Summer Issue July 2000

the Newton Conservators Newsletter


Message from the President

The President's Annual Report

By Doug Dickson

Today marks the beginning of the 40th year in the history of this distinguished organization. This time next year, we will celebrate our 40th anniversary, the Newton Conservators having been founded in 1961. Our mission is identical to the one set out by the visionaries (some of whom are with us tonight) who created the Newton Conservators in 1961. But the backdrop of issues and opportunities is different.

Those of you who have read our newsletter this year will know that I regard this as a transitional period in our history. We must change with the times and the times have indeed changed. We have fewer opportunities to acquire and preserve open space. Even if we had the money, the community is largely built out. But plenty of challenges remain and our mission is just as viable in this environment as it was 40 years ago when the preservation of several hundred acres of open space and many other accomplishments were still in our future.

Setting priorities for this new phase of our history has occupied a significant amount of our attention this year. The board of directors has identified six goals for the coming year or two:

  1. Create a land bank for acquisition, preservation and maintenance of public open space, hopefully augmented by passage of the Community Preservation Act.
  2. Strengthen the process (including broad community input) and content (taking into account current conditions and opportunities) of the year 2000 Open Space Plan revision.
  3. Create and publish an easy-to-use parks and public open space report card to focus attention on maintenance, utilization profiles and improvement priorities.
  4. Develop a set of options and contingency plans for preserving selected parcels of private open space so the city is prepared well in advance of unforeseen events that could threaten them. (At the top of this list I would put Kessler Woods and the Angino farm property, followed the golf courses. We also need to focus continuing attention on the Sudbury aqueduct and the MBTA stations where development is proposed.)
  5. Expand education programs to improve awareness, use and appreciation of public open spaces through various media, including revised maps, cable programs, and news articles.
  6. Continue an active program of support, sponsorship and advocacy for open space, waterway and land use initiatives throughout our community and region on an as-needed basis. This obviously includes proposals as they emerge, but should also anticipate pressure from corridors of activity, such as Route 9 and Needham Street, where by the nature of the areas, development issues are complex and achieving balance between commercial and environmental interests is difficult.

To support these goals, we have continued our focus this year on building the infrastructure of the organization. Our membership continues to grow, thanks to the great ideas and hard work of our membership chair, Lucy Caldwell Stair.

Our web site continues to grow in content, thanks to Mike Clarke’s assiduous updating and adding of information. Ted Kuklinski acquired our new URL--http://www.newtonconservators.organd set us up on a free web hosting service to facilitate location and use of our site. When you see the ads on our lead-in page, remember that they are paying for the service so we don’t have to–and remember that you don’t have to read them.

We took our first tentative step this year in broadening our investment strategy, placing some of our money in a diversified index fund to improve the return on our total portfolio and our stewardship of this important resource. Most of our money continues to be held in treasury notes and certificates of deposit. Thanks to Dwight Golann and Mike Collora for providing both advice and action.

We are in the process and updating and expanding our open space maps and hope to have these available this fall. Bud Elliott is taking the lead on this project.

Many other board members have contributed to our success this year: Peter Kastner managing our publicity machine, Mike Clarke, Bonnie Carter and others writing, editing and mailing our informative newsletter, Jim Broderick masterminding our restoration of Ordway Park, Judy Hepburn creating our spring and fall walks program, Bill Hagar and Bud Elliott coordinating our grants program.

The Conservators took positions on a number of open space and land use issues this year, including the constellation of developments here at Andover Newton Theological School. We have been particularly concerned about preserving the view to the Blue Hills from the southern end of the quadrangle, the only such view still accessible to the public from Newton’s hills.

We have voiced our concern about the encroachment on wetlands by the Bradford development along Route 9 in Thompsonville and have gained agreement by the developer to place the wetland area itself under a conservation restriction.

We helped gain passage of the landmark Tree Preservation Ordinance, the first to require replacement of trees lost to private development in the state and well beyond.

We played an active role in the development of a framework plan that will lead in the next phase to a new Comprehensive Plan for the city. Thanks to Bud Elliott and Norm Richardson for ably representing the Conservators in this process and prevailing in the end over a roomful of development interests. We were also active in the Flowed Meadow Planning Group. With support from Mike Clarke, Peter Kastner and our Environmentalist of the Year, Marty Sender, this remarkable piece of property will be transferred from the DPW to the Conservation Commission, where it will be managed as a passive recreation area.

