The Friends of
P.O. Box 62
You can now follow us on Facebook.
| 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
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.
We Invite You to Join Us
The Friends of Hemlock Gorge is now a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization and contributions to the Friends are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.
Please consider contributing to The Friends of Hemlock Gorge
for our work in 2023. A contribution in any amount is
appreciated. Suggested annual dues are $10 for seniors, $15 for
individuals, $25 for families, and $100 for angels. Our
donations are managed through PayPal and go directly to our
bank. For those who give $25 or more, we are offering as a givt
one of four gorgeous posters of Hemlock Gorge
created by Friends' Vice-President Evan Weststrate. To view the
posters and make a $25 or greater donation, click
here. To contribute without ordering a poster, just use
the PayPal button here. Please note that we are recognized as a
charity by PayPal and pay the lowest processing fee that is
To read our Bylaws, click here. To read our Statement of Purpose, click here. Officers for 2023 are: President: John Mordes; Vice-President: Evan Weststrate; Treasurer: Robin Dexter; Secretary: Sheila Purdy. Members of our Board of Directors are: Vaunita Schnell, City Councilor Bill Humphrey, Chris Osborne, 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. Our next regular meeting will be held on Tuesday, Tuesday April 4 at 7:15 p.m. A Zoom link and meeting agenda will be sent to active members.
At our March, 2023 Meeting Katherine Howard of the Newton Conservators gave a very informative talk about invasive species in the park. We will try in the future to coordinate our cleanup efforts with those she leads to try to control invasive plants. Click here to see Conservators' invasiives information website. Click here to hear on YouTube from Prof Doug Tallamy who explains why native plants are so crucial. It is one of his recent webinars, very educational and entertaining, recommended by Katherine.
Our December 2022 Holiday Meeting took place on December 6. We had both in-person and Zoom attendees, and everyone had a great time. The event was held, as in many years past, at the Osborn homestead in Upper Falls. Karen, Chris, and Mary Jane all joined us around a traditional tree in the living room. Food was provided by Chris Osborn, the proprieter of Better Life Foods. The food was delicious and complemented by some holiday cheer. At the meeting all currently serving officers and board members were re-elected, and we made some initial plans for 2023.
From the left are Paul Roberts, Karen Osborn, Rena Getz, Emily Gelbert, Loren Commando, Robin Dexter, Don Ross and Bill Humphrey.
Minutes of our meetings for this year are available here.
To read our 2022 End-of-Year Annual Report to Members, click here. To find links to much more news of our activities, click here.
Our table and tent at Upper Falls Day. Our VP Evan and his son
There were many participants and a music ensemble. Our tent was
the fourth one down on the right.
More than two dozen attendees brought their picnic baskets, food and beverages. The
Friends supplied a grill, utensils for the grill, chairs,
picnic benches. Music and a PA was kindly provided by Chris Pitts.
We gathered under our new custom pop-up shelter. The
weather was hot but there was a cooling breeze. We enjoyed our new
bench (see below) and Seana Gaherin generously provided beverages
for everyone to enjoy.
At this event we
had our long delayed dedication of
the new roof on the Stone Building and a ceremony to
recognize Representative RUTH BALSER for making the new roof
possible and for all the additional effort she has put in to
supporting our efforts to maintain the Stone Building and the
Among these have
been the new roof on on the Stone Building, the Ellis Street Echo
Bridge staircase (see below), the crosswalks project (see below), the new sidewalk connecting the Ellis Street parking lot
to the stone building, a $75,000 appropriation that she secured
last year that is going to be applied to an engineering study of
the foundation of the Stone Building. At this year's picnic, she
announced that she has also procured an appropriation in excess of
$200,000 to be applied to repairs that will be needed to maintain
the structural integrity of the stone building. We were delighted to award Rep. Balser one of our framed
portraits of Hemlock Gorge created by Evan Weststrate, and Vaunita Schnell gave
her a boquet of sunflowers. Here's one photo of the event. More photos will be posted soon.
A photo album of some of our other picnics over the years is
Guest of Honor Rep. Balser is at the center holiding the boquet of
sunflowers. Other attendees included
Paul Roberts, Robin Dexter, Chris Pitts, Lee Fisher, Emily
Gelbert, Don Ross, Vaunita Schnell, Bob Burke, Rena Getz, Bob's
sister, Sheila Purdy, Dr. John, Andreae Downs, Katherine Howard,
Jean Fisher, Ellen Katz, and Jerry Riley.
Our table and tent at Upper Falls Day. Our VP Evan and his son Vanden.
There were many participants and a music ensemble. Our tent was the fourth one down on the right.
More than two dozen attendees brought their picnic baskets, food and beverages. The Friends supplied a grill, utensils for the grill, chairs, picnic benches. Music and a PA was kindly provided by Chris Pitts. We gathered under our new custom pop-up shelter. The weather was hot but there was a cooling breeze. We enjoyed our new bench (see below) and Seana Gaherin generously provided beverages for everyone to enjoy.
