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The Friends of

Hemlock Gorge

P.O. Box 62
Waban, MA 02468

friends@hemlockgorge.org


Enjoy and Help Preserve Hemlock Gorge!

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Welcome to the Home Page of the Friends of Hemlock Gorge Reservation, a community organization founded in 1990 and dedicated to preserving and improving Hemlock Gorge.

Hemlock Gorge is a 23-acre reservation along the Charles River between Route 9  to the north and Elliot Street to the south. It was conceived by Charles Eliot in 1892 and is managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. At its heart is the famous Echo Bridge, which dates from 1886. Parts of the park are in Newton, Wellesley, and Needham. In addition to street parking nearby, there are two small parking lots for visitors, one in Needham at the intersection of Elliot Street and Hamilton Place and the other in Newton at the intersection of Ellis Street and Boylston Street.

Hemlock Gorge Reservation survived the influenza epidemic of 1918 and even now, in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic, the park is there, in good shape, and a place you can take a walk (socially-distanced, of course) to relieve yourself of the tedium of isolation and seclusion.

The Friends of Hemlock Gorge is now a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Contributions to the Friends are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Anyone wishing to contribute to the Friends can contact us at friends@hemlockgorge.org.

Please consider contributing to The Friends of Hemlock Gorge for our work in 2021. A contribution in any amount is appreciated. Suggested annual dues are $15 for individuals, $25 for families, and $100 for angels. Our donations are managed through PayPal and go directly to our bank.

To read our Bylaws, click here. To read our Statement of Purpose, click here. Officers for 2020 are: President: John Mordes; Vice-President: Evan Weststrate; Treasurer: Robin Dexter; Secretary: Sheila Purdy. Our Board of Directors includes Vaunita Schnell, Andreae Downs, Seana Gaherin, and Rena Getz, in addition to the President, Vice-President, and Treasurer of the Friends who serve ex officio.


News & Announcements


Upcoming Meetings of the Friends

Regular Meetings are usually held on the first Tuesday of the month at 7:15 in the evening unless otherwise announced. The next meeting will be held on Tuesday, December 8, 2020 so we can have a bit of a festive event closer to the holidays. At this meeting we will elect officers and board members for 2021, send out our Annual Report, and raise a online toast of Holiday Cheer.

Due to the covid-19 epidemic this will again be a Zoom virtual meeting. An invitation to join the meeting is sent to all members. If anyone not a member would like an invitation to the meeting, please email us at friends@hemlockgorge.org .

Minutes of our meetings are available here.  

To read our 2019 End-of-Year Annual Report to Members, click here. The 2020 Report will be online soon.

To find links to much more news of our activities, click here.


2020 Fall Cleanup of Hemlock Gorge
The Friends of Hemlock Gorge’s 40th Annual Fall Cleanup took place on Saturday, October 24, 2019 in very nice weather
. We had a very good turnout despite the fact that, as was true of the Spring Cleanup, the event had be socially distanced. Bags and gloves were given out by the DCR.  Left to right are Evan, Dr. John, Vaunita, and Evan again.
Friends' President Dr. John MordesVauntia and Evan
Left to right below are Emily, Robin, Evan, City Councilor Bill Humphrey and his father Tom.
Emily Gelbert, Robin Dexter and Evan WeststrateCity Councilor Bill Humphrey and his father Tom
We had scrumptious pizza for lunch, though the roof dedication was put off to next year.
Volunteers
 
There was relatively less trash than in a typical pre-pandemic year. Participants included Friends' Officers Evan Weststrate, Robin Dexter and John Mordes, Newton City Councilor Bill Humphrey and his father Tom, and Members Bob Burke, Lee and Jean Fisher, Dick and Vaunit Schnell, Bob Ellertsen, Ellen Katz, Jay Werb, Don Ross, and Emily Gelbert, most of whom are in the photo below. Click on it for a larger view.
Fall Clean Up Luncheon


During the clean up, Evan Weststrate, assisted by Dr. John, climbed up to the rafters of the Stone Building and replaced the screens that covered the roof peak window openings but had become dislodged over the years. The photo shows the southe window screen behind Evan's arm and the excellent condition of the the building's roof framing and new roof.

Evan WeststrateEvan Weststrate

Lastly, we saw that the DCR has prepared wood that will be used to restore the second floor of the Stone Building in the near future.

