President’s 2010 Annual Report

President’s Report

Jane Sender at the dinner with board members Willis Wang (L) and Larry Smith (R).
Photo by Henry Finch

President Jane Sender delivered this address at the Newton Conservators’ 2010 Annual Dinner.

Thank you all very much for coming to our dinner tonight. I would like to especially thank Mayor Warren for accepting our invitation to speak, and to recognize Aldermen Baker and Crossley and thank them for joining us.

We’ve had a busy and productive year.

Our three areas of focus have been stewardship of our open spaces, looking to add to our open spaces, and promoting the enjoyment of our open spaces.

Particularly in these tough economic times, it is important for us to step up and make sure our parks are well managed for human activity as well as for other species.

We are doing that.

One very current issue is the desire of Angino Farm to expand the area it can grow crops and continue its education programs. As some of you know, the farm is interested in taking some space in Nahanton Park.

The Parks and Recreation Commission has wisely set up a working group to take a look at what impact the Farm would have on current park conditions and activities.

We are at the center of that discussion and are proposing that we bring in Mass Audubon Extension Service:

  1. to expand on our land management committee’s work and do a complete natural resource inventory of the park, and
  2. to take a look at existing users – DPW, Parks and Recreation, soccer players, community gardeners, birders and walkers and dog walkers – and establish as much as possible what aspects of this site are important to sustain those various uses.

The point of this is to preserve what needs to be preserved to keep those activities going, and have a real plan for the park going forward which takes all those uses into account.

We see this as a public/private partnership and expect to raise funds for the study from all the interested groups.

If this is successful, it could be a working model for other heavily used parks.

The parks need and get our attention in other ways too.

Our ongoing invasives removal effort is another way we keep our eyes on the parks and work toward maintaining a healthy, biodiverse environment.

This spring we’ve been removing garlic mustard and Japanese knotweed from Cold Spring Park, Sawmill Brook, Flowed Meadow, and Dolan Pond.

On this front, we could definitely use help from the City in disposing of these weeds as trash. Most can’t go in yard waste – they will re-emerge from the compost to re-seed other areas.

I personally still have eight bags of garlic mustard waiting to go into city trash – this is not an easy way to handle this issue.

This issue of invasives, however, is bigger than what we are currently managing – invasive plants exist in all the parks. As a member of the Conservation Commission we are engaged in taking a look at other conservation areas to determine the extent of the problem and what plants are involved.

This is a vital effort to protect the health of the parks.

This year we also finalized the Conseravtion Restriction for Newton Commonweatlh Golf Course. Thanks again also to Willis Wang and Eric Reenstierna for their hard work on that document.

We have looked into a number of projects: we investigated the possibility of reclamation of the Pine Street landfill site near the Burr School for a park. This is a 17-acre site which needs attention. It was used as a hazardous waste dumping area until the early 1970’s and was never cleaned up. It could be a nice park for passive recreation in a congested area if it were cleaned up. At this point the neighbors are not interested in moving forward on this, so we have not pursued it.

We also met with State Rep. Ruth Balser and City officials and DCR regarding the desire of a Newton family to donate a large gift for a walkway around Hammond Pond as a memorial to their son. Our position on this is that the pond still needs more work to restore it to health and to manage the runoff from the mall parking lot and other issues which contribute to its eutrophication. We hope as this project moves forward to be able to secure restoration as part of the memorial.

Also this year we give kudos to:

  • Octo Barnett and Lisle Baker for successful work in preserving public access and parking from Warren Street to the Webster Conservation area,
  • Ted Kuklinski for the celebration of moving day for Habitat for Humanity’s first Newton families near Dolan Pond, and
  • Larry Smith and State Rep. Kay Kahn and others for the DCR Lower Falls bridge project, restoring the old railroad bridge over the Charles, which will allow people to walk from Lower Falls to Wellesley.

This year we’ve also continued to promote open space education and enjoyment.

We continue our fall and spring bird walks, hikes, canoe trips, and bike trips in Newton to enhance people’s appreciation of our beautiful open spaces. Many board members and advisors devote time, effort, and expertise to this – Octo Barnett, Henry Finch, Pete Gilmore, Alison Leary, Bill Hagar, and Jon Regosin, to name a few.

I also want to especially thank Katherine Howard for once again being our hardest working and most productive board member, Dan Brody for the wonderful work he does on the web site, Eric Reenstierna and Ted Kuklinski for the newsletters, Frank Howard for his videography, and Larry Burdick for keeping us current on land trust issues.

Lastly, we’ve done three important things this year which I think will leave a lasting mark on the organization.

First, we hired Mass Audubon extension service to monitor our conservation restrictions. When we took on the CR’s on the golf course and on Crystal Lake, many of us felt that those documents created obligations which we were not in position to fulfill without help. Mass Audubon has been working on this project for two months now and Larry Burdick and I have been reviewing drafts and making comments to ensure that the work is thorough. They will do this yearly for three years, providing us with complete documentation. After that time with the blueprint they provide, we may be in a position to do it ourselves.

Second, we had a group of six very talented marketing interns from Boston University do a study of us under the guidance of Professor Roberta Clarke. The board met with them to tell them about us, and then they did an online survey (which many of you probably filled out) and conducted focus groups. Our board was presented with the findings and a report was submitted. We will be discussing the report at length at our board meeting June 9, and any one here who is not a board member and would like to read the report and participate is welcome. The reports recommends we make some significant changes in the way we are run and organized, and we are going to work on that over the coming months.

Third, Pat Robinson, one of our new board members, has agreed to chair our membership effort, one of the areas which has for years not gotten enough attention. This will make a huge difference to us, and I am grateful to Pat for taking this difficult task on.

So with that I thank you for coming, and turn things over to Mike Clarke for the nominating committee report.

– Jane Sender