President's Report: 2012
||Jane Sender at the 2012 dinner with speaker Douglas Tallamy
photo by Henry Finch
Our Annual Meeting in May was truly memorable. The
keynote speaker, Professor Douglas Tallamy, had a very
important message, which affected many in the audience.
His message was this: "Because we humans have disrupted
natural ecosystems in so many ways and in so many places,
the future of our nation's biodiversity is dim unless we start
to share our landscapes with the plants and animals that
evolved there." He asks us to take a look at our own yards
and gardens and ask ourselves what the connection is between our own plants and the larger ecosystem. He tells
us that the trees and plants that host our native caterpillars
are most important because they are the most valuable
food source for species of concern, like migratory birds.
He has provided a list of plants and their relative value for
hosting caterpillars to help us make choices.
I had been generally aware of the importance of native
plants before Professor Tallamy's talk, but I, like many in the
audience, wasn't fully aware of why native plants are so
important. Not only are the hostas we love so much not
supporting the caterpillars and insects our birds need, but
other plants we use widely in our Newton gardens, like
Japanese Spirea, do the additional damage of taking over
and outcompeting native plants. These non-native plants
are popular because they tend to look good throughout the
growing season, unlike many natives, which often bloom
in the spring leaving holes in the garden in the middle of
summer. The lesson I took away was not to judge your
garden by how good it always looks but by the extent to
which it supports the surrounding natural environment.
And if you want it to always look good, with a little more
thought and planning, you can find native plants that have
appeal all summer long.
After the speech I nearly did myself in taking out some
particularly invasive non native plants and replanting natives.
My hat goes off to Professor Tallamy-it's not easy to get
people to change their ways. I urge all our members to give
thought to these issues and to try to educate others, including
local landscapers, who often suggest showy non natives they
believe will make their customers happy. For more information
about plants that provide good food for birds and insects,
read Beth Shroeder's article in this edition of our newsletter.
At the meeting we also had fun honoring our awardees, the
Charles River Watershed Association for their 46 years of
successful work making the Charles the cleanest urban river
in the nation; State Representative Kay Khan and The Bicycle
Pedestrian Task Force for their restoration of the Newton
Lower Falls bridge, and former President Eric Reenstierna
for his years of work on the Conservators' board. We in
Newton have benefitted enormously from these efforts,
and were very happy to be able to express our gratitude.
On a slightly less upbeat note, it is regrettable that the
Newton Parks and Recreation Commission decided at its
May meeting to allow the West Newton Little League to
build a permanent building for a concession stand, toilet
and storage area at Lyons Field in Auburndale Park. The
City will own the building. Once again the City is allowing
a permanent structure in a park that has no general park
purpose and will be the City's ultimate responsibility to
maintain. The City owns at least two other buildings in
other parks-Nahanton Park and Kennard Park-one used
by the building department, the other used by a school-related nonprofit entity, which have no connection to those
parks. This misuse brings City trucks and unnecessary trash
into Nahanton Park and extra cars and inappropriate signage
into Kennard Park. Although the City has agreed to try to
find park-related uses for these buildings, that is a difficult
thing to do. Moreover, the City cannot afford to maintain
these buildings, and they are in horrible disrepair. Now the
Parks and Recreation Commission is allowing the City to
own yet another permanent structure that has no general
park purpose and that ultimately it will likely be unable to
maintain properly. We urged the Commission not to do
this, and they chose to ignore our concerns entirely. Kids
can play Little League without permanent buildings. This
was a regrettable, short sighted decision.
I hope you all have a lovely summer, and we hope to see
you at some of our events and activities.
- Jane Sender