Perhaps you have heard recently of the proposed NewCAL Newton Center for Active Living, and the controversy over its siting. You can visit the official NewCAL website to learn more about the project, criteria for siting, and a list of potential sites. The Board of the Newton Conservators has taken the following position on the siting of NewCAL:
The Newton Conservators have been helping to acquire and preserve open space in Newton for 58 years. Lately, we have been closely following the progress of the NewCAL project to provide a new multigenerational community recreation center.
Many of our members would likely appreciate such a facility in Newton. However, in recent site evaluations, the locations have been narrowed to 24 locations, a majority of which are currently public open space land.
The Newton Conservators are not in favor of the use of existing open space park land where green space is replaced with hardscape and buildings. This position is strongly in alignment with our mission statement:
“Newton Conservators Inc. promotes the protection and preservation of natural areas, including parks, park lands, playgrounds, forests and streams, which are open or may be converted to open spaces for the enjoyment and benefit of the people of Newton for scientific study, education, and recreation. It further aims to disseminate information about these and other environmental matters.”
Parklands are always the “easy” choice for finding land for development, but these are precious natural areas, certainly in short supply in Newton.
The city should look more carefully at some of the other choices in the original list and perhaps modify its criteria. In particular, there could be more attention paid to whether NewCAL’s program requirements could be satisfied on a site smaller than 2.5 acres and whether there are existing hardscape areas that could work rather than park land.
Here in Newton, the “Garden City,” converting our existing open space into buildings and parking would result in a lot less “Garden” and a lot more “City.”