Annual Letter to Members, 2000

Dear Friends of Hemlock Gorge:

At this special time of 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 2001.

The year 2000 has been a year of major accomplishments for the Friends in our efforts to preserve and enhance the beauty of Hemlock Gorge. These accomplishments are the fruits of your efforts, the legislative leadership of Senator Cynthia Creem and Representative Kay Khan, and our partnership with the Metropolitan District Commission, in particular Site Supervisor Kevin Hollenbeck and his associate Bob Hassett. We hope you’ll share our pride in these accomplishments and our excitement at the prospect of additional positive developments in 2001.

Combating the Woolly Adelgid

On November 9, 2000, the Metropolitan District Commission voted to approve an Interagency Service Agreement with the Department of Environmental Management (DEM). This agreement will allow us to grow the ladybugs (P. tsugae) that are the natural predators of the hemlock woolly adelgids that killing the trees in Hemlock Gorge. Dr. Charles Burnham of DEM has made arrangements for growing the ladybugs we need in a laboratory on the Cape. In late spring or early summer 2001, about 10,000 ladybugs should be released in the Gorge to begin to bring the woolly adelgids under control.

This exciting development is the result of the efforts of many local legislators including Senator Creem, who brought Senate President Thomas Birmingham to visit the Gorge in 1999, and Representative Khan who organized the veto override in the House that approved the $60,000 for the program. We also appreciate the cooperation of MDC Commissioner David Balfour and his associate Bernadette O’Malley in supporting Dr. Burnham’s plan and making the agreement with DEM a reality. Please watch the monthly Board minutes and the Friends web site for details on the release.

The Stone Barn

Significant progress was made on improving the condition of the Stone Barn and bringing it back to life. Kevin Hollenbeck had interior lights installed. These make the space dramatically more friendly and inviting. At the fall cleanup on November 4, rubble was removed from the floor, the wood left over from previous restorations was stored in the “attic” over the water measuring station, and the floor was swept clean. The next step will be to make the floor level and safe. The Trustees of The Charles River Neighborhood Foundation, Alderman Amy Mah Sangiolo and John Sangiolo, have generously provided a grant of $1,000 to be used for the installation of three high security windows similar in appearance to those documented in old photographs. By the end of next year, these restorations and improvements should make the building an inviting venue for MDC, Friends, and other community functions.

Cleanups of the Reservation

In addition to our targeted work in the Stone Barn, we also conducted cleanups of the Gorge in the fall and spring under the direction of Kevin Hollenbeck and Bob Hassett. These efforts, together with regular attention by Kevin and Bob, have made the Reservation a cleaner place year round.

The Friends’ Web site (

The Friends Web site home page had more than 2,000 visitors between December 1999 and December 2000 — double the annual rate of the first three years. This may be due to the news on the fight to control the woolly adelgid, the stunning new panoramic photographs of the Gorge taken by Steve Clark, and to the continuing popularity of Ken Newcomb’s book Makers of the Mold on the History of Upper Falls. Please bookmark the Friends’ web site and visit regularly in 2001. We’ll continue to provide news on our efforts to preserve the Gorge, links to fascinating sites, and other items of interest.

The Friends’ Bridge (

In 2001, we will return to our plans to install a new Friends Bridge from the Needham slope overlooking New Pond and the Devil’s den to Turtle Island in Wellesley. We need to work with the MDC to secure the architect’s drawings and engineering approvals that must precede efforts at fundraising.

Restoration of Echo Bridge (

Representative Khan has proposed legislation to fund repairs to Echo Bridge. Proposed repairs include restoration of the Echo Platform, the metal railings, and the stairway from Ellis Street to the Bridge. The Friends will work for this legislation with Rep. Khan and Sen. Creem, and with Senate President Thomas Birmingham, who was very impressed with the Bridge and recalled it on a recent visit to Newton.

Metropolitan Park Council

The Friends were actively involved in the formation of the Metropolitan Park Council, a coalition of friends groups, environmental organizations, and others. The MPC has already met with Commissioner Balfour and will continue to advocate for adequate funding for the Metropolitan Park System.

Our ability to enhance Hemlock Gorge is limited only by our imagination and enthusiasm. Please give us your financial support so that we can continue to send out minutes of our meetings, maintain our website, and feed the volunteers at our cleanups. Funds beyond those needed for routine operations will be used to pay for specific physical improvements to the trail system, the Stone Barn, and the Friends’ Bridge. Enclosed is a return envelope to make your response easy. Please fill out the membership card and return it. Dues categories are listed on the card.

If you’d like to take part in the activities described here, or if you have new ideas, please call or e-mail us or attend one of our monthly meetings in the Emerson Community Center on Pettee Street in Upper Falls. Meetings are 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. Exceptions are for elections or holidays. Dates are given in the meeting minutes mailed to members, and the web site has up-to-date information. Your attendance is always welcome!

2000 has been an exciting year of accomplishment for the Friends. 2001 will be even better. Please be part of our work.

With best wishes,

Brian Yates, President

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