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Nature Notes

Newton Conservators Nature Notes - May 17, 2004


This email newsletter provides information on upcoming nature and environmental related events, exhibits, and information in and around the Newton, Massachusetts area and is sponsored by the Newton Conservators, the local open space organization in Newton.

Vote on Tuesday, May 18!

There is an important election on Tuesday, May18 to fill the seat left vacant by Alderman-at-large Susan Basham from Ward 6 who moved to California. There are three candidates for this seat. Victoria Danberg, Dennis Maguire, and Benjamin Pushner. Please get familiar with the candidates and their positions and make sure you get out and vote.

The Tab recently had an article outlining some of the positions of the candidates at This week’s Tab article on the race is at: while you can see the coverage in the Boston Globe West at In looking for more information on the candidates, you can check out Victoria Danberg’s website at I could not find a website for the other two candidates but did find a page for Dennis Maguire at

Every aldermanic seat is important, so please take your civic duty seriously. Take into account the candidates positions on open space and the Community Preservation Act which has been a valuable tool in preserving Newton ’s remaining open space. Don't complain about things unless you participate. Aldermen often stay in office for a considerable length of time and every seat is important. Help shape the future of Newton . Every vote will be important since voting is not in most peoples' mindset at this time of year. There are some estimates that only 7% of eligible voters may turn out. This is perhaps only 4000 voters citywide in an election that is costing $62,000. What a shame if this is true. Make a difference. Polls open at 7 am and close at 8 pm . Please check out the candidates for yourself with the links above. Most importantly – get out and vote on Tuesday – for who YOU think will do the best job!

Spring Lecture on Thursday, May 20 - Brendan Whittaker, VT Secretary of Natural Resources

Brendan Whittaker, forester, pastor, and former Vermont Secretary of Natural Resources will deliver this year’s Newton Conservators Spring Lecture on Thursday, May 20, 7 pm at the Newton Free Library. The lecture is entitled, “ Newton and Vermont ’s Northeast Kingdom – Natural Connections. At first glance, it may appear that the City of Newton, an urban ring Boston suburb with a population density of nearly 5,000 people per square mile, and the Northern Forest areas of Vermont , with only 20 people per square mile, have little in common. Yet Newton native Brendan Whittaker feels deep connections to both regions, and in this talk will discuss the ecological, economic, and spiritual linkages between these seemingly disparate natural environments.

As a professional forester in a one-industry paper mill town, Brendan has found himself deeply involved in the vast land ownership changes taking place in northern New York and New England, particularly over the last 15 years. He feels a debt to his Garden City Newton upbringing for putting him on the road to a life in conservation.

Brendan Whittaker is a proud graduate of Newton High, Class of 1952. He received a degree in Forestry from UMass as well as a Master of Divinity from the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge , Massachusetts . He began his career in Vermont state government in 1959 as Essex County Forester and in 1978 he became Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. He chaired the international negotiations by environmental representatives of the six New England Governors and five Eastern Canadian Premiers which resulted in the Unanimous Joint Agreement on Acid Rain and in 1991, he was appointed to the Northern Forest Lands Council. In 1997 he became one of the founding members of the nation-wide “Forest Stewards Guild.” He is a partner with his wife, Dorothy, in the market garden they operate from their farm.

He is joined in this lecture by Newton native and Brandeis University faculty member Dan Perlman, who has been studying and photographing Cold Spring Park for several years. Dan is an equally proud graduate of Newton South, Class of 1973. He received a Ph.D. in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology from Harvard University . He has taught conservation biology for twelve years and has written two books on the subject.

The lecture is cosponsored by the Newton Free Library and is free and open to the public. The Walking Trails in Newton 's Parks and Conservation Lands will be available at the lecture.

Newton Conservators Spring 2004 Walk Schedule 

Each Spring and Fall, the Newton Conservators organize a series of walks to local open space areas. These walks are led by knowledgeable leaders and are free and open to the public and normally last for an hour or two. Some events are for bicycle or canoe. These walks are a great way to get to know open space areas in Newton . For more information go to Below is the remaining walk schedule for Spring 2004. In case of bad weather, check with the walk leader.