Wood for restoration


Ellis Street Parking Lot News
Related to the Cleanup, we're happy to report that through the efforts of Philip Arpino, Assistant Superintendent, Beautification Division, Newton Parks & Recreation Dept. and Maria P. Rose, CFM Environmental Engineer, Newton Public Works Deptartment, the City of Newton has begun to maintain the Ellis Street Parking lot. On September 3rd Mr. Arpino had somebody go there and clean up the whole area, removing the illegal dumping and picking all of the litter. He also installed a barrel at the entrance, since then his staff have emptied the barrel 3 times, and his staff is keeping an eye on the area.

Stone Building Roof Restored

Many of you will recall that at  the dedication of the Brian Yates memorial, Representative Ruth Balser announced that the new state budget includes a $50,000 appropriation for restoration of the roof of the Stone Building. The DCR has completed the project! The photos below show the old and new roofs! Clicking on the pictures will show a larger version. We hope to have a ceremony to dedicate the new roof and recognize Rep. Balser's contribution as soon as the pandemic conditions permit.

Click here to read about the history of the Stone Building

 

Old RoofThe New Roof

The old roof was installed in 1990. The new shingles and sheeting were installed on the 1990's rafters.


Public-Private Partnership Application Has Been Rejected

In late June, as work on the roof was beginning, the Friends were made aware of an oppurtunity to apply to the DCR for matching public-private partnership funds to support an project that would benefit a DCR park. At a special meeting on June 30, we decided to submit a letter of intent to pursue the development of a Visitor Center in the Stone Building. The proposal was:

"...The Friends of Hemlock Gorge propose to begin the process of making the building a welcoming Visitors’ Center. Until now, the building, with only a bare concrete floor, has not been welcoming and is infrequently used. We propose three initial steps to be taken as a public-private partnership. Step 1 will be to remove and replace two unsafe ceiling beams that once supported a second floor. Step 2 will be to install a perimeter drain  to eliminate water seepage. Step 3 will then see the installation of a plastic tile floor comprised of industrial quality tiles. Our goal is to leverage the state’s investment, upgrade the restored historic structure, and make it a welcoming and useful attraction in Hemlock Gorge."

On September 14, however, the DCR rejected the proposal saying, "Unfortunately, DCR has to decline the Friends of Hemlock Gorge Visitor Center project for FY21 Partnership Matching Funds. The stone building building is currently being used for storage by DCR, and there is no plan currently to redesign for use as a Visitor Center. Given its current use and condition, DCR does not want to invest in any work that invites public access."

We will try to figure out what to do next at our October Meeting.


Echo Bridge StairwayAs can be seen in the photos below, the stairway leading from Echo Bridge down to Ellis Street has been deteriorating. During the summer repairs to the steps have been made a couple of times by members of the Friends. The stairs are now reasonably safe. The longer term need for repairs to, or replacement of the iron framework, is still to be addressed. Rep. Ruth Balser recently informed us that the the stairs are the responsibility of the MWRA, and they did sent out a team of inspectors at the end of September. We'll post an update when we receive more information. To see the original engineering drawings for the stairs from 1900, provided to the Friends by Lee Fisher, click here.


Linking Hemlock Gorge to the Quinobequin Trail Park

At our September, 2020 meeting the Friends approved a proposal to make it safer and easier for people to move between Hemlock Gorge to the Quinobequin Trail along Quinobequin Road. It's a simple proposal to enhance pedestrian safety by of painting crosswalks, installing ADA compliant curb cuts, and creating a gap in a guardrail for trail access. We do recognize that more elaborate measures including walk lights or speed bumps or using the tunnel under Route 9 might enhance safety even more, but we believe that this proposal offers a low cost, very 'do-able' first-step towards solving a significant safety issue. To see the proposal, click here. It was submitted to Rep. Ruth Balser's office on September 22.


2021 Annual Summer Picnic

Regrettably our 2020 summer picnic was canceled due to the pandemic. We're hopeful, however, that next year will be different!


The USGS at Hemlock Gorge
Have you ever wondered about the little room in the Stone Building or the antenna and solar panel on its roof? Or the guage in the river across from the Stone Building? Evan Westrate has been looking into all this. The Circular Dam is the location of one of the U.S. Geologi Survey's water flow monitors. You can get real time water flow (Discharge) and level (Gage Height) data of our site from this website.  You can see flow data in pretty much real time!  


