Annual Letter to Members, 2001

Dear Friends of Hemlock Gorge:

At this 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 2002.

2001 was a year of truly 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 Senators Thomas Birmingham and Cynthia Creem and Representative Kay Khan, and the hard work of Metropolitan District Commission Site Supervisor Kevin Hollenbeck and his associate Bob Hassett. We hope you’ll share our pleasure in these accomplishments and the prospect of further positive developments in 2002.

  • Combating the Woolly Adelgid

The long struggle to save the trees in Hemlock Gorge reached a turning point at 2:30 on May 2, 2001 when Massachusetts state forester Charles Burnham and Site Supervisor Kevin Hollenbeck released the first of 10,000 ladybugs grown during the winter to combat the Woolly Adelgid. The insects, black, tiny, but seemingly full of energy, were gently released with the aid of artists’ brushes into the lower branches of a large adelgid-infested tree. The event was covered by WBZ-TV and broadcast on the evening news.

A second lot of ladybugs was released into the Reservation in mid-June, completing the planned release of 10,000 adelgid predators funded by the state legislature at the request of the Friends last year. We will keep everyone apprised of the state of the trees. Forester Burnham expects to have an assessment of the effect of the ladybug release by summer, 2002.

  • Ellis Street

The rotted wooden fence bordering the Reservation on Ellis Street, near Echo Bridge, was demolished and replaced. The project was conceived by Eagle Scout candidate Charlie Fisher. The work was performed by local Boy Scouts under his leadership, with the assistance of MDC staff and several of the Friends. The project has significantly enhanced the safety and appearance of this gateway to the Reservation.

  • The Stone Building

Renovation of the Stone Building (once called the Stone Barn) has progressed to the design stage. New lighting has been installed, but problems with the electrical supply from the street remain to be corrected and are a top priority. We have now agreed to make the floor level and safe by pouring a concrete slab rather than by building a wooden deck. We hope to have a design for the windows approved soon. Kevin Hollenbeck has found a fragment of an original window mullion and photographs showing the features that need to be duplicated for the historically correct replacement windows that are required. Specifically, the goal is first to replace the two windows overlooking the Circular Dam and the one window facing Route 9. The design will incorporate a protective outer sheet of Lexan. As noted last year, 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 to cover part of the cost of installing these windows.

  • Cleanups of the Reservation

We again 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 has had more than 8,000 visitors since its inception in December, 1996, 2,000 of them in 2001. The web site generated many inquiries concerning the adelgid and, remarkably, several on-line memberships including one from New York City! The series of panoramic photographs of the Gorge in all four seasons taken by Steve Clark is now complete. Ken Newcomb’s book Makers of the Mold, a history of Newton Upper Falls, has now received more than 2,000 visitors. It has generated a good deal of correspondence for Ken. Please bookmark the Friends’ web site and visit regularly in 2002. We’ll continue to provide news on our efforts to preserve the Gorge, links to related sites, and other items of interest.

In 2002, we hope to return to our plans to install a new Friends Bridge from the Needham slope overlooking New Pond and the Devil’s Den. We need to work with the MDC to secure architect’s drawings and engineering approvals before we can proceed to fundraising and construction.

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 Reps. Khan and Balser of Newton, Sen. Creem of Newton, Senate President Thomas Birmingham, and Rep. Lida Harkins of Needham.

  • Metropolitan Park Council

The Friends are now involved in the work of the Metropolitan Park Council, a coalition of friends groups and environmental organizations, to place Hemlock Gorge on the National Register of Historic Places and to prevent Parkways like Quinobequin Road from becoming highways. The Friends were invited to participate in the Historic Parkways Initiative sponsored by Secretary of Environmental Affairs Bob Durand.

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 the specific physical improvements described above. 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.

Our ability to enhance Hemlock Gorge is limited only by our imagination and enthusiasm. 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 extremely welcome!

2001 was an exciting year for the Friends. 2002 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