Sunday, May 23, 2004 , 2:00 pm - Bicycle Trip Downstream along the Charles River Pathway

A low energy tour de force will head downstream toward the Museum of Science along the Charles River Pathway. Bring snacks for the rest stop at the Hatch Shell. Helmets are required. Meet at the MDC ice skating rink at Charlesbank and Nonantum Roads. Call ahead in the event of poor weather. Adequate parking is available at the start point. Call Peter Kastner .

Sunday, May 30, 2004 (Memorial Day), 2:00 pm - Kesseler Woods Update Tour

This is a follow up walk to last fall’s tour through the Kesseler Woods when we explored possible uses of the NSTAR land. Since that time, plans for open space preservation have moved ahead and CPA Committee member Doug Dickson will review the current plans for this land and how these plans will preserve open space and provide housing. You will see how these new plans will be integrated into the existing trails, wooded areas and wetland areas. This will be a last chance to see parts of this area before development starts. Meet at the Vine Street Entrance.

Sunday, June 6, 2004 , 2:00 pm - Charles River Lakes District Canoe Trip

The canoe trip through the Charles River Lakes District, a mixture of residential, commercial and wetlands, starts from the Charles River Canoe Service on Commonwealth Avenue . The trip goes past Norumbega Park , Fox Island , Auburndale Park , Weirs Cove, the Waltham Watch building, Mount Feake Cemetery , Purgatory Cove and stops (we trust) just short of the Moody Street dam. The river and surrounding wetlands are well populated with ducks, geese, blue herons and the occasional hawk or egret, so you might want to bring your binoculars. Park opposite the canoe service. Rental canoes and kayaks are available or bring you own (and required life jackets) and put in from the parking lot. The trip leader is Bill Hagar.

Sunday, June 13, 2004 , 2:00 pm - MDC Charles River Pathway (Watertown/Newton)

In the cool of the late afternoon, alewives migrate up and over the Watertown Dam, pursued by stalking night herons. We will go along the Watertown section of the new Charles River Pathway to Bridge Street . From there we will view the progress on the new “missing link” section of the pathway up to Cheesecake Brook and the new footbridge across the Charles. We will return to the start via the Newton side. The trip distance is approximately 3 miles. Park at the public parking lot off Pleasant St. , Watertown , adjacent to the Sasaki Landscape Office sign and meet at the stone pillars on Galen Street . Bring binoculars if you have them. Trip leader is Ted Kuklinski .

Sunday, June 20, 2004 , 2:00 pm - Lakes District Walk

Come on a walking tour of Ware's Cove-- Waltham Watch Building -- Mount Feake Cemetery --Brandeis--Duck Feeding Area--Charles River Canoe Service-- Norumbega Park --Lyons Field. Meet at parking lot at Ware's Cove.. The walk will last about 3 hourss. Wear comfortable walking shoes. The leader is Peter Kastner. Call ahead in case of poor weather.


Other Happenings

The Newton Historical Society's 22nd Annual House Tour is scheduled for Sunday, May 23. The tour is a fund-raiser benefiting the Newton History Museum at the Jackson Homestead. The self-led tour includes a splendid array of many of Newton 's finest private homes open to the public for one day only. Newton is best known for some of the finest examples of 19th- and early 20th-century domestic architecture in America . This popular annual event attended by more than 1,000 people celebrates the distinctive and diverse architectural heritage of the city. Those who appreciate residential preservation, distinctive homes, classic and innovative renovations and restorations, unique additions, and inspiring interior and landscape designs must save the date. If you are looking for renovation ideas, industry professional referrals or want to view unparalleled homes, this is the event for you. Discount ticket prices through May 21: $22, $17 for Historical Society and WGBH members; May 23 ticket prices: $25, $22 for Historical Society and WGBH members. For information, please call 617-796-1450 or visit

