The Green Team

Alison Leary

As a staff person with Green Decade, the co-chair of the League of Women Voters’ Environmental Committee, and a Member of the Board of Directors of The Newton Conservators, I find myself in a good position to evaluate the environmental efforts here in our city and to see how these three organizations work together on local issues.

Each group has its own focus.The Conservators are Newton’s land trust. For 50 years we have worked to protect and maintain Newton’s open spaces and conservation lands. Surprisingly, there remain opportunities to preserve open space here in Newton, and protecting these undeveloped parcels is a big priority. We also organize neighborhood efforts to remove invasive plant species, to improve the quality of open spaces for both people and wildlife.

Recently, the Conservators were critical in the establishment of a Parks & Recreation working group which seeks to better manage Nahanton Park for myriad uses, which include birding, dog walking, running, hiking, boating, and community gardening. The Conservators realize how important it is to develop a management plan, which is essentially a road map for conservation goals. This past year, we retained the Massachusetts Audubon Extension Service to inventory some of our conservation and open space areas and make recommendations about best management practices. Some suggestions included better control of invasive plants, improved delineation of conservation areas, and conducting water quality testing where appropriate.

Green Decade has been working for over 20 years on climate change and encouraging Newton residents to live more sustainably. Their main points of focus include safe alternatives to toxic chemicals, toxic chemical use reduction, encouraging more pedestrian and bike friendly development, improving energy efficiency, and alternative energy use. Green Decade projects include “Eco-Teams,” which help households and other organizations work together to reduce their carbon footprint by reducing energy use. Other projects are Students for a Greener World and the School Outreach Committee, which actively involves students in environmental projects.

The League of Women Voters’ Environmental Committee recently organized a two-part forum on storm water management at the Newton Free Library. The Conservators and Green Decade were co-sponsors, and our President, Jane Sender, moderated the second forum. These forums brought attention to the seriously deteriorating condition of Newton’s water and sewer infrastructure.Currently Newton residents are paying about 40% to 55% more for sewer because of the infiltration of clean groundwater leaking into old sewer pipes.

All three organizations have been working on promoting development that mitigates potential environmental impacts. This includes the principles behind “Smart Growth” and low impact development.

All three have communicated with the Board of Aldermen regarding the Chestnut Hill Square Project on Route 9, to ensure that the project maximizes green space and invites pedestrian and bike access.

We are fortunate to have a number of other groups which also have an impact in conservation and city planning and open space issues. They include the Newton Tree Conservancy, Bike Newton, Newton Pride, and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force. All are important in advocating for the environment, preserving our quality of life, and maintaining Newton’s reputation as “The Garden City.”

December 2010