Annual Letter to Members, 1998

Dear Friends of Hemlock Gorge:

At this time of Thanksgiving and Holiday Cheer, we again write to you to mark the end of an eventful year for the Friends and to appeal to you to renew your membership and your commitment to our activities in 1999. 1998 was an excellent year for the preservation and enhancement of the Hemlock Gorge Reservation with all its history and natural beauty. It was, however, also a year in which the Hemlock Trees that are heart and soul of the reservation came under threat.

The Friends’ Web site (

We’re delighted to report that the number of visitors to our web site has now exceeded 1500. We have had commentary about the site from as far away as Texas. Because of the site, at least one young couple has contemplated a wedding there in 1999. Other persons have discovered their family roots among the Clarks and Pettees.

The Makers of the Mold

Among the major new accomplishments was the publication on our Web Site of Ken Newcomb’s History of Newton Upper Falls and Hemlock Gorge: Makers of the Mold. Once in danger of being lost forever for want of a publisher, the book now has worldwide visibility and the prospect of a permanent home with the City of Newton. Many volunteers assisted our webmaster with the scanning and editing needed to publish both the text and archival photographs that make this work so interesting. Ken and the Friends were honored with a reception at the Newton Free Library on November 19, 1998, attended by Mayor David Cohen, State Representative Kay Kahn, and Aldermen Brian Yates and Christine Samuelson,

Combating the Woolly Adelgid

On one of our cleanups (see below) we were dismayed to discover that some of the hemlocks in the Gorge show signs of infestation with the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. This insect has devastated hemlock forests throughout the eastern seaboard. Left unchecked, the adelgid can destroy infested trees in as little as four years. The Friends have worked with the MDC and with our legislative delegation tot determine the best course of remediation and to develop the resources necessary to resolve the problem. This will continue to be a major focus of the Friends in 1999. Detailed information regarding the woolly adelgid can be found at our Website.

Cleanups of the Reservation

We continued our fall and spring clean ups of trash from the Gorge. We worked with MDC Site Supervisor Kevin Hollenbeck to clean most of the channel between the River and New Pond. We also planted a number of wildflowers donated to us by the Newton Wildflower Project (The channel between the River and New Pond is now so lovely that it was featured in a television commercial advertising the Lahey Clinic. The ad featured a retired couple canoeing.). We concluded each cleanup with a hearty lunch in the Stone Barn.

The Stone Barn

We have continued to make efforts to find ways to pay for the rehabilitation of the historic Stone Barn Building in the Reservation, as well as Echo Bridge. With the assistance of our State Legislators, we will continue to seek funds from the new Transportation Equity Act and any other sources that become available. Information on the Stone Barn, including its history and architects’ drawings, is available on the web site.

The Friends’ Bridge

John Mordes and Hank Lysaght made additional progress finding an exact site for the Friends’ Bridge from the Needham bank to Turtle Island near New Pond. Their design has been modified as the result of information provided by a reader of our web site. This individual emailed us with the location of an actual photograph of the bridge at the Library of Congress. (See the web site for details.). We are continuing to work with the MDC to secure the necessary architect’s drawings and engineering approvals that must precede efforts at fundraising.

To continue these efforts, we need your help. It costs more than $500 per year to pay for our mailings, our web site, and food for volunteers at our cleanups. Please pay dues so that we continue to carry out these functions. Enclosed is a return envelope to make your response easy. Please fill out the enclosed membership card and return it with your preferences indicated. If you wish to join or renew, dues categories are listed on the card. Dues for 1999 should be paid now if at all possible. You can participate in our work in many ways, but your financial backing is crucial.

Our monthly meeting is held, unless otherwise noted, at 7:15 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month at the Emerson Community Center on Pettee Street in Newton Upper Falls. (Mark these upcoming 1999 dates: Jan. 5, Feb. 2, Mar. 2, Apr. 6, May 4, June 1, Sept. 7, Oct 7, Nov. 9, and Dec. 7!) Please do come to our next meeting! (If you would like to participate but cannot come on Tuesdays, let us know. We can change meeting times as needed to accommodate our members!)

We have enjoyed very strong working relationships with Kevin Hollenebeck, MDC Site Supervisor, his assistant Bob Hasset, Representative Kay Khan, Senator Lois Pines, Governor’s Counselor Cynthia Creem, the Upper Falls CDC, the Newton Parks and Recreation Department.

Please join all of us in 1999 to make Hemlock Gorge even more beautiful. With best wishes,

Brian Yates, President

John P. Mordes, M.D., Membership Coordinator and Webmaster