Annual Letter to Members, 2002

Dear Friends of Hemlock Gorge:

As the year draws to a close, we again write to you to mark the end of an eventful time for the Friends. In addition, we appeal to you to renew your membership and your commitment to our activities in 2003.

2002 was a year of ongoing 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 Representatives Kay Khan and Ruth Balser, 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 2003

  • Ken Newcomb Memorial Trust

In a year of continuing success, we were saddened to lose our historian, inspiration, and long-time friend Ken Newcomb who died in September at 93. He will be greatly missed. Our important role in Ken’s life was made clear by his family’s request that memorial contributions be made to the Friends. This generous gesture yielded $700 in donations. We intend to use some of this money to produce a fitting and permanent memorial to Ken in the Reservation. If you would like to help in the design process, please let us know.

  • Combating the Woolly Adelgid

As you know, the long struggle to save the trees in Hemlock Gorge reached a turning point in May 2, 2001 when Massachusetts state forester Charles Burnham and Site Supervisor Kevin Hollenbeck released the first of 15,000 adelgid-eating ladybugs. We have as yet no quantitative information on the success of the program, but things are clearly looking better. Charlie found some ladybugs, indicating that they had survived their first winter. Some were more than 75 feet from the point of release, suggesting that they are on the move. There was uneaten new growth on many trees, and some trees that had previously been infested appeared healthier. We will keep everyone apprised of the state of the trees.

  • Ellis Street

The new wooden fence bordering the Reservation on Ellis Street that was replaced last year under the leadership of Eagle Scout Charlie Fisher has been painted twice to maintain it and enhance its appearance.

  • The Stone Building

Renovation of the Stone Building has progressed from the design stage to the earliest construction phase. The brick in the first two openings slated for new windows was removed this fall and replaced with plywood. New lighting has been installed, but problems with the electrical supply from the street remain to be corrected and are a top priority. We still plan to make the floor level and safe by pouring a concrete slab. We have an approved design for the windows, based in part on the discovery of original mullions by Kevin. The goal is first to replace the two windows overlooking the Circular Dam and later the one window facing Route 9. The design will incorporate a protective outer sheet of Lexan. As noted previously, 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. Kevin assures us that state fiscal difficulties should not prevent the work from proceeding.

  • 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 10,000 visitors since its inception in December, 1996. It continues to generate inquiries concerning the adelgid. The late Ken Newcomb’s book Makers of the Mold, has now received more than 2,600 visitors. At his memorial service, we learned that the publication of the book and the continuing response to it was one of the great joys of Ken’s last years. We plan to find a permanent home for the book at a library in 2003. The web site has proven to be one of our greatest assets, and we would love to continue to improve it. If anyone is interested in helping with the web site, please contact the webmaster, John Mordes. Any and all help would be greatly appreciated.

Plans for the Friends’ Bridge have, unhappily, stalled. In 2003, we hope to reanimate our plans, but we will need someone to champion both this project and needed repairs to the existing footbridge over the New Pond channel. Please let us know if you can help so that we might go on to secure architect’s drawings and engineering approvals before we can proceed to fundraising and construction.

Rick and Bonnie Pearson have undertaken to spearhead our activities in this area. Their efforts have led to graffiti removal and a promise from the MWRA to work closely with us on restoration efforts. Proposed repairs include restoration of the Echo Platform, the metal railings, and the stairway from Ellis Street to the Bridge. Legislation to fund repairs to Echo Bridge in 2002 was not passed. We will work for similar legislation in 2003 with Reps. Balser and Khan, Sen. Creem, and Rep. Lida Harkins of Needham.

  •  Metropolitan Parks Council

The Friends remain 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. Secretary of State William Galvin directed the Massachusetts Historic Commission to place the Metropolitan Parks System on the Register.

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 email 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!

2002 was an exciting year for the Friends. 2003 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