Hemlock Gorge: Past, Present, and Future

At our May meeting we were joined by Wellesley College student Lara Prebble who in 2019  wrote this thoughtful analysis of the history, present state, and possible future of Hemlock Gorge Reservation. It was her graduation project. Lara reviewed the history of the park in detail and proposed some improvements that were discussed at the meeting. she and her adviser have graciously allowed us to share it. To read her report, follow this link: A Landscapre Architect's Hemlock Gorge


2020 Spring Cleanup 

The Friends of Hemlock Gorge’s 30th Annual Spring Cleanup took place despite covid-19 in warm weather under cloudless skies on Saturday, April 25, 2020.  The reservation was surprisingly clean, perhaps as a result of people picking up trash regularly and perhaps due to fewer visitors. We don't know exactly how many persons participated because of extreme social distancing but there were quite a few of us at different times of the day. Lee and Jean Fisher, Emily Gelbert and her son Max, Evan Weststrate and his son, Robin Dexter, Bob Ellertsen and John Mordes were among the participants. Evan and his son cleaned the riverbank from his canoe. Jean raked leaves off the west end of Echo Bridge while Lee repainted the two trail markers. Emily also raked the area around the Stone Building and Bob worked on the Route 9 exit. There were many day visitors hiking through the Gorge. There were more than half a dozen bags of trash left for the DCR at the Stone Barn and Hamilton Place by the end of the day. We missed the comeraderie of the canceled luncheon but want to thank everyone who turned out to make this a success.

For a photo archive of this and many past clean-ups, click here.


Echo Bridge Across the Years and in Music

Click here to read the history of Echo Bridge as written by the late historian Ken Newcomb in his online book, Makers of the Mold, published by the Friends of Hemlock Gorge

To see stories about Echo Bridge  that have appeared on our web site go to: Archive of Echo Bridge news stories.

To read a very detailed government report on the Echo Bridge railings, provided to us by Lee Fisher, click here.

To hear the bluegrass classic Echo Bridge by FHG member Mark Bridger, click here. Here is Mark's recollection of the recording as recounted in the Upper Falls Newsletter in November, 2019: "More than 30 years ago I wrote a song inspired by living near Echo Bridge. At that time I played mandolin for a local bluegrass band -- with the eponymous name "Echo Bridge" -- that performed for about a dozen years in the Boston Area, especially around Newton."


August 6, 2019: Dedication of the Friends' Memorial to Brian Yates and our 2018 Summer Picnic

Brian Yates, former Newton City Councilor and the Founder, Past-President, and guiding spirit of the Friends of Hemlock Gorge passed away on March 15, 2019. A granite memorial to Brian has now been placed in Hemlock Gorge close by the Stone Building and the Circular Dam.

The dedication took place on the evening of August 6 before our annual summer picnic, which he always hosted. Nearly 60 people attended, including some of his closest friends and colleagues. Rememberances were given by Rep. Ruth Balser, Newton Mayor Fuller, Amy Mah Sangiolo, Bob Burke, and Rena Getz. Vaunita Schnell and Rob MacArthur recounted the history of the saving of the Stone Building from derelection and the long list of accomplishments of the Friends. Finally, three of Brian's cousins attended and spoke. Pictures of the dedication will be posted soon.

On August 14 the Newton Tab published an article about the dedication of Brian’s memorial. It’s on the front page of the second section of the printed version. Here is the link to the online version: https://newton.wickedlocal.com/news/20190814/remembering-former-newton-city-councilor-brian-yates

Music for the picnic was provided courtesy of Karen Osborn, who also landscaped the Stone Building for the event. Brian loved our picnics. For the archive of past picinics, click here. Rescuing the Stone Building was a key project in the founding of the Friends. To read Brian's History of the Founding of The Friends of Hemlock Gorge, click here

The Friends of Hemlock Gorge is now an approved 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Contributions are tax-deductible.


Echo Bridge Railings Project

Echo Bridge is one of outstanding landmarks of the Metropolitan Parks System. Built in 1876, Echo Bridge was designed by the Boston Water Works (BWW) to carry the Sudbury Aqueduct over the Charles River. The largest of its seven arches is 130’ in length, which made it the second longest masonry arch in the United States. The bridge is remarkable for its graceful and handsome granite and brick design that contribute to the rugged beauty of Hemlock Gorge.

The historic cast iron railings pictured above are an integral component of the promenade over which pedestrians and bicyclists traverse daily. After 140 years, however, they are now in serious disrepair. In 2008, the MWRA installed a temporary chain link safety fence inside the historic railings to enable the bridge to remain open.

The time has come to either raise the funds to properly replicate the historic railings or to install a more permanent and attractive safety railing system inside the historic railings while leaving the old railings themselves in disrepair. Everyone prefers the former path if at all possible.

While State Rep. Ruth Balser was successful in allocating $250,000 in a past transportation bond bill for the railing project, full costs for the project far exceed that amount. In response to the fact that the MWRA cannot fund historic preservation projects decoupled from its water supply mission, a group of citizens has joined together to help raise funds to fix the historic railings, and we invite your support.