The Museum's first ever on-line exhibition draws from its collection of images: picture postcards of the Charles River and riverbank landmarks. Postcards were an nationwide fad in the years before World War I. Newton residents and visitors sent postcards by the millions -- and Newton had lots of visitors, drawn by the recreational resources of the river. They came with picnic baskets to wander the parks and preserves newly created by the Metropolitan Parks Commission, to wonder at Echo Bridge , to marvel at the menagerie at Norumbega Park , and to go canoeing on the Charles (

.Monday, May 24 – Green Decade Lecture

On Monday, May 24 at 7 p.m. at the Newton Free Library, the Green Decade Coalition of Newton monthly Environmental Speakers Series features "Wind Power: Tempest on the Cape," a free forum featuring Mark Rogers, communications director of Cape Wind, discussing his company's proposal to generate three-fourths of the electricity used on Cape Cod and nearby islands from clean, renewable off shore wind energy. Representing the opposite view will be a representative of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound. (Like other groups, the GDC supports wind power in general, but is awaiting results of environmental impact studies before supporting this project in specific.) This is an important opportunity to learn more about the subject matter and this project in particular. For more information, e-mail

We pass this event along from the Brookline GreenSpace Alliance: If you were about an inch long, had no bones, and wanted to live outdoors in nature, where could you go? What would you eat, how would you stay safe, and who else would be part of your community?  We'll hunt for insects and other invertebrates at the D.Blakely Hoar Sanctuary and learn about the lifestyles of the small and obscure. Suitable for adults and children.  Wear comfortable walking shoes.  This field trip is free of charge and sponsored by Brookline GreenSpace Alliance.

A bench and plantings will be installed at the site of the accident on Commonwealth and Morton streets in memory of Will O'Brien, a 19-year-old Newton boy who died in a bicycle accident on Commonwealth Avenue on Thursday, June 10, 2003 . The dedication ceremony will be held on June 6 at 12:30 p.m. Will was the grandson of active Conservators, Frank and Deb Howard and shared their love of nature.

Newton Pride’s annual Garden Tour will take place on Saturday, June 12 from 10 am to 4 pm . It even includes a visit again to the garden railway that was so popular last year.


The Newton Conservators Annual Meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 2, 2004, with special guests Renata von Tscharner, founder of the Charles River Conservancy, and Karl Haglund, author of “Inventing the Charles River,” as keynote speakers. The Annual Meeting is being moved to Post 440 in Nonantum this year. A social hour with a cash bar will begin at 6:15 PM and a sit-down dinner will be served at 7:00 PM . The program will begin at 8:00 PM . A brief business meeting and presentation of awards will occur during dinner to allow our speakers to start as close to 8:00 PM as possible so we don’t run late on a weekday evening.

Renata von Tscharner is president and founder of the Charles River Conservancy. A Newton resident, she is an architect and urban planner who has written books on cityscapes and urban art. Karl Haglund is a senior planner for the state Department of Recreation and Conservation (formerly Metropolitan District Commission). He has a long had an interest in urban design and the history of the Charles River Basin . Our speakers collaborated on the book, "Inventing the Charles River ,” published by MIT Press in 2002. The book was written by Haglund with a foreword by von Tscharner.

The Charles River Basin , extending nine miles upstream from the harbor, has been called Boston 's Central Park . Yet few realize that this apparently natural landscape is a totally fabricated public space. Two hundred years ago the Charles was a tidal river, edged by hundreds of acres of salt marshes and mudflats. Haglund and von Tscharner will describe how, before the creation of the basin could begin, the river first had to be imagined as a single public space. The new esplanades along the river changed the way Bostonians perceived their city. And the basin, with its expansive views of Boston and Cambridge , became an iconic image of the metropolitan area.

The book focuses on the precarious balance between transportation planning and public stewardship. Long before the esplanades were created, great stretches of the river were devoted to industrial enterprises and transportation—millponds, bridges, landfills, and a complex network of road and railway bridges. In 1929, Boston 's first major highway controversy erupted when a four-lane road was proposed as part of a new esplanade. At twenty year intervals, three riverfront road disputes followed, successively more complex and contentious, culminating in the lawsuits over "Scheme Z," the Big Dig's plan for eighteen lanes of highway ramps and bridges over the river. The presentation will include photographs, maps, and drawings that illustrate past and future visions for the Charles and document the river's place in Boston 's history.

