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Awards Presented at 2013 Annual Meeting

Environmentalist of the Year: Jane E. Sender

Charles Johnson Maynard Award: Eric Olson

Directors' Award: Norman A. Richardson


Environmentalist of the Year: Jane E. Sender

For four years as Conservators’ President and her work on the Conservation Commission

  Award winner Jane Sender with director George Mansfield.
photos by Henry Finch

Back in the winter of 2004, teamwork was very much on the mind of Conservators President Eric Reenstierna. Teamwork, he noted in the winter newsletter, had suddenly become trendy. Every organization, he observed, from the Patriots to the Red Sox to “traditional, management-driven corporations, attempts to instill the team concept.” But that was nothing new to the Conservators, he went on to explain: “all along, the Conservators have played as a team. Every member of the Conservators’ Board of Directors serves an important function. In one aspect or another, every director takes the lead.…No one calls all the shots. We make all our decisions as a group. Every couple of years, someone else from the team takes the wheel. And it works. The proof is in our string of accomplishments.”

In that same issue, newsletter readers were introduced to Jane Sender, as the Conservators took note of the October dedication of the Marty Sender Riverwalk. Marty, a longtime director of the Newton Conservators died of injuries suffered in an accident in 2000. Three years later his widow, Jane, gathered with state and local officials, neighbors and friends to cut the ribbon and open the portion of the Charles River pathway named in Marty’s memory.

Nearly a decade later, the Conservators are proud to honor Jane with the Environmentalist of the Year Award, recognizing her many accomplishments as she carried on the Sender tradition as President of the Conservators and as a member of the Conservation Commission. Jane’s tenure encompassed the last years of the Conservators’ first half century and the first years of our next. As such, Jane was responsible for making sure we stayed true to our original mission while re-envisioning it for the 21st century.

Jane oversaw the upgrading of our operations, the establishment of an on-line membership database, and design and content improvements to our newsletter, website and other on-line and printed materials. With Jane at the helm, we finalized the Wilson conservation restriction protecting a 2-acre Newton Center parcel from further development, participated in Newton’s new Open Space plan, and advocated for issues ranging from storm-water problems plaguing our river, lakes and ponds to maintaining open space in new commercial developments. At Jane’s behest we worked closely with the Parks and Recreation Department on issues ranging from a temporary fire station and other non-park-related building use to snow and brush dumping to creating management plans. After all that, it would not be surprising if Jane wanted to rest on her non-invasive laurels. But we’re delighted to report that, while she may be changing positions, Jane will still be a part of our team!

This was the 32nd Environmentalist of the Year Award presented by the Newton Conservators to an individual or group who has made a distinguished environmental contribution to our community.


Charles Johnson Maynard Award: Eric Olson

For his commitment to the removal of invasive plants to preserve Newton’s biodiversity

The Charles Johnson Maynard Award is given each year to recognize efforts "to improve biodiversity, habitat reclamation, and natural resource protection."

When Eric Olson says he’s working on a knotty problem, he means it literally. As the founder of the Newton Invasive Task Force, Eric is spearheading an effort to eradicate the invasive Japanese knotweed from the banks of the Charles River in the City’s northside. And knotweed isn’t the only problem—in a 2010 survey of a Newton wetland, Eric found three times as many invasive species as native species. Invasive plant species threaten the entire eco-system, outcompeting native plants, reducing biodiversity and negatively impact bird and insect life.

Eric, a professor at Brandeis University’s Heller School, is also a Board member of Green Decade and a member of the Waltham Land Trust Advisory Board. In his efforts to eradicate invasives, he’s become, as he puts it, “an expert on the risks and pleasures of depending entirely upon volunteer labor.” Whatever the risks and pleasures, Eric makes it look easy as he assembles a posse that includes everyone from high school students to senior citizens, all intent on ridding Newton of foreign invaders!


Directors' Award: Norman A. Richardson

For his decades of exemplary service on the Newton Conservation Commission

When the Newton Tab profiled Norman Richardson in 2005, they said the key to the ultra-marathoner’s success was that he doesn’t “dwell on the blisters, the dry heaves and vomiting, the hallucinations and the pain.” Instead, Richardson gives up “on thoughts of defeat as quickly as they enter his mind.”

That’s probably also the key to Norm’s success at another marathon endeavor: his years of service on Newton’s Conservation Commission. Norm has laced up for many of the Commission’s landmark accomplishments. He helped negotiate the 30-year Conservation Restriction with Lasell College. He represented the Commission on the Newton Open Space Advisory when, in 2003, it prioritized the acquisition of West Kesseler Woods and Angino Farm. He agreed to represent the Commission on the Off-Leash Dog Task Force. And Norm was not afraid to be the voice of the loyal opposition, as he dissented from the Commission’s conditional approval of the installation of artificial turf at Newton South.

The citizens of Newton are grateful that Norm is still in it for the long haul. As he told the Tab, “From 60 miles on, you can be as fit as you want: if your head isn’t there, you’re not going to make it.” When it comes to conservation and advocating on behalf of all Newton residents, Norm’s head is clearly here!

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