President’s 2008 Annual Report

William Hagar gave his final address as President of the Newton Conservators at the Conservators’ annual dinner. Bill served with great humor, grew our organization, and was instrumental in the effort to expand the city’s park at Crystal Lake. Excerpts from his address follow.

Welcome to the forty-seventh annual meeting of the Newton Conservators. I want to thank all of you members and friends who are attending tonight’s dinner. Special thanks to municipal and elected officials who grace us with their attendance. Representatives Ruth Balzer and Kay Kahn, Alderman Ted Hess Mahan and Mayor David Cohen attended. Other aldermen sent best wishes and donations for our evening. Parks and Recreation Commissioner Fran Towle attended. We welcome all of you to our program and thank you for your assistance with the various open space projects in the past and the future. We also welcome individuals from other environmental and historical groups that are attending and have cooperated and collaborated with us in the past to keep open space and conservation on the agenda in Newton.

We also remember at this time Leo Levi, a good friend of the environment and of the City of Newton. Leo Levi recently passed away, but he left a legacy of beauty with his interest in flowers and the environment. Just think of it – over four million flowers that were purchased and planted in Newton by public and private individuals. He also worked with our children and initiated programs where they would grow plants, sunflowers, and small trees for better understanding of nature. Leo, more than most, put the City of Newton back into its depiction as the “Garden City”. There was a very nice article written by Linda Plaut in May 6’s TAB that listed all his activities. Leo will be sorely missed.

What activities have the Conservators been doing this past year? We have supported educational outreach programs. We have provided interesting walks and talks for residents. We have been able to protect and preserve several pieces of land by agreeing to hold conservation restrictions for the property. The Conservators were involved in the groundbreaking for the first “Habitat for Humanity” that was part of a “trifecta” for Newton and the Community Preservation Committee: (1) open space preservation (Dolan Pond), (2) historical house preservation (76 Webster Park), and (3) low income housing (Habitat for Humanity duplex). Interestingly enough, it was Ted Kuklinski who initiated the sequence of events that started the process of land acquisition and preservation by following a song bird.

“You must have the bird in your heart before you can find it in the bush.”

– John Burroughs

Ted was following a Scarlet Tanager from the Dolan Pond area to the back of the adjacent property of Irene Forte. Subsequently, Ted met Irene Forte, who gave him permission to go into her back yard and watch the uncommon bird sing away in the trees. This fortuitous encounter formed the basis of their friendship – until her death at the age of one hundred and four. Ted’s relationship with Irene provided the link to carry out her wish to have part of the property for open space and part for “Habitat for Humanity”. By the way, Ted told me that over the past Memorial Day weekend his birding group had, once again, found Scarlet Tanagers on Irene’s former property. Preservation and protection continues to help our flora and fauna.

“We can never have enough of nature.”
– Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

Previous conservation efforts are still providing residents with wonderful parks and activities. The Newton Community Garden (Angino Farm) is going strong with abundant greens and vegetables. The farm manager, Greg Maslowe, was our speaker at last year’s annual meeting, and the title for Greg’s talk was “Bountiful Backyards: Fruit Trees and Vegetable Gardens”. It was a wonderful evening for all of us as we were educated on how to properly plan and grow food producing plants in our backyards. This lecture can now be viewed on NewTV thanks to our video production staff. Part 1 Part 2

“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.”

– Dwight D. Eisenhower

What I like best about the Conservators is that members are inclined to do the right thing. All of us in the Conservators are volunteers. We serve a common mission, to preserve, protect and enhance our city’s open space as well as educating students and residents on the environment. When something needs to be done, someone will step forward and do it. You are a wonderful group of achievers who have made a difference in Newton and in New England. Included in some of our activities are the following:

  • support grants for environmental activities
  • maintaining land that we own such as Dexter Woods and Ordway Park
  • pay for our newsletter
  • fund the costs of appraisals and environmental assessments that are crucial to land acquisitions.
  • provide Newton residents with environmental-based presentations that are shown on local television programs.
  • fund scholarships for students in the Environmental Sciences Program

We had an interesting group of grant proposals submitted this year. The following grants were approved and funds were distributed to the requesting groups.

Butterfly Garden Open Classroom Grant Proposal –

The Newton Conservators approved funding of $2,314 for improvement of the Butterfly Garden Project at Horace Mann School. The allocation was for the purchase and assembly of three picnic tables and benches that will enable Horace Mann faculty and staff to transform the present garden into a true open space classroom for all students. The flowers that were planted include lavender, asters, purple coneflowers, butterfly weed, and sunflowers that add to the beauty and enhance the likelihood of insect visitors. It is with fond memories that we once again supported Horace Mann School endeavors to combine educational topics with environmental activities. At the turn of the century, the Newton Conservators provided funds to help initiate the first Butterfly Garden, which now will have expanded use. The tables that will be assembled – for up to a full classroom seating – will transform the present butterfly garden into a true open space classroom. Students will enjoy releasing butterflies raised in class, drawing pictures of flora and fauna in the garden, and writing some descriptions and poetry based on the garden.

The Impact of Litter on the Environment –

The Newton Conservators approved funding of $200 toward a Newton North environmental project to make people more aware of litter pollution. The funds were used to support an education theme that educated students and residents about the harmful effects of littering on watersheds. There was a logical plan or progression by first testing the water quality of the Charles River at several sites followed by using that information to educate the community toward public awareness and sustainability.

Boston College Organic Garden for a Sustainable Newton –

The Newton Conservators approved funding of $500 for partial funding of an organic garden as part of an educational endeavor for present and future sustainable food production for Boston College students. It is a novel idea for schools to grow some food for their students to help reduce transportation pollution and the cost of food. The quality of food can also be better monitored and linked to educational processes.

The creation of this organic garden will provide students and faculty with an interesting environmental project. The coordinators plan to sell the produce for use in the school dining hall for some of the meals for students, and any sale profit for continued farm support. In addition, some of the produce that is grown will be given to local food shelters. It is beneficial for programs with students for them to learn about sustainable agriculture, including how to garden, and the benefits of “eating local.”

Environmental Science Program Scholarships 2008 –

The Newton Conservators approved funding of $3,000 for scholarship grants for Newton’s Environmental Studies Program (ESP). This year the Conservators have increased our allotment to include a thousand dollar scholarship in Carol Corbett’s memory. ESP’s focus on environmental science topics both inside and outside the classroom provides students with an essential background that will help them – and their parents – appreciate the local environment. Other activities reinforce the importance of the environment and how best to protect and improve what we have. The ESP summer program includes hiking trips to the Blue Hills, Mount Monadnock, and Mount Washington and brings the environment directly into students’ knowledge base.

In what other activities have the Conservators been participants? The TV action group is still going strong with their programs on NewTV. The Conservators’ Web site is continually updated to put our views and activities out to all viewers. Crystal Lake is another topic that comes to mind with our donation/support of $15,000 to initiate a site analysis. The Conservators “walked the walk” and put up unrestricted funds to preserve an additional piece of the southern end of Crystal Lake. If the latest requests are met there will be more visual open space and recreational access to the lake and swimming area.

Our monthly meetings are still a multitasking person’s delight with numerous topics brought up and analyzed. These include discussions on Guided Walks, Environmental Lectures, Land Management, Publicity, Birding Activities, Habitat for Humanity, and Preservation of Open Areas. We have to be able to adapt to change to protect areas with indigenous flora and fauna. In closing, I would like to end with a quote by President John F. Kennedy:

“It is our task in our time and in our generation, to hand down undiminished to those who come after us, as was handed down to us by those who went before, the natural wealth and beauty which is ours.”

William Hagar