The following awards are to be presented by the Newton Conservators at their annual dinner on Wednesday, June 2.

** Environmentalist of the Year: Mayor David Cohen

2003 was a banner year in Newton for preserving open space. Of the many projects that were either started or completed, there is one that stands out in terms of its significance to the community, the complexity and challenge of the process, and the high stakes nature of the effort. The acquisition of Kesseler Woods occurred for two reasons: availability of CPA funds and the single-minded determination and creative leadership of Mayor David Cohen.

For these reasons, the Newton Conservators will present its Environmentalist of the Year Award to David Cohen at its Annual Meeting this year. Though he relied on his staff and a committee of community leaders and advocates to help guide the deal, Mayor Cohen played a pivotal role at key junctures in the process. The first occurred early on when NStar set a February date for responding to its auction, effectively ruling out a bid from the city. Cohen got the Attorney General to extend the auction timetable to June. Then he shaped the proposal to partner with a developer and negotiated the terms of the deal. He obtained community, CPC and Board of Aldermen approval for the plan, and when the auction was extended to a second round, the Mayor put together the winning bid. This marked the first time in the state’s history that a municipality has successfully partnered with a developer to prevail in the sale by auction of a major parcel of land.

In selecting the Mayor for this award, we recognize as well his impeccable record on environmental issues over the years. But it is for his stunning success against all odds in the acquisition of Kesseler Woods that the Conservators Board of Directors honors DavidCohen as the 2004 Environmentalist of the Year.

** Charles Johnson Maynard Award: Stephanie Bacon

Hammond Pond is one of Newton ’s most beautiful ponds and is a significant natural resource. It is very visible, as it lies directly adjacent to the parking lots of commercial developments along Route 9, where most of us have shopped at one time or another. Water quality in Hammond Pond has been in decline for decades. It took the dedication of neighbor Stephanie Bacon, who is a Conservator and a past member of our Board of Directors, to bring about a change.

In 1995, Stephanie began studying Hammond Pond. Through her efforts and the efforts of the Hammond Pond Task Force, we learned that water quality problems at the pond stem an overload of nutrients from Route 9 and parking lot runoff, oil and grease, and the by-products of geese and other birds. A cure was needed to preserve Hammond Pond.

The planned cure is a filtration system to be installed at the edge of the pond where it receives runoff from the parking lots. Filtration beds will provide a bioengineering solution so that the water entering the pond will be far cleaner than the water it receives today. Funding and cooperation from the adjacent property owners and various civic and government groups have been secured. Stephanie Bacon spearheaded this effort. She did this out of a love for this place, and for that we all benefit. This important reclamation project would not have gone forward without Stephanie. She has made a difference.

The Charles Maynard Award is given each year to recognize achievement in biodiversity, habitat reclamation, and natural resource protection. The Board of Directors of the Newton Conservators is pleased to honor Stephanie Bacon as the 2004 recipient of this Award.

** Directors Awards:

*** “Walking Trails” Map Guide Team - Some of Newton ’s richest habitat is hidden away in open spaces that are off the beaten path. Some of us take years to find them. Three Conservators—last year’s President, Lucy Caldwell Stair, former Board member Judy Hepburn, and Pat Robinson—teamed up to create a booklet to bring us to these places and guide us by trail maps into the heart of them. Judy made the maps, Lucy wrote the text, and Pat laid out the design in a brochure that can be put out on a coffee table or stuffed into a hiker’s pocket. To say that this guide is high-quality is to understate it by a long shot. The guide is available through the Conservators or at local bookstores. For this highly successful effort, the Conservators are pleased to honor Lucy Caldwell-Stair, Judy Hepburn, and Pat Robinson with a Directors’ Award .

