President’s Report – 1999
Presented by Michael J. Clarke at the Annual Meeting of the Newton Conservators, Wednesday, May 26, 1999 in Noyes Hall of the Andover-Newton Theological School
The past year has been a very busy one for the Newton Conservators. Lucy Caldwell-Stair and Mike Collora have increased our membership through a direct mail campaign and our membership is now at a record high of 400 households. After ten years of producing our marvelous and even influential Newsletter, Bonnie Carter is stepping down as the editor, for which we owe her our heartfelt thanks for a job long done well.
Bud Elliott and Bill Hagar report that our grants program continues strong and this year we funded grant proposals for the: Cabot School Outdoor Classroom Project, Memorial Spaulding School Ornithology project, Burr Elementary School Dolan Pond, the Mason Rice School and the Underwood School Garden Project. In addition we contributed to the Newton Pride Wildflower planting effort. We are particularly pleased that the Mayor is matching our grant to the Conservation Commission to create new kiosk trail signs that will denote trails and educational material for several of our Conservation areas. We also contributed significantly to the development of an information Manual for use by the Parks and Recreation Commission, which should help that Commission to function better.
The Ordway Park Committee, Chaired by Jim Broderick, undertook an extensive improvement of the park. We cleared a lot of small brush, laid out woodchips on the pathways, saw our daffodils emerge and even planted an American Chestnut tree donated by Frank Howard.
Our Walks program, chaired by Judy Hepburn, remains very successful. Attendance was at record numbers due to a fine publicity program by Marty Sender. I had 8 canoes on the water on the spring canoe trip in April and the Dolan Pond birdwalk had well over 20 people on it. Special thanks to Stephanie Bacon for taking over the Hammond Pond walk at the last minute, which also went very well. The Conservators have mediated a transfer of the City’s geographic information system (GIS) mapping data to Boston College. BC students are now adding GPS-determined trail maps to the data base, which will be available to the City and to the Conservators for the next edition of our map of the City’s open spaces.
The 20 of the 40 acres of land now surrounding us here on the Andover Newton Campus is in the process of being sold. We are continuing to work with Andover Newton, Hebrew College, Management Sciences for Health and Terraces, LLC an affordable housing developer to preserve as much of this beautiful open space as possible. We have also been trying to influence the proposed development nearby at the intersection of Langley Rd. and Rte. 9 to preserve both the historic gas station at this corner and also the wetlands behind.
Paralleling the affordable housing development on the Andover Newton Campus is a similar one proposed for the Woodland T Station. Somewhat alarming was the precipitous bulldozing of the open space area over the weekend without the promised consultation with the neighbors or waiting to see if State Representative Kay Khan’s legislation requiring the T to plan comprehensively for such developments would pass.
Both the affordable housing developments on the Andover Newton Campus and the Woodland T station would come under Comprehensive Permits, which must be granted by the Newton Zoning Board of Appeals. The editorial in our February Newsletter and our letters to City Hall asking that the Zoning Board of Appeals write down their procedures for granting Comprehensive Permits, so that both developers and the general public would be able to influence the process, seem to be bearing fruit. Such rules have now been submitted to the City Solicitor and we can expect them to be discussed soon by the ZBA.
The long-standing controversy about advertising signs on our city ball fields may be approaching a resolution. The Newton West Little League has agreed to acknowledge donors that help support field maintenance on a single 4 x 6 ft plaque rather than on 43, 4 x 8 foot signs. Hopefully, the same solution will apply to the two remaining Little Leagues that have not yet requested permission for such signs. Perhaps, the other two Little Leagues that now erect large numbers of advertising signs may be induced to adopt the same solution. Partly as a result of NWLL claims that ballfields in the city were unsafe, we attempted to increase the Parks and Rec operating budget.
Bud Elliott and Norm Richardson have been participating in the Mayor’s important Framework Planning Committee. The draft open space guidelines distributed at the public meeting on the Framework Plan at the end of April appeared to be an excellent start. The Conservators will have to make sure that strong open space guidelines survive to the final new Master Plan for the City.
The Conservators long-standing support of the advancement of the Charles River Pathway continues to have results. The MDC is about to send out a request for proposals to design the next sections of the Pathway from Bridge St. to Farwell St., which would require a new footbridge across Cheesecake Brook.
The Mayor’s Flowed Meadow Committee meets even as we speak and there are a number of people there tonight who would be in attendance here, and some here, including myself, who would be there, if it were possible. This committee should design a comprehensive plan for conservation, passive recreation, the Charles River Pathway and even a canoe launch site on Purgatory Cove. The plan should integrate the capped Rumford landfill, the Flowed Meadow Conservation area, the MDC Grove Park, Auburndale and Lyons Parks, the Charles River Pathway and subsidiary trails connecting these and the surrounding neighborhoods.
After considerable legal wrangling and sputtering negotiations, Boston College, the Friends of Edmands Park and the Conservation Commission have finally reached an agreement, which will allow BC their soccer fields but also provide a comprehensive plan for Edmands Park and money for improvements. Our thanks to Doug Dickson for representing the Conservators in this process and contributing to its success.
Finally, we have garnered the support of the Conservation Commission, the Newton Housing Partnership, the Newton Historical Society and the Parks and Recreation Commission for the Community Preservation Act. This bill is now before the sate legislature and would enable all communities in Massachusetts to hold their own referendum to decide whether to provide funds for open space, historic preservation and affordable housing. Communities on the Cape and Islands have already been empowered to introduce new taxes for open space, if they so choose, and the process has been very successful.
I am also pleased to report that our finances remain solvent. Our income last year was $16,393 against expenses of $13,767 yielding a net income of $2,605. Our investment and bank account portfolio stands at $95,797 against liabilities of $5,338 giving us a net equity of $90,459.
In summary, I am pleased to say that the Newton Conservators has made substantial progress in its advocacy for open space in Newton. I am happy to turn over a strong, well-functioning, and very effective organization to our soon to be elected new officers. I would particularly like to thank our most recent past presidents, Roger Feinstein, whose literary eloquence I have tried to emulate, Peter Kastner, whose opinions on public policy I freely plagiarized, and Bud Elliot for always telling me what I ought to be doing. Finally, my thanks to Doug Dickson for sharing the responsibility with me and to whom I will very shortly and very happily turn over full responsibility for running the organization.