The organization is a non-profit land trust with a broad range of activities from land acquisition, guided walks, lectures and online webinars, stewardship and monitoring of open spaces, holding conservation restrictions, grants for student projects, management of wild lands to enhance habitat and improve public access, invasive removal, and publication of a trail guide, nature almanac, informative newsletter, e-bulletin, and website (newtonconservators.org).
Newton Conservators Open Space Award Winners for 2021 at the Newton City Hall Pollinator Garden
(Back row) Richard Primack, Alice Ingerson, Ouida Young, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller, Jonathan Yeo, Barney Heath, Steve Small. Suzanne Carleo, Bob DeRubeis, Ted Kuklinski, (Front row) Jennifer Steel, Beth Wilkinson, Alan Nogee