Annual Letter to Members, 2004

Dear Friends of Hemlock Gorge:

As 2004 draws to a close, we again write to update you on the activities of the Friends. In addition, we appeal to you to renew your membership and your personal and financial commitment to our activities in 2005.

In 2005, we will continue our productive relationship with the leadership of the Department of Conservation and Recreation and its Urban Park Bureau. We will also continue our strong partnership with Site Supervisor Kevin Hollenbeck and his associate Bob Hassett. We note with pleasure that the new director of the Urban Park Bureau is Kevin’s former supervisor, Pat Flynn, who is familiar with the Reservation and its issues. We hope you will share our pleasure in the accomplishments of 2004 and our prospects for 2005.

Echo Platform (

On Tuesday, August 3, 2004 more than 30 Friends of Hemlock Gorge, members of the press, representatives of the MWRA, and Government officials gathered for our summer picnic and to dedicate the newly restored Echo Platform under Echo Bridge. The restoration of the Echo Platform was made possible by the efforts of many people. The Friends thank Representative Ruth Balser and Senate Natural Resources Committee Chair Pam Resor for their leadership. We also thank the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) who actually undertook the restoration: Fred Laskey, Executive Director; Tom Lindbergh, Public Access; and Jonathan Yeo, Communications Director. Friends’ members Bonnie and Rick Pearson worked tirelessly with the MWRA to make the project happen. We also thank the several members of the crew whose skilled labor made this well executed historical restoration a reality.

New Footbridge (

Under the leadership of site supervisor Kevin Hollenbeck, the deteriorated rustic bridge by Artists’ Point (connecting the Newton and Needham shores) has been rebuilt by a team of DCR engineers and workers. The new structure features steel girders that span the channel, overlain with wood planks that retain the look of the original bridge built in response to a Friends’ request two decades ago.

Echo Bridge (

Money for needed restorations of the railings on the bridge and along the stairway to Ellis Street has been approved by the state legislature and the governor. We are now working diligently with state officials to see that the appropriation is indeed used as intended. 

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 released 15,000 ladybugs to eat the hemlock woolly adelgids that are killing the hemlock trees. We still have no quantitative data on the effect of the release, but our personal inspections suggest that much of this year’s new growth on the hemlocks (the prime target of the adelgid) has fared well. Some trees have died, but others seem to be more than holding their own. The prognosis for the hemlocks is still guarded, but we are cautiously optimistic. 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 slowly 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. Unfortunately, problems with the electrical supply from the street have recurred and been difficult to get fixed. We plan to make the floor level and safe by pouring a concrete slab this spring. After the slab is in, Kevin plans to replace three windows overlooking the Circular Dam. Finding will come from the trustees of The Charles River Neighborhood Foundation, Alderman Amy Mah Sangiolo and John Sangiolo, who have generously provided a grant of $1,000.

Cleanups of the Reservation

We again conducted spring and fall cleanups of the Gorge. In addition, we have also worked to clear brush, both along sidewalks adjacent to the Reservation and along hiking paths. These efforts, together with regular attention by Kevin and Bob, have kept the Reservation clean and appealing. Graffiti has not been as great a problem in 2004 as in past years.

The Friends’ Web site (

The Friends’ Web site, online since 1996, continues to generate interest and inquiries. There have been about 20,000 visitors to our site and 5,000 visitors to the late Ken Newcomb�s book Makers of the Mold. The web site has proven to be one of our greatest assets.

The Friends’ Bridge (

Plans for “The Friends’ Bridge,” unhappily, remain stalled. In 2005, we hope to reanimate our plans, but we continue to need someone to champion this project.

Farewell Hannah! (

After the fall cleanup, the Friends celebrated Hanna Sherman Raffa’s years of service as our Secretary. Hannah has retired and now lives in Canton. We were delighted that she and her husband Ro could join us and accept our certificate of appreciation and lifetime membership. A photo album is at the link above

Please give us your financial support so that we can continue to send out mailings, maintain our website, and feed volunteers at our cleanups. Funds beyond those needed for routine operations will 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. We ask that you give us your email address to help reduce our postal costs and get you information faster; it is never shared with anyone.

Our ability to enhance Hemlock Gorge is limited only by our imagination and enthusiasm. If you’d like to take part, 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 sent to members, and the web site has up-to-date information. Your attendance is always extremely welcome!

2004 was a good year for the Friends. 2005 should be even better. Please be part of our work.

With best wishes,

Brian Yates, President

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