For more information, please see the minutes of the February, 2019 meeting, other materials on our website, and our flyer.

Funds are being sought from multiple sources via a private/public partnership so that the expense of proper restoration is shared across a variety of stakeholders and contributors. Sources will include State funds, Newton and Needham Community Preservations funds, historic foundations, and private contributors. MWRA, the bridge owner, will be the funding recipient and will provide the engineering, contracting, and project management expertise to conduct the project. Will you join us in a pledge?

To pledge in suport of this project go to: EchoBridgeRailings@outlook.com


2019 Annual Report

The 2019Annual End-of-Year Report to Members is online. Click here to read it.

 

Echo Bridge in Summer (Click for a larger image)

 

 

 

Brian Yates

Friends' Founding President Brian Yates 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brian Yates' Memorial

The Memorial to  Founding President Brian Yates  

 

 

 

 

 




The Echo Bridge Railings a century ago

The Echo Bridge Railings as they appeared a century ago 

 

 

 

 

 

Echo Bridge in Spring, 1997

Feast in the Falls 2021

Seana Gaherin and her volunteer committee successfully arranged the second of her Upper Falls Residents outdoor luncheons on June 23, 2017. The food was delicious and Jerry Reilly entertained us all with grandeloquent rap singing. A grand time was had by all. Another feast is in the planning stage for June 21, 2020 but is hostage for now to covid-19.

Links

 

The new landscaping at the stone building

The new spillway dam.

 

2013 Adelgid News from Bob Burke

  • Biggest news is that the Arboretum is planning to save some of its hemlocks using new technology.

  • "I met with Peter Del Tredici at the Arnold Arboretum and then went over to see their hemlocks. Peter had good news and bad news. The good news is that there is, indeed, a new hemlock treatment that is good for 5 years.  It involves placing a chemical substance in the soil rather than injecting it into the tree.The bad news is that at least 60 percent of a tree should be free of adelgids for this treatment to work. This can be quite expensive. He thinks we should look to saving perhaps half a dozen of the healthiest trees.

  • He also stated that 2011 was very bad for all the hemlocks because of the warm weather.  

  • Western hemlocks are more resistant than Eastern ones, but they don't do as well here because of the colder winters and drier summers.

  •  He says we need a professional tree company to determine what can be done.  He was reluctant to recommend one, but then casually said that Hartney Greymont of Needham is very reputable and one of the best.

  •  I had a look at the Hemlocks back in April or May, but have had a very bad ankle tendonitis that makes it difficult to walk up hills or sideways.   Maybe we could all go around and take a look at the trees during the cleanup in October.   The Hemlocks at Arnold Arboretum are also worth seeing since they have been treated and look fine."

Stone Building Windows

Three windows were fabricated and installed with protective screens in front of them, replacing the bricks that were there for decades. We thank the Sangiolo family for their generous support of this much appreciated project. We hope at some point to be able to replace more windows.

 


The "Memory House" at Hemlock Gorge

Friends member Bob Burke some time ago wrote a lovely guest columnist article about Hemlock Gorge and the Friends' activities that has appeared in the Newton Tab. Highly recommended. Click here to read it.

Echo Bridge in the Fall

 


Links


News Stories

General Reservation News:

We have moved older Echo Bridge stories that have appeared on our web site to our Archive of News Stories. This is where you will find news of awards, encroachment, politics and such. For news about key concerns of the Friends like the adelgids, Echo Bridge, and the Stone Building are below.

In Waban, there was trouble with the trails along the river. See an opinion article and accompanying blog  by Jerry Reilly and a front page news article, both in the Newton Tab.

Historic Newton Walks

Finding the History in Hemlock Gorge Reservation

Sunday, June 22, 2017 2:00 PM

This walk took place on a gorgeous day, with about three dozen people in attendance. Everyone agreed that Hemlock Gorge is both a beautiful place to walk and the site of much historical importance as Newton's first industrial center. Old maps and photographs helped the group to visualize the mills that were located on the island and along the Charles River and to appreciate the importance of Worcester Turnpike/Route 9 to the area's commerce. The walk was expertly led by Lucy Caldwell-Stair, with whom the gourp found the site of the 1893 Echo Bridge Park amphitheater and the cave, the "Devil's Den," where Native Americans stored dried fish.

 


Adelgid News

Summer 2014

The woolly adelgid has now been in the reservation for some 15 years, and it is unclear how many of the hemlocks will survive.

We have moved older adelgid stories that have appeared on our web site to: Archive of adelgid news stories. We have archived the entire saga of the adelgids' appearance, our efforts to pass legislation to combat them, the release of the predator ladybugs in 2001, and follow up analyses in the Friends' Adelgid News Stories Archive. Below are some highlights and links.