And, of course, what would a year be like if we didn’t have a Little League sign proposal to oppose. And oppose we did–this time at Hamilton Field. Though this year’s episode was successfully resolved, the challenge remains to undo the damage from past mishandling by elected officials of requests for signs on two Little League fields, where as a result, large numbers of commercial signs disrupt the beauty and serenity of our parks.

We have also taken positions on matters before the Conservation Commission and the Parks and Recreation Commission too numerous to itemize here. We continue to monitor the work of those boards in addition to the Land Use Committee of the Board of Aldermen, the Urban Tree Commission, the Landscape Advisory Council, the Commonwealth Golf Course Board, the IPM Advisory Committee and others. The Zoning Board of Appeals adopted rules and regulations for Comprehensive Permits last fall at our urging (thanks to Mike Clarke for initiating and seeing that project through to completion) and the Parks and Recreation Commission Manual is now in final form (thanks again to Mike).

This year, we co-sponsored a symposium on pesticide-free gardening with the Green Decade Coalition and shared newsletter content with the Charles River Watershed Association. We are a part of the coalition pressing for passage of the Community Preservation Act. Our relationships with other environmental and open space groups are strong and we intend to build on these to achieve greater regional impact. The issues we face in Newton are identical to those facing our neighbors and there is strength to be gained in increasing our numbers through joint projects and mutual support. The Chandler Pond Association in Brighton, the Green Space Coalition in Brookline, and the Waltham Land Trust are organizations with whom we have emerging relationships. Our local Friends groups continue to be important allies and formation of others is a priority, particularly in the Flowed Meadow/Auburndale Park area.

Thanks to your participation, the Newton Conservators is a strong organization, hewing today as it has in the past to its mission to promote the protection and preservation of natural areas, including parks, playgrounds, forests and streams, for recreation, education and scientific study. It is my pleasure to pronounce the organization in good health and ready to take on the challenges that await us in this new century. With your continued support, we will match over the next forty years the enviable achievements of our predecessors during the initial forty.



Assistant Mass. Secretary of Environmental Affairs Remarks at Conservators’ Annual Dinner

by Mike Clarke

The following is excepted from remarks made by Jim Hunt, Assistant Secretary for Government Relations and Public Affair, at the Newton Conservators' Annual Dinner Meeting. Jim Hunt is a lifelong resident of Boston who has been involved in many local environmental and civic causes. Prior to being appointed by Environmental Affairs Secretary Bob Durand's in 1998, Jim Hunt worked for four years as a legislative aide in the Massachusetts State Senate.

Newton, the garden city, has distinctly desirable characteristics. It is a city known for its village centers, its tree-lined streets, its parks, its proximity to the Charles River, its people and their civic mindedness. Newton's history and its unique characteristics have helped make it a great place to live, offering its residents a high quality of life.

The single greatest threat to our landscape, our environment and our quality of life is urban sprawl. Just look at parts of Rte. 9; sprawl is the landscape of the shopping mall, the office park and the residential subdivision. Houses and economic development centers that were once concentrated in cities and towns, are now spread thinly over miles and miles of our landscape, connected by miles and miles of highway and away from existing infrastructure and resources.

Think about these two startling statistics:

• More than twice as much land has been developed since 1950 than was developed in the previous 300 years.

• From 1950 to 1990, our population increased by 28% but our land development increased by 188%, which is more than 6 times the rate of population growth.

Sprawl also poses a threat to our biodiversity in Massachusetts. Fragmenting large areas of woods and fields into little parcels has proven to be devastating and endangers up to 15% of our animal and plant species. Sprawl also adds to traffic congestion and air pollution by siting development away from public transportation. Sprawl development threatens our land, our air, our water, the beauty of our landscapes and the character of our communities.

It is Massachusetts' collection of 351 unique cities and towns--each with its own community character, it's diverse geographical areas, it's beautiful town centers and historic places-- that help make Massachusetts a great place to live, work and raise a family.