At this event we had our long delayed dedication of the new roof on the Stone Building and a ceremony to recognize Representative RUTH BALSER for making the new roof possible and for all the additional effort she has put in to supporting our efforts to maintain the Stone Building and the Park.
Among these have been the new roof on on the Stone Building, the Ellis Street Echo Bridge staircase (see below), the crosswalks project (see below), the new sidewalk connecting the Ellis Street parking lot to the stone building, a $75,000 appropriation that she secured last year that is going to be applied to an engineering study of the foundation of the Stone Building. At this year's picnic, she announced that she has also procured an appropriation in excess of $200,000 to be applied to repairs that will be needed to maintain the structural integrity of the stone building.
We were delighted to award Rep. Balser one of our framed portraits of Hemlock Gorge created by Evan Weststrate, and Vaunita Schnell gave her a boquet of sunflowers.
Here's one photo of the event. More photos will be posted soon. A photo album of some of our other picnics over the years is available here.
Guest of Honor Rep. Balser is at the center holiding the boquet of sunflowers. Other attendees included Paul Roberts, Robin Dexter, Chris Pitts, Lee Fisher, Emily Gelbert, Don Ross, Vaunita Schnell, Bob Burke, Rena Getz, Bob's sister, Sheila Purdy, Dr. John, Andreae Downs, Katherine Howard, Jean Fisher, Ellen Katz, and Jerry Riley.
The Friends Have Chartered a a Boy Scout Troop
At our January meeting the Friends agreed to "charter" Scout Troop 205, formerly chartered by Sacred Heart Church but now meeting at the Carroll School. Paul Roberts, emeritus scoutmaster of the Troop, will be the Friend's representative to the Troop. The chartering agreement has been signed. We looked forward to a mutually beneficial relationship with the scouts, and if you look at the photos from our spring cleanup you will see that our relationship has indeed borne fruit.
The charter relationship was renewed for 2023 in November 2022.
Good News on the Crosswalk Proposal for 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 download the proposal, click here. It was submitted to Rep. Ruth Balser's office on September 22, 2021.
The In February, 2022 The Mass Department of Transportation produced a prelimiary set of engineering drawings. To download the PDF file with the drawings, click here. At our March 1, 2022 meeting several comments and suggestions to improve the draft plan were made. These (in red text) can be viewed on an annotated version fo the draft plan click here.
Echo Bridge Stairway: As many of you know, the stairway leading from Echo Bridge down to Ellis Street had been deteriorating. Repairs to the steps were made a couple of times by members of the Friends. Now, thanks to the advocacy of Rep. Ruth Balser working with the MWRA, all the old wood has been replaced with lovely new red cedar. The photos below show the old stairs, the repairs in progress, and the new stairway. The work crew assured us that the iron support structure and railings are in good shape, but these will need attention at some point in the future. To see the original engineering drawings for the stairs from 1900, provided to the Friends by Lee Fisher, click here. The Friends are pleased to recognize Rep. Balser for her work to preserve this historic structure and make it safe.
Left to Right: The old stairs, stairs under repair, and the finished new stairs. Click on the images to see a larger version.
Ellis Street Parking Lot News
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 Department, the City of Newton has continued to maintain the Ellis Street Parking lot. The staff is keeping an eye on the area, but at the time of the cleanup in April, 2022 the lot had become very messy. However, when notified by us Councilor Andrea Downs and the DPW staff did a terrific cleanup. The photos show the before and after.
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 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 in October.
Click here to read about the history of the Stone Building
The old roof was installed in 1990. The new shingles and sheeting were installed on the 1990's rafters.
Public-Private Partnership Application that was RejectedIn late June, 2020 , 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, 2020, 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."
Fortunately, Rep. Ruth Balser has secured a state appropriation of $75,000 to preserve and improve the Stone Building. We do not need to re-apply.
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 and we expect the engineering drawings to be complete by May, 2021.
USGS at Hemlock Gorge
Gorge: Past, Present, and Future
At our May 2020 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
2021 Fall Cleanup
The 2021 he Friends of Hemlock Gorge’s31st Annual Fall Cleanup took place on Saturday, October 16, 2021 in very nice weather. We had a very good turnout of about a dozen volunteers. The event ended with a pizza lunch for volunteers. For a photo archive of this and many past clean-ups, click here/span>.
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
2020 Annual Report
The 2020Annual End-of-Year Report to Members is online. Click here to read it.
Echo Bridge in Summer (Click for a larger image)
Friends' Founding President Brian Yates
The Memorial to Founding President Brian Yates
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.
The new landscaping at the stone building
The new spillway dam.
2013 Adelgid News from Bob Burke
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
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.
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.
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|
|Four Seasons of
Winter 2001, taken during the storm of March 5-6
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.
1. Our most important Resource is People!
3. Contemporary Challenges Facing the Hemlock Gorge Reservation
4. Local Governmental, Civic, and Conservation Organizations Online
|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.|