  • The Newton Tab declares the Adelgid Vanquished! (2005) Click here to view the story.
  • The Arnold Arboretum's Response to the Adelgid (Winter 2005)  Click here to view the story.
  • Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Website (January 2005) The USDA Forest Service now has a website dedicated to the woolly adelgid. The site includes all the of the USDA's newsletters on the pest, pictures, and a great deal of technical information. Interestingly, the Forest Service is looking at several different control insects, not just the P. tsugae ladybugs we released. Click here to go the to US Forest Service adelgid website.
  • Mark McClure, who was a leader in adelgid research and discovered "our" ladybugs, retired.
  • Release of the Ladybugs (2001) Click here for the story and photos of the release of the ladybugs
  • About our Ladybugs (2001) Click here to view the story.
  • About Adelgids (2000) Click here to view the story.  
 

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Stone Building Project News

A Stone Building News Archive is available by clicking here

June 29, 2011

The new windows for the Stone Building, donated in 2002 and fabricated in 2008, are installed.

March 1, 2006

In early January, the Friends of Hemlock Gorge succeeded in our application for a Public-Private Partnership with the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). The Friends earmarked $2500 for a new floor and other repairs to the Stone Building, and that amount will be matched by the DCR. We will post a copy of the correspondence soon. This means that our long hoped for plans to make the Stone Building a great venue for Friends' activities will soon become a reality (February 2006). The new floor will, hopefully, be followed soon by the new windows, for which funds have already been generously donated by the Sangiolo Trust. On February 23, we were notified by the DCR that they are preparing to pour the floor very soon, and that the Friends will be asked for input on design.


Echo Bridge News

We have moved older Echo Bridge stories that have appeared on our web site to: Archive of Echo Bridge news stories.

Click here to read the history of Echo Bridge as written by the late historian Ken Newcomb in his online book, Makers of the Mold, published by the Friends of Hemlock Gorge


   
   
Occasional Notes: The Joys of Hemlock Gorge  
  • To the right: the Silk Mill in 1905, before construction of the "Horseshoe" or Circular Dam. Note the lower water level. From a postcard recently found by Bonnie and Rick Pearson. Click for a larger image.
     
  • The Newton Conservators have a lovely page of photos of Hemlock Gorge. Click here to see them.
     
  • Richard Kramer has also put up photos of Hemlock Gorge to share with us. Click here to see them.

The Silk Mill Dam in 1905

 

 

   
Four Seasons of Hemlock Gorge
  • Panoramic photos of Hemlock Gorge taken by Steve Clark from the top of Echo Bridge show well the splendor of the Reservation and comprise the Friends' Four Seasons of Hemlock Gorge collection. Panoramas were pretty special back in 2000.
  • Click on the small images below to see the Panoramas full size. Note: If you are using Internet explorer, you need to hover your cursor on the image to see it full size. An icon will appear. Click on it, and the image enlarges.

Panorama of Hemlock Gorge in Spring

Spring 2000

Panorama of Hemlock Gorge in Summer

Summer 2000

Panorama of Hemlock Gorge in the Fall

Fall 2000

Panorama of Hemlock Gorge in Winter

Winter 2001, taken during the storm of March 5-6

Doug Cornelius posted a lovely account of canoeing through Hemlock Gorge a few years ago with pictures. Click here to see it.

Another collection of photos of Hemlock Gorge is at Boston Online: Click here to see them.

 


Publications of the Friends

Makers of the Mold, a full-length illustrated history of the Newton Upper Falls community which borders Hemlock Gorge, is available only on the Web. Authored by Historian, Conservationist, and Friend Ken Newcomb, who passed away in 2002. Copies of the print edition of The Makers of the Mold can be purchased online and are also available at several local restaurants, convenience stores and cafes. The full list of outlets can be found here.

A Walking Tour of Hemlock Gorge

This work is available only at this Web site.

A Landscapre Architect's Hemlock Gorge

Wellesley College student Lara Prebble wrote this thoughtful analysis of the history, present state, and possible future of Hemlock Gorge Reservation in 2019. It was her graduation project. Lara, soon to be a student in the Harvard Graduate School of Design.



Other Dates and Events of Interest


The Friends' Resources and Archives

1. Our most important Resource is People!

2. History

3. Contemporary Challenges Facing the Hemlock Gorge Reservation

4. Local Governmental, Civic, and Conservation Organizations Online

Government

Non-governmental Organizations


Our Archives

The Friends were honored with a beautification award from the City of Newton in 1997. Click here for the story. Click on the small picture to see a larger image of the award.