*** Retired Science Coordinator Maxine Rosenberg - Maxine Rosenberg was science coordinator for the Newton Public Schools when the Newton Conservators initiated their successful grant program. Maxine saw the benefit of having outside funding to assist teachers and students in environmental education and helped promote the program to science teachers. Her support continued for almost a decade and as a result, the Conservators have funded numerous projects, including butterfly gardens, community gardens, garden classrooms, science days, and water quality projects. Maxine was tireless in her support of this effort to provide unique educational opportunities for Newton students. It is a pleasure to recognize her years of dedicated service to the environmental education of our kids.

*** Retired Animal Control Officer Lucille Riddle - It may not always be apparent, but there is a rich diversity of wildlife in our city. That means the potential for occasional conflict between the interests of animals, like coyotes, deer and fox, and residents. Newton Animal Control Officer Lucille Riddle recently retired after 25 years in the service of Newton . It was her job to manage the city’s wild animals found in our open spaces. When someone spotted an unfamiliar creature, it was probably Lucille who responded to their inquiry. She is a true animal lover and spends a lot of her spare time with organizations like SPIN (Stray Pets in Need), where she is Vice President and performs foster care for pets. Anyone who has met her in the field can attest to her devotion to her work with animals and it is that quality that we recognize with this award.

Interesting Notes from the Brookline GreenSpace Alliance News

The Center for Disease Control has established the Active Community Environments Initiative (ACES) which promotes walking, bicycling, and the development of accessible recreation facilities. It was developed in response to data from a variety of disciplines, including public health, urban design, and transportation planning. These data suggest characteristics of our communities such as proximity of facilities, street design, density of housing, availability of public transit and of pedestrian and bicycle facilities play a significant role in promoting or discouraging physical activity.  To learn more go to

Research by Roger S. Ulrich and Russ Parsons of Texas A&M University has found that simply looking at a plant can reduce stress, fear, and anger, and lower blood pressure and muscle tension. Other studies have found that prison inmates in cells with windows overlooking greenery need less medical care and report fewer symptoms of stress, such as headaches. Other researchers, such as Mary Honeyman of the University of Illinois , have documented that people shown urban scenes with some vegetation recover more quickly from stress than people exposed to urban scenes without vegetation.

Check out the Brookline GreenSpace Alliance, 40 Webster Place , Brookline MA 02445 , at their website

The Massachusetts Senate Committee on Ways & Means released on Wednesday its proposed fiscal year 2005 spending plan.  Mass Audubon has drafted ten amendments and filed them with key senators to restore funding for critical state conservation programs and to enact sound environmental policies.  You can help us by contacting your State Senator to co-sponsor and vote for Mass Audubon’s ten amendments!

The following is a quick status report of Mass Audubon’s priorities.  For a more complete description of the programs and their funding histories for the past sixteen years, visit <> and look for “State Environmental Budget Recommendations for FY2005”.

Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program:  While we are pleased that the Senate Ways & Means proposal allows the program to establish fees for its review of development projects, we are concerned that the Ways & Means budget does not provide any General Fund monies to match voluntary donations, and does not waive administrative overhead charges on those

Riverways Program:  We applaud Senate Ways & Means for providing $401,147 for the program- no amendment is needed!

MassGIS:  We applaud Senate Ways & Means for providing level-funding for the program- no amendment is needed!

Department of Conservation & Recreation-Division of State Parks & Recreation:  We are concerned by the 3% cut to state forests and parks operations proposed in the Ways & Means budget, given the decades of deferred maintenance and staffing reductions at our public lands.

Department of Environmental Protection’s Wetlands Program:  We applaud Senate Ways & Means for enabling the program to become self-sufficient through the collection and retention of increased wetland permit fees, which would be shared with local conservation commissions- no amendment is needed!

Blue Hills Trailside Museum :  We are pleased by the Senate Ways & Means’s proposed level-funding for Trailside, but are looking to match the House budget to avoid conference committee negotiations.

Before the start of Senate debate on May 19, contact your State Senator and urge him/her to co-sponsor and support passage of Mass Audubon’s ten amendments.  You can find your State Senator and his/her contact information (telephone number, State House mail address, email address) at: <>.  Note: look for listing for “Senator in General Court”.

