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City of Newton Expenditures on City Owned Conservation Land

by Alderman Ruthanne Fuller

  Saw Mill Brook Conservation Area

The City of Newton covers 18.33 square miles. Open space comprises 19.6% of the City’s total land area, of which 55% is publicly owned.

Newton has approximately 590 acres of park, recreation, and conservation land. Seventeen properties are “Conservation Commission Properties.” They range in size from the Martin Conservation Area, which is a mere half acre on a wooded slope off Circuit Street to our largest, the 100 acre Webster Conservation Area next to Hammond Pond. (The next two largest ones are the Charles River Pathway at Wells Avenue (30 acres) and the Saw Mill Brook Conservation area (20 acres). Altogether, these Conservation Commission properties total approximately 440 acres. (This estimate of acreage may be high since the Department of Conservation and Recreation may control some portion of it.)

Looking specifically at these City-owned Conservation Commission properties, how much are we investing annually in their maintenance? Not much.

In the last five years, there have been only three sources of funding for maintenance done by the City of Newton owned conservation land.

  • First, the City of Newton invests in conservation properties. The Planning Department pays for a Senior Environmental Planner (currently Anne Phelps). Approximately 15% of her time is dedicated to Conservation Commission properties. The City occasionally pays for environmental consulting. The City also spent some money on the Deer Park. (Some of the Deer Park funds can now be reallocated to other conservation properties as there are no longer any deer in the park.) Finally, in times of dire need, the Department of Public Works has removed materials dumped in the conservation areas and the Department of Parks and Recreation has sent its tree contractor in to remove trees when it was absolutely necessary and no conservation funds were available.
  • Second, the City also spends money on a landscape contractor for conservation land maintenance. The sole funding source for this is a $25,000 annual contribution from the Newton Commonwealth Golf Foundation. (When the City bought the golf course from the Chestnut Hill Country Club in 1981, the Commonwealth Golf Course agreed to pay the City $25,000 annually to maintain conservation land and another $25,000 for support of recreation.) If the full $25,000 is not spent in one fiscal year, the remainder carries forward to the next year.
  • Third, the City also has access to the income from a $25,000 gift from the Fireman Family. In this economic environment with low interest rates, the income may be as little as $200 a year.

What does this add up to? Looking back over the past five fiscal years, the most we ever have invested in maintenance in one year has been a mere $60,179 (in FY2007). On average in the last five years, we have spent $40,006. In FY2011, the City of Newton only spent $25,519 on city owned conservation land.

Data supplied by David Wilkinson, Comptroller, City of Newton and Anne Phelps, Senior Environmental Planner, City of Newton

Conservation areas described on this website


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