The Office of Environmental Affairs, under Secretary Durand's leadership, has implemented a comprehensive program, which we call community preservation, to address urban sprawl. Community preservation encourages development to occur in the right places. We have expanded our planning for growth program into a statewide community preservation initiative designed to provide assistance to communities to help them preserve their special character as they continue to grow. Community preservation is an organizing principle that recognizes the need to balance environmental, historic preservation, economic development, housing and transportation issues.

We have held 20, community preservation summits across the state to talk about community preservation, learn about what is important to individual communities and offer ways we can assist. We ask communities to talk about what they want to preserve in their community, and what they want to change. Communities want to preserve their special character and historic downtowns. They want to save their open space as well as their water resources. They want to alleviate traffic congestion and make plan for future growth so new municipal buildings--such as much needed schools--do not infringe upon protected open space. They want to provide more opportunities for economic development. And they want to provide housing which is affordable so their children can live in the community in which they grew up.

"Buildout maps" show what communities may look like at maximum development and project potential impacts on residential and commercial population, water consumption and school populations. These maps are intended, to help communities examine how they have grown and how they may grow in the future based upon existing zoning. They provide an opportunity for communities to determine if they are growing in the way they want and what, if any, changes they want to make. The Office of Environmental affairs is spending $2.5 million to provide buildout maps and analysis to all communities in Massachusetts to use as a planning tool.

By signing Executive Order 418 in January, Governor Cellucci promoted a multidisciplinary approach to helping communities plan for their future. Executive Order 418 provides up to $30,000 for each community to draft a community development plan. Community development plans will contain information about open space protection that identifies land critical to sustaining the community's water supply, new housing opportunities that span a broad range of incomes, transportation infrastructure improvements and commercial and industrial development.

We are also drafting a guidebook to assist communities in formulating these plans. The city of Newton will be hearing more about these plans and the guidebooks in late July as we distribute them to Municipalities across the state.

Newton is actively planning for future growth by devising a Framework Plan, which thoughtfully considers some of the issues we are asking communities to focus on as they plan for future growth. The Framework Plan identifies the aspects of Newton that make it special and set it apart from other Communities. It recognizes that Newton's sense of place is captured in its village structure with unique identities and neighborhood qualities. It embraces the need to provide housing opportunities for residents and open space for recreation. It recognizes the need to develop sites appropriately and use existing buildings for residential and commercial development. And it involves a broad, diverse constituency in moving forward. All of these things will help Newton remain the garden city.

One way to ensure that communities have the funds to preserve historic structures, protect open space and provide affordable housing is to adopt the Community Preservation Act. This Act passed both the House and Senate and is now in conference committee. The Act would allow communities to establish a fund for historic preservation, affordable housing and open space. Governor Cellucci said that he will sign a Community preservation act that finances the fund through a surcharge of up to 3% of the real estate tax levy on real property in the municipality. If passed, the community preservation act could create up to $200 million for community preservation statewide annually. If adopted at the local level, Newton could receive $4,225,000 . Think about the open space that could be protected, the historic buildings that could be renovated or the housing opportunities that could be created if Newton had an additional $4,225,000 for these purposes annually.

Last month, the office of Environmental Affairs released a comprehensive report about the environmental challenges facing our communities. It is our hope that by better informing the public and growing our environmental constituency, more people will want to protect, restore and sustain our state's great wealth of resources. The Office of Environmental Affairs looks forward to working with you on Community Preservation and other issues we care about so we can make a difference together.

Community Preservation Act Passes

A Newton Open Space Fund?

by Jim Broderick

The final form of the Community Preservation Act (CPA) emerged from the Massachusetts House-Senate Conference Committee on July 11. The House approved it on July 19 and the Senate on July 25. The Governor is expected to sign it into law. It is designated an emergency law, effective immediately. The following comments are based on my reading of a copy of the CPA provided by Senator Creem's office.

The CPA provides a way for cities and towns to have a dedicated funding source to preserve open space and historic sites and to provide affordable housing. That way is the approval of a local referendum establishing a surcharge of up to 3% on the real estate tax levy. One or more of three exemptions to the surcharge are allowable: for $100,000 of the assessment, for property owned and lived in by low-income residents, and for class 3, commercial, or class 4, industrial property.

