In 2016, Congregation Mishkan Tefila sold to Boston College approximately 22 acres of land that is surrounded by publicly owned conservation land. The city-owned Webster Conservation Area is to the north and west, and the state-owned Hammond Pond Reservation is to the south and east.
The parcel, 300 Hammond Pond Parkway, is parcel # 65008 0003 in the Newton Assessors’ Database. It is shown in yellow in the aerial photo at left.
The college’s plans for most of the land are unknown. Construction of buildings on some or most of the land is a possibility. In early 2019, construction began on a road salt storage facility on the rear parking lot of the property.
The land is mostly undeveloped woodlands. It was part of the state reservation until 1954, when the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) sold it to the temple for the below-market price of $400 an acre, the equivalent of $3,500 an acre in today’s dollars. In 2016, Boston College paid $20 million for the property, or $909,000 per acre.
The 1954 sale was controversial. The Boston Globe reported that the Newton Board of Aldermen voted 15 to 3 to oppose the sale, and the MDC board approved the sale by a margin of only 3 votes to 2. Following the vote to authorize the sale, Newton created a new Board of Park Commissioners in an attempt to block the sale. The city then went to court, but lost its lawsuit.
The property includes Bare Pond, a vernal pool that has been the site of Newton Conservators walks. The image below superimposes an aerial photo of the temple’s buildings and parking lots onto a map of the woods. Note that the main east-west trails are on land now owned by Boston College, which is in white on this map.
Bare Pond (and a small buffer zone around it) is protected from development by state wetlands regulations. However, most of the land could be developed by Boston College for use as dorms, classroom or office buildings, or parking lots. Such development would be a devastating blow to a beloved conservation area.
The site development plan shown above is not currently under consideration. However, it gives an idea of the extent of development that might be possible on the land.
The Friends of Webster Woods has been created to advocate for preservation of this important tract of open space. Follow them on Facebook. In July 2017, the Friends wrote a letter to the candidates for mayor asking them to pledge to take specific steps to preserve Webster Woods. The Conservators supports the FOWW letter, and our Board of Directors also wrote to the candidates with details about our position. We received this reply from candidate Ruthanne Fuller, who was elected mayor on November 7th.
We advocate for permanent preservation of the entire wooded area, including Bare Pond and the former MASCO parking lot located within the wooded area.
In early 2018, Mayor Fuller appointed a panel to advise her on how to protect the woods. Conservators President Beth Wilkinson is chair of the advisory panel, which also includes Conservators board members Peter Barrer and Dan Brody.
In October 2018, the City Council appropriated $105,000 of CPA funds to hire legal, appraisal, and other consultants to advise on a preservation strategy.
In November 2018, Boston College filed plans with the city to construct a road salt storage facility on the rear parking lot. BC also filed a request with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation for a permit to allow heavy trucks to use Hammond Pond Parkway. Construction of the facility began in February 2019.
What you can do
Follow the Friends of Webster Woods on Facebook
The science of Webster Woods, by BU professor Richard Primack