Eco Alert - Passerine passion ( 10 March, 2004 )

Human activities threaten native songbird populations. As people move into formerly wooded areas, for example, they are usually accompanied by cats, racoons, squirrels, chipmunks, blue jays, cowbirds, and other animals that harass and kill small birds. Domesticated cats alone kill 4 million songbirds every day, over a billion each year; feral cats add to this toll. Collisions with plate glass windows of homes and office buildings kill an estimated 80 million songbirds annually throughout the United States . Millions more are killed by colliding with cars, large lighted buildings and transmission towers. Bird mortality from pesticides has been conservatively estimated at 67 million annually. Climate change, too, is threatening the existence of songbirds; one forecast suggests that the range of the Baltimore Oriole will shift north until it is no longer found in Baltimore .

Songbirds are technically classified as perching birds, or passerines. Total bird population in the U.S. is estimated to be 10 to 20 billion representing roughly 650 species, more than half of which are passerines. It's hard to imagine life without them. Their fate, however, is in question and numerous organizations such as the Audubon Society, American Bird Conservancy, the National Wildlife Federation, and countless local groups are working to assure their song for future generations. American PIE urges support for the programs of these groups, for example, the "Cats Indoors" initiative of the American Bird Conservancy.

American PIE, too, urges the development of bird scantuaries in backyards across the country. Call American PIE, 1-800-320-2743, for tips on encouraging birds in your backyard. Homeowners can improve the habitat in their yards so that more birds will visit the property. Birds are attracted to bird feeders, nest boxes, and backyard bird baths. Planting a variety of native trees, shrubs and flowers provides good nesting sites, winter shelter, places to hide from predators and natural food supplies that are available year-round.

Speaking of food supplies, early spring is one of the most difficult seasons for wild birds to survive in much of the U.S. and Canada . Everyone can help by providing food, water and shelter. It doesn't matter where you live – in the city, suburb or country. Care for the'll fall in love.

Act today on this EcoAlert, and thank you for your environmental responsibility.   This was provided by American P.I.E.Public Information on the Environment, a 501(c)3 non-profit
organization, P.O. Box 676, Northfield, MN  55057-0676, Telephone: 1-800-320-APIE(2743); fax 507-645-5724, .

About the Newton Conservators

This email newsletter is sponsored by the Newton Conservators, a local organization that 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 the City of Newton, Massachusetts for scientific study, education, and recreation.  It further aims to disseminate information about these and other environmental matters.  A primary goal is to foster the acquisition of land and other facilities to be used for the encouragement of scientific, recreational, educational, literary, and the other public pursuits that will promote good citizenship and the general welfare in the City of Newton . 

If you would like to join the Newton Conservators, please send your name, address, phone and email address (if you wish email alerts) to The Newton Conservators, P.O. Box 590011 , Newton Centre , MA   02459 .  Membership Options are the following:  Individual $25, Family Member $35, Sustaining Member $50, Donor $75, Patron $100.  Membership is tax deductible.  Your membership includes the Newton Conservators Newsletter and emails and invitations to participate in guided tours of local conservation areas, lectures, and other programs and activities.  You will also receive by mail a copy of the new Newton Conservators open space map book, "Walking Trails in Newton 's Park and Conservation Lands ".

The Board of Directors of the Newton Conservators meets monthly usually on the fourth Wednesday of the month at 7:30 pm (usually at City Hall). Members are welcome to attend. If you wish to attend you can contact the organization Secretary to confirm the date, time, location, and agenda.


If you would like to be more directly kept apprised of future nature related events, walks, lectures, and exhibits, you are invited to join the Newton Conservators sponsored "Newton Conservators Nature Notes" email list by sending an email request to  Newton Conservators Nature Notes is automatically sent to members of the Newton Conservators who provide their email addresses as one of their membership benefits.  Newton Conservators Nature Notes may be found online at You are welcome to submit any items for this sporadical newsletter via email to the same address.  Please feel free to forward our newsletter to others you feel might be interested in the information contained herein.

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