A state fund of $30 million or more will also be available to towns and cities that pass a CPA

referendum. This Massachusetts Community Preservation Trust Fund will annually distribute its funds collected from a $20.00 surcharge on filings in the Registry of Deeds and the Land Court. Collections will begin on Sept.1, 2000 and no further acts or appropriations by the General Court will be required to continue the Trust Fund. Since 80% of the Trust Fund's annual collections must be distributed among all those communities that have passed a referendum, the cities and towns first on board will get the largest matching shares, up to 100% of the funds collected locally. (The CPA specifies lead-time periods before a referendum that make it unlikely that many communities can schedule a referendum this election year; and the Act says that a CPA referendum can be held only at the time of a regular municipal or state election.)

Each community will establish its own Community Preservation Committee to administer its programs and recommend to the local legislative body the allocation of funds. These allocations "shall not replace operating funds, only augment them." Furthermore, each Community Preservation Committee must allocate at least 10% of its annual revenues for "open space, but not including land for recreational use, not less the 10% of the annual revenues for historic resources and not less than 10% of the annual revenues for community housing." (Allocations from the remaining 70%, however, can be made for parkland for either

passive or active recreational use.) The local Community Preservation Committee can use all of its revenues in a given year or place in escrow all or part for future projects; and it can float bonds against the local Preservation Fund in which its revenues are held.

This is farsighted legislation and will be a center of interest for years to come. In Newton advocates of open space, low-income housing and historic preservation may soon be called on to play two roles: 1) to provide detailed surveys of needs and opportunities for action, and 2) to engage in a public debate about Newton's response to the Community Preservation Act. It may be useful, before the debate begins, to emphasize that the tax levy surcharge authorized by the CPA is not the same as an override of "Proposition 2 1/2," which might free the city to increase real estate taxes at will. The present limits imposed by Chapter 59 on the city's ability to tax remain under the CPA. The CPA allows for only a specified surcharge on a resident's real estate tax bill.

The role of the Board of Aldermen will be key in Newton's response to the CPA. Under the Act, the Board would be free, but not required, to submit a referendum to its voters. If it submits a referendum, the Board will set the local surcharge, provide any of the allowed exemptions, and establish a Community Preservation Committee, its mode of appointment and the members' terms. If the referendum were approved, the Board, on the recommendation of the Community Preservation Committee, would annually approve its administrative budget, take specific actions, and spend or defer spending.


Landscape Changes at Levingston Cove on Crystal Lake

by Mike Clarke

Levingston Cove at Crystal Lake in June 1999

Long-awaited renovations to Levingston Cove at Crystal Lake along Lake Ave. have finally begun, but not everyone is happy with the design--or process. Erosion had so badly degraded one part of the park that the area had to be fenced off as a danger. Consequently, much of the allocated funding is being used to address erosion and water-quality issues of runoff onto and from the Cove.

In order to provide handicapped access, most of the pathways to be constructed in Levingston Cove will be of asphalt and some of the sloped paths will have handrails. The amount of paved paths, the number of benches, and, in particular, the retaining wall shown in the picture below have generated appreciable discussion between neighbors, City Officials and other residents.

While the city’s landscape planner had drafted at least two previous designs, he was not asked contribute significantly to the one constructed in June. The City Engineer began by looking at an earlier design that was drafted in 1995 and the Parks and Recreation Commission approved a preliminary design, but this underwent significant changes in the construction plans. A retaining wall was added, which the City Engineer stated was needed both for erosion control and for handicapped access.

Reaction following initial construction was so adverse that construction was halted on June 13. Over 150 residents signed a petition listing dissatisfactions with the construction design plans. Among the complaints were:

A number of meetings between City officials and neighbors have now been held. Neighbors complained about the amount of asphalt paving, and the size and location of the retaining wall. Some wanted to minimize the number of benches and the cut-out areas needed to place some benches between the path and shore. At a public meeting on July 19, it was agreed that the retaining wall (see picture) and boulders added to serve as a retaining wall near the lake would be removed, one path would be eliminated or converted to flagstones, the number of benches would be limited to 7 and the one to be added nearest Lake Ave. for handicapped access would be reduced in size from 6' to 4'. For information, call Parks & Rec at 552-7120.

