Annual Letter to Members, 1999

Dear Friends of Hemlock Gorge:

On the eve of the millennium, at a particularly special time of Thanksgiving and Holiday Cheer, we again write to you to mark the end of an eventful year for the Friends. In addition, we appeal to you to renew your membership and your commitment to our activities in 2000. 1999 was a year in which issues critical for the future of the Reservation received major public attention and came to the verge of significant public funding. It was, however, also a year in which the Hemlock Trees that are heart and soul of the reservation began to show the lethal effects of marauding insects.

Combating the Woolly Adelgid

Many hemlocks in the Gorge are now infested with the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. Left unchecked, the adelgid destroys infested trees in as little as four years. At the request of Senator Cynthia Creem, MDC Commissioner David Balfour provided funding for the injection of some three dozen trees to save them. However, the hundreds of additional trees will require a different intervention. Senator Creem, Representative Kay Khan, and other legislators placed $60,000 into the State Capital Budget to grow a natural predator of the adelgid (P. tsugae) in the quantities needed to treat the Reservation. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed the funds. The same amount has been included in the operating budget, and we are hoping for its passage. We are confident that funds in this budget, or if need be, in next year’s budget will become available to save the Hemlocks.

Part of our success may have been due to major public attention that was drawn to the issue. The Boston Globe ran a major Science Section story on this issue. WBZ anchor Jack Williams also published and op-ed piece in the Boston Herald. When contacted by the Friends, Mr. Williams produced a piece on the adelgid featuring the gorge and interviews with Friends’ president Brian Yates and Dr. Charles Burnham, an expert on the adelgid and a senior official with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management. The feature was broadcast on the early and late news on Sunday, September 19. Senator Creem also arranged for Senate President Tom Birmingham to visit Hemlock Gorge to gain firsthand knowledge of the woolly adelgid issue and the need for repairs to Echo Bridge.

Intensive efforts to combat the adelgid will be a top priority of the Friends in the coming millennium.

Restoration of Echo Bridge

Senator Creem and Representative Khan, working with Representatives Balser, Koutjian, Locke, and Harkins, and Senator Jacques also were able to place funding for repairs to Echo Bridge placed in the Capital Budget. Proposed repairs would include restoration of the Echo Platform, the metal railings on the deck of the bridge, and the stairway from Ellis Street to the Bridge. Unfortunately, these funds were also vetoed, and no override is possible this year. The Friends will work with President Birmingham, who was very impressed with the Bridge and recalled it on a recent visit to Newton. We believe that the prospects for funding in the coming year are good.

The Stone Barn

We have continued to make efforts to find ways to pay for rehabilitation of the historic Stone Barn Building in the Reservation. Information on the Stone Barn, including its history and architects’ drawings, is available on our web site. As a first step in rehabilitation, the Friends have formulated a plan to 1) install historically correct but unbreakable windows on the second floor and 2) to install flooring that would make the interior safer, more pleasant, and more suitable for meetings. The barn will be inspected shortly by a master carpenter. It is our intention to draw up plans for these improvements during the coming winter and to do the construction this spring. These efforts will be funded by the MDC and by the Friends’ operating budget, but it may be necessary to appeal for donations of materials and funds in the coming year.

Cleanups of the Reservation

We continued our fall and spring clean ups of the Gorge. We worked with MDC Staff Members Kevin Hollenbeck and Bob Hassett, and concluded each cleanup with lunch in the Stone Barn. These efforts, together with regular attention by the MDC, have made the Reservation a cleaner place year round.

The Friends’ Web site (

We’re delighted to report that the number of visitors to our web site has now exceeded 3000. We have had commentary about the site from as far away as Texas. One interested visitor from West Virginia with roots in Upper Falls has become a member of the Friends. We believe that the woolly adelgid section of our web site is the best general introduction to this issue available on the Internet. We attribute some of the increasing interest in our web site to interest in this issue. Visit the site for the newest news concerning the Friends!

The Makers of the Mold

Ken Newcomb’s History of Newton Upper Falls: Makers of the Mold continues to be a major attraction on our Web site, with nearly 1000 visitors to date. Seekers of family history from across the US have visited the site and sent fan mail to Ken in search of more information! The section on Churches was used by the Newton Historic Commission in its decision to delay demolition of the St. Mary’s Rectory near the Gorge. Do visit the site (

The Friends’ Bridge

We continue 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. Rehabilitation of the Stone Barn will also require the help of the Friends. 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. If you wish to join or renew, dues categories are listed on the card. Dues for 2000 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 at 7:15 p.m. on the first Tuesday of most months at the Emerson Community Center on Pettee Street in Newton Upper Falls. Dates are always given in the meeting minutes mailed to members, and the web site always has up-to-date information. Your attendance is always welcome!

Please join all of us in 2000 to make Hemlock Gorge even more beautiful.

With best wishes,

Brian Yates, President

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