Annual Letter to Members, 2005

Dear Friends of Hemlock Gorge:

As 2005 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 2006.

In 2006, we will continue to work with the Department of Conservation and Recreation and its Urban Park Bureau. We will also continue our partnership with Site Supervisor Kevin Hollenbeck and his associate Bob Hassett. We hope you will share our pleasure in the accomplishments of 2005 and our prospects for 2006.

Public-Private Partnership

At the end of 2005, the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs approved our proposal to provide half the funding for the construction of a smooth, safe cement floor for the Stone Building. EOEA will match our contribution to the project up to $2,500. To enable this project to become a reality, it is essential that members remit their 2006 dues as soon as possible. This will enable us to confirm our financial commitment to this project as soon as possible in 2006.

The Friends’ Web site

The Friends’ Web site, online since 1996, continues to generate interest and inquiries. In 2005 we acquired our own registered name and a new hosting service that will enable us to improve, expand, and enhance our web services going forward.  There have been more than 21,000 visitors to our site and 5,000 visitors to Ken Newcomb’s book Makers of the Mold. The web site continues to be one of our major assets.

Award from the Greed Decade Coalition

On Thursday, June 16, 2005, the Green Decade Coalition presented the Friends of Hemlock Gorge with their Environmental Leadership Award by the. Friends’ Webmaster John Mordes delivered a PowerPoint Presentation about the work of the Friends. Green Decade is an organization of people living or working in Newton and neighboring communities who work together to create sustainable solutions to environmental problems. See our website to view the citation and some pictures from the event.

New Footbridge

Picture of the new footbridge
New footbridge

The work to replace the deteriorated rustic bridge by Artists’ Point (connecting the Wellesley and Needham shores) was completed this year with the addition of stone steps.

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. Charlie’s most recent report to us on November 8, 2005 is as follows: “Overall things look good but I have noticed the start of a hemlock woolly adelgid buildup. I couldn’t locate any ladybugs. That is what we are seeing across the state–we believe because of the drop in adelgid populations the beetles have to disperse greatly to find food.”

The prognosis for the hemlocks is still guarded, but we are cautiously optimistic. We will keep everyone apprised of the state of the trees.

Echo Platform

picture of the echo platform
Echo Platform

The Echo Platform restored by the MWRA last year continues to draw visitors to this special location beneath the Bridge. We are please to report that there has been little or no damage to or graffiti on the platform.

The Stone Building

Restoration of the Stone Building off Rte. 9 will finally be underway in 2006. We plan to make the floor level and safe by pouring a well drained concrete floor this spring. After the floor has been poured, Kevin will replace the three windows overlooking the circular dam with historically correct but secure replacements. The bricks in the openings slated for new windows have already been removed and replaced with plywood. Funding for the windows came 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. The faulty electric service in the building is on the DCR’s high priority repair list.

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 2005 as in past years. At Rep. Ruth Balser’s request, the Mass Highway Department has cut back the weeds and brush along Rte. 9. The Newton Dept. of Public Works cut back the weeds blocking the Elliot Street Sidewalk adjacent to the reservation, and Verizon removed a double pole in the same vicinity, enhancing the esthetics and accessibility of the Reservation.

Farewell to Hannah

As many of you know, our former Secretary Hannah Sherman passed away just before Thanksgiving. Please join with us in remembering her many contributions to the Friends, which were recognized in 2004: .

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!

2005 was a good year for the Friends. 2006 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