Annual Letter to Members, 2006

Dear Friends of Hemlock Gorge:

As 2006 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 2007.

In 2007, we will continue to work with the Department of Conservation and Recreation and its Urban Park Bureau. We will also continue our partnership with former Site Supervisor Kevin Hollenbeck, now a member of DCR management. We anticipate that a new Site Supervisor will be named in 2007. We hope you will share our pleasure in the accomplishments of 2006 and our prospects for 2007.

Rescuing the Echo Bridge Promenade

On March 17, 2006 the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) closed Echo Bridge to pedestrians. The stated reason was safety–the deterioration of the railings it was to remain closed for an indeterminate length of time. However, in response to the efforts of the Friends and local officials and the protests of many local residents, the MWRA agreed that, by installing temporary “snow barriers” to warn pedestrians away from the edge, Echo Bridge would remain open to pedestrians. The bridge did re-open on March 23. To secure a permanent solution, the Friends and community leaders worked with the legislature to secure funding for the needed repairs. Thanks to Representatives Ruth Balser, Lida Harkins, Kay Khan, and Alice Peisch, and Senators Cynthia Creem and Scott Brown, $250,000 for the “Echo Bridge Safety Project” was appropriated for 2006. The MWRA is proceeding with the design of an historically correct repair, and the Friends are actively engaged in nurturing this project to completion. The picture shows the rescued promenade with snow fences in place

Public-Private Partnership for the Stone Building

We are pleased to report that a new cement floor, half paid for by the Friends and half by the Office of Environmental Affairs, is in place in the Stone Building. It greatly enhances our enjoyment of the structure during our post-cleanup lunches. This is the first major enhancement to this historic structure since the new roof was installed in 1990, and we now plan to follow-up on this success with restoration of electrical service and the installation of the new windows in 2007 (see below). The picture shows lunch served on tables resting on the new floor after a cleanup.

The Friends’ Web site ( )

The Friends’ Web site, online since 1996, continues to generate interest and inquiries ranging from. There have been nearly 24,000 visitors to our site and more than 5,000 visitors to Ken Newcomb’s book Makers of the Mold. The web site continues to be one of our major assets.

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 official report to us stated that:

“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.”

Since Charlie’s report, we have conducted several inspections of the trees during our cleanups and found reason for optimism. Several “sentinel trees” that we inspect have shown clear evidence of a reduction in adelgid infestation, and many trees that seemed imperiled show new growth. However, a number, perhaps a half dozen, of the hemlocks have died, and the prognosis for the hemlocks is still guarded. We will keep everyone apprised of the state of the trees.

The Stone Building

Restoration of the Stone Building off Rte. 9 will continue in 2007. We have made the floor level and safe by pouring a concrete floor this spring. DCR Manager Kevin Hollenbeck assures us that the DCR 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 priority repair list of both the Friends and the DCR.

Cleanups of the Reservation

We again conducted spring and fall cleanups of the Gorge. In addition, in an effort spearheaded by Rick Pearson, 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 DCR staff, have kept the Reservation clean and appealing. Graffiti has not been as great a problem in 2005-2006 as in past years, but there is some defacement that we will work with DCR to remove in the spring.

Farewell to Bobbi

As many of you know, long time member Bobbi Demers moved away this fall. We thanked her at our summer picnic by awarding her a lifetime membership, and we were pleasantly surprised by her attendance at our November meeting.

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!

2006 was a good year for the Friends. 2007 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