Annual Letter to Members, 2003

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 2004.

In 2003, the agency responsible for Hemlock Gorge changed. The Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) became the Urban Parks Bureau of a new Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). We all look forward to a productive relationship with the leadership of the new Department and to a continuing partnership with Site Supervisor Kevin Hollenbeck and his associate Bob Hassett.

We hope you will share our pleasure in the accomplishments of 2003 and the prospect of further positive developments in 2004.

Ken Newcomb Memorial (

On August 5, 2003, we dedicated a memorial to our historian, inspiration, and long-time friend Ken Newcomb who died in September, 2002 at the age of 93. Ken was the inspiration for the creation of the Friends. Our important role in Ken’s life was made clear by his family’s request that memorial contributions after his death be made to the Friends. This generous gesture yielded more than $700 in donations. His memorial, inscribed

“Kenneth W. Newcomb. Author, Historian, and Friend of Hemlock Gorge”

is located at “Motif #2,” the site where painters at the start of the 20th century loved to paint the view of Mill Falls as seen through the arch of Echo Bridge. It was one of Ken’s favorite places. Pictures of the memorial and of the dedication ceremony, together with Ken’s book Makers of the Mold are on our web site.

Combating the Woolly Adelgid (

The long struggle to save the trees in Hemlock Gorge reached a turning point in 2001 when state forester Charlie Burnham and Site Supervisor Kevin Hollenbeck released 15,000 ladybugs to eat the hemlock woolly adelgids that are killing the hemlock trees. In November of this year, Forester Burnham reported as follows:

“For the past two years we could recover ladybugs at the gorge without any problem and in fact we had recovered them a short distance from the release site, which is good. This year however I was unable to recover any. Last winter’s [low] temperature caused mortality in the adelgid population in the range of 90%…. I believe [the ladybugs] are still there but have had to disperse a great distance in search of a good food supply, which makes locating them difficult…. As a side note the problem with recovery at the gorge has been repeated at all but one of the other release sites we have. For this past growing season the only place we recovered [ladybugs] was in Manchester by the Sea.

As to the trees, we have no quantitative data. Some have been killed, but others seem to be holding their own. So the prognosis for the hemlocks is still guarded at best. We will keep everyone apprised of the state of the trees.

The Stone Building

Renovation of the Stone Building just off Route 9 has progressed from the design stage to an early construction phase. The bricks in the first two openings slated for new windows have been removed and replaced with plywood. The problems with the electrical supply from the street have been resolved through the advocacy efforts of Friends Bonnie and Rick Pearson. We still plan to make the floor level and safe by pouring a concrete slab. Through the efforts of Hank Lysaght, a leveling line for the slab was scribed with a laser on the walls, and necessary preparation work on inside doors has been completed. Much of the work needed to prepare the old floor for resurfacing has been done. We have an approved design for the windows and hope to replace the two windows overlooking the Circular Dam this year. 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. These efforts, together with regular attention by Kevin and Bob, have made the Reservation a cleaner place year round. Despite continuing retrieval of items like tires and TVs, our general sense is that the Reservation is being well maintained.

The Friends’ Web site (

The Friends� Web site has had more than 13,250 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 nearly 4,000 visitors. 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.

The Friends’ Bridge (

Plans for �The Friends� Bridge,� unhappily, remain stalled. In 2004, we hope to reanimate our plans, but we continue to 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.

Echo Bridge (

Rick and Bonnie Pearson have undertaken to spearhead our activities in this area. They continue to attend to graffiti removal and are working with the MWRA on maintenance efforts. Necessary maintenance includes the metal railings and the stairway from Ellis Street. We also hope to restore the fabled Echo Platform in the near future.

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. 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!

2003 was a good year for the Friends. 2004 should be even better. Please be part of our work.

With best wishes, 

Brian Yates                                                       John P. Mordes, M.D.

President                                                          Membership Coordinator and Webmaster