The controversy about the design of Levingston Cove and removal of already constructed items points out the need for recognized procedures for approving construction plans for our parks and recreation areas. Small public works improvements are now managed on an ad hoc basis as part of a weekly project management system and are not subject to design review. Ultimately, stewardship for these lands resides in the Parks and Recreation Commission, which should be encouraged to develop written guidelines to ensure adequate public participation and control by the Commission over its public lands. It is the responsibility of the Parks and Recreation Commission to: facilitate communication, ensure that all interested parties are heard, and make their final decision based on the best available data and what is best for Newton.

Levingston Cove Renovations June 2000

Successful Biodiversity Days

by Ted Kuklinski

Biodiversity Days in Newton included a Friday morning bird walk at Flowed Meadow with not too many people but a good variety of birds. On Friday afternoon, the fifth grade class at Franklin School under Joan Yospin came over to Dolan Pond. After a little lecture on biodiversity, they went off to see what new things they could find. The class added to the labels on plants, which had been started by Deb and Frank Howard on Friday morning, and even found a Woodhouse's Toad!

The main event on Saturday morning at Dolan Pond drew a diverse group spanning a very large age range. We had a good mushroom expert and our best insect identifiers were a couple of very enthusiastic youngsters. We were also aided by knowledgeable counselors from Newton's Environmental Science program. Of course, the Hepburn Family, including their expert daughter Sabrina, were key players. We broke into 3 teams and came back together to share results and identify plants with lots of field guides borrowed from the Newton library.

On Sunday morning, Jon Regosin, a Tufts grad student led a terrific bird walk during which we saw or heard some rarities as blue-winged warbler, rose-breasted grosbeak and willow flycatcher. We also saw a number of very cooperative wild turkeys. Again we labeled a lot of the plants along the trail with tags. Checklists compiled by the various groups will be organized and given to the city's Environmental Planner, Martha Horn, so that everyone will be able to know the wonderful biodiversity existing in our conservation and parklands..


Parks and Conservation Areas Map

by Burton Elliott

The very popular Newton Conservators "Parks Map" was last published in 1992. At that time trails were brought up to date, features and information were added and a new format was provided. It was made available directly from the NC and from the Conservation Commission and the Parks and Recreation Department for $1.00, and was also mailed to the membership twice at no cost.

At the beginning of this year, we started to run out of the maps, and a temporary reprinting was done, We have enough to last through the end of this year. We hope you all have one and have enjoyed using it. Instead of printing more of the same, it has been decided by the NC Board to change the famous map and improve it and republish it in an advanced form. A committee has been formed, consisting of Burton Elliott, Jason Glasgow and Ted Kuklinski, and is now at work. Among the changes being considered are:

1) Adding conservation areas and MDC properties in contiguous towns and cities (Waltham, Wellesley etc.) to the map.

2) Including historical information about the areas.

3) Updating trail information through available GPS and aerial mapping available to at the Newton MIS office.

4) Including information about flora and fauna and natural characteristics, and excerpts from botanical reports which have recently been done.

The Committee is open to suggestions from improvements from our membership and any other interested persons. We hope you will let us have your input. Also, we welcome any members who would like to assist in the project, and join the committee as well. We need help in research, history, trail information, CAD or other computer work, printing and in the organization of the project.

For either of the above (comments or help), either e-mail the Chairman, Burton Elliott, at, or call him at 617-244-8920.

We think this will be a great project, and are looking forward to the results, and we are especially looking forward to any help we can get.

Metro Parks Council Organized

by Mike Clarke

In an 1892 letter to the original Metropolitan Parks Commission (now the Metropolitan District Commission), Charles Elliott's envisioned a regional parks unit to include: "1) Spaces on the ocean front. 2) As much as possible of the shores and islands of the bay. 3) The courses of the larger tidal estuaries (from their commercial usefulness) because of the value of these courses as pleasant routes to the heart of the city and to the sea. 4 ) Two or three large areas of wild forest on the outer rim of the inhabited area. 5) Numerous small squares, playgrounds, and parks in the midst of the dense populations."

Representatives of essentially all the major environmental groups in Massachusetts (and many of the local ones such as the Friends of Hemlock Gorge and the Newton Conservators) have joined together to form the Metro Parks Council to address regional open space issues and MDC policies.

The overriding concern is that the MDC reservations are being whittled away. Examples include 42 acres of the Mystic River reservation that were ceded to the local municipality and current plans to: 1) to construct an ice-hockey complex in the Middlesex Fells Reservation. 2) fill from the Big Dig to be dumped in the Granite Rail Quarry and plans for hockey rinks and a "mini Fenway" ballpark at the Blue Hills Reservation, and 3) the planned BU boathouse on MDC land near the Esplanade.

The Metropolitan Park Council will advocate to preserve and enhance the Metropolitan Park System as a whole. Its mission includes





President: Douglas Dickson, 17 Oxford Rd, 02459 969-8661

Vice Pres: William Hagar, 248 Winchester St, 02461 964-2644

Treasurer: Katherine Howard, 84 Fenwick Rd, 02468 527-1796

Secretary: Judith Hepburn, 132 Stanley Rd, 02468 964-1137

Past Pres: Michael Clarke, 38 Halcyon Rd, 02459 965-5174


Margaret Albright, 166 Edinboro St, 02460 244-6145

Nancy Avery, 34 Beacon St, 02467 232-5280

Stephanie Bacon, 541 Hammond St, 02467 734-2904

Corry Berkooz, 34 Janet Rd, 02459 641-0763

Lee Breckenridge, 40 Oakmont Rd, 02459 527-4904

James Broderick, 21 Groveland St, 02466 332-3465

Larry Burdick, 180 Dudley Rd, 02459 969-0414

Lucy Caldwell Stair, 46 Woodcliff Rd, 02461 928-3375

Bonnie Carter, 177 Homer St, 02459 969-0686

Michael Collora, 40 Kelveden Rd, 02468 964-3294

Carol Lee Corbett, 377 Cherry St, 02465 332-4015

Ed Dailey, 67 Maplewood Av, 02459 332-6987

Sheila Decter, 13 Ranson Rd, 02459 527-0840

Burton Elliott, 319 Highland Av, 02465 244-8920

Roger Feinstein, 96 Roundwood Rd, 02464 969-0942

Jason Glasgow, 47 Oxford Rd, 02459 527-3107

Frank Howard, 34 Fairfax St, 02465 244-7269

Ted Kuklinski, 24 Henshaw Tr, 02465 332-7753

Eric Reenstierna, 15 Otis Pk, 02460 969-5820

Marty Sender, 47 Kingswood Rd, 02466 244-5681

Andrew Stern, 56 Tyler Tr, 02459 969-9898


AnnaMaria Abernathy, 45 Islington Rd, 02466 244-3447

Lisle Baker, 137 Suffolk Rd, 02467 566-7564

Rodney Barker, 49 Woodcliff Rd, 02461 244-6949

John Bliss, 9 Lewis St, 02458 244-6495

Thelma Fleishman, 14 Kenwood Av, 02459 244-5598

Sally Flynn, 33 Whitney Rd, 02460 965-6297

Bart Hague, 110 Roundwood Rd, 02464 969-3640

Helen Heyn, 21 Alexander Rd, 02461 969-5712

Deborah Howard, 34 Fairfax Rd, 02465 244-7269

Jean Husher, 1686 Beacon St, 02468 527-5981

William Jones, 92 Bullough’s Pk, 02460 527-9110

Lawrence Kaplan, 26 Parker St, 02459 527-3449

Peter Kastner, 49 Woodbine St, 02466 244-6094

William Leitch, 69 Dexter Rd, 02460 244-0771

George Mansfield, 312 Lake Av, 02461 969-1479

Richard Primack, 16 Stiles Tr, 02459 332-1684

Frances Seasholes, 163 Cypress St, 02459 969-5927

William Shaevel, 881 Dedham St, 02459 965-1534

William Stevenson, 168 Nevada St, 02460 527-0411

Roger Swain, 20 Columbus St, 02466 332-0555

Verne Vance, 101 Old Orchard Rd, 02467 232-5494

Brian Yates, 1094 Chestnut